Measure Your Success: so learning can begin #2

IFVP 2013 Conference, New York

– International Forum for Visual Practitioners 2013 in New York

Preparation for New York has begun in earnest! As the days tick by, I have been drawing together my presentation material for the International Forum for Visual Practitioners later this month.

The topic is ‘did we hit our target?’ and is aimed at those who design and facilitate workshops and events. The session will be an opportunity to discuss evaluation methods in this context. This is an important topic as I think an ability to measure our impact as facilitators grows increasingly critical in an environment where project dollars remain tight.

A lot of thinking has gone into evaluation methods generally for programs and projects to help people track outcomes and report (to funders and sponsors) on their successes.

In my experience, however, the types of ‘evaluation’ we do as facilitators is often more superficial. In closing a workshop, we often ask the stalwart question: ‘how well do you think we did in terms of meeting our workshop’s objectives?‘ Participant responses generally provide a summated account of outcomes. I understand this is appropriate in many cases as the resources and energy invested in gauging the outcomes of a workshop is in line with the overall investment of the event. In comparison, medium to large scale programs that span months/years may have a total investment that is tenfold of a workshop and so require more structured and probing evaluations.

That fact aside, I think we have room to improve the standards of our workshop evaluation. Before I launch with my ideas, I want to acknowledge Dr Jess Dart of Clear Horizon. Jess, through her training courses and working alongside her team as a co-facilitator on evaluation projects, taught me much of the basics in program evaluation theory and practice. She is an evaluation guru in this country and a talented facilitator and business leader.

Logic model metaphor

– A workshop is an intervention. Like a pebble in a pond, it will result in ripples.

Here’s the first key point. We need to see workshops for what they are:

INTERVENTIONS.

If we do that, then it makes sense to spend time being clear about the expected outcomes in terms of short, medium and longer timeframes that we see flowing from the workshop. If we take the analogy of the pebble in the pond (the workshop), then we need to identify the ripples (outcomes) – what are they? how big do we expect them to be? and where do they go?

How does this thinking affect our practice?

I see three phases where facilitators translate the pebble in a pond analogy into a clear framework for evaluating outcomes. They are:

  1. develop a clear STATEMENT of OUTCOMES at the commissioning and designing stages of the workshop
  2. with the client, develop a shared understanding of HOW the workshop will DELIVER THE OUTCOMES expected; and
  3. design a process to check the EXPECTED with ACTUAL OUTCOMES.

A critical tool in doing the phases above is the logic model – a depiction of how the client / participants see the change occurring as a result of a program or project. As it applies to workshop evaluation frameworks, I call it ‘Logic Model lite’ as it is a simpler beast than one developed for a large scale program.

In my next post, I’ll provide an example of a logic model ‘lite’ for a workshop and show how to develop the evaluation questions that you will need to measure your event’s success.

Need help to get your CREATIVE switched on? signature icon

Curious Minds Co. is a consultancy firm passionate about helping people and organisations get their CREATIVE on and achieve their goals. You can contact me through [email protected] – See more at: www.curiousmindsco.com.au   

Measure Your Success: so learning can begin

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Seeing a mess becomes seeing a way through

I’ve written before about the need to see drawing as a skill to learn rather than a game of genetic chance that you may have won or lost at birth. See Tips on drawing… But I can’t draw! and 5 Critical Beliefs that boost creative thinking.

I read a post this week by Agnese Aljena on the 7 common things for drawing and business where Agnese makes the point that drawing and business are both learned sets of skills, both need love, dedication and passion. That resonated strongly with me. Especially as my business is about creative thinking and a (cool) foundational element of that is drawing out ideas, sketching down concepts and working them through with my clients using both word and image.

So back to the need to LEARN.

How did I learn these skills? For my ‘drawing’ in the context of business, communicating ideas and providing clarity for myself and others – I went to a number of very talented people in this field… Christina Merkley, Peter Durand and Diane Durand, Sunni Brown and Dan Roam. For my business skills, I had the joy of working with and learning from colleagues Mary Maher and Trevor Lloyd. My partner, Ian also brings lots of business smarts to our conversations, so I bounce ideas around when I need input.

These are the generous folk that got me started.

Ultimately, though, LEARNING occurs for me from the DOING.

Experience births new ideas and understanding.

Are we hitting the mark?That brings me to another topic that interests me greatly – evaluating the success of an endeavour. At its core, evaluation is purposeful enquiry – to learn, improve and get better in how we bring our ideas into the world. In so many areas, our communities need new and better ideas right now (that whole discussion is probably for another time/post).

So, how do we ‘measure the success’ of a project, a business initiative, or – dear to my heart – a workshop? How do we know if we are ‘hitting the mark’? This is a focus for me as I prepare for a workshop I am running in New York, USA on this topic later this month.

So to prepare, I have set myself a task of writing a series on this topic – how to’s, tips and techniques for Measuring Your Success. STAY TUNED!

Need help to get your CREATIVE switched on?

Curious Minds Co. is a small consultancy firm helping people and organisations get their CREATIVE on and achieve their goals. You can contact us through [email protected]
– See more at: www.curiousmindsco.com.au/courses

 

5 Critical Beliefs that boost creative thinking

brainy thoughts

After starting a 3 month adventure to strengthen my creative thinking skills earlier this year, I have been reflecting on my creative practice – both the graphics practice I do with clients in workshops and meetings, and also the play I do in my studio.

A couple of ideas have persisted.

One is that I have a set of beliefs that underpin all my creative activities. And reflecting on them has reminded me to document these, as I want to see if they change in the coming months and years.

Here’s my beliefs that I think are critical to staying creatively fit:

  1. that through maintaining a sense of CURIOSITY and INQUIRY, I notice ideas and links that I would not have otherwise done
  2. that INSPIRATION can be found in the oddest places – some are forgotten until I flick back through my old journals and notebooks… and then have the opportunity to think about the original object or idea in a new context. This underscores habit taught to me early in my journey – that it’s really important to photograph / draw / document ideas that appeal as you encounter them
  3. that placing CONSTRAINTS and RULES on any activity can have surprising results
  4. that at my core, I am a CREATIVE being – I’ve met my inner ARTIST and rather than fear that she has only one or two things to offer the world, I have found she is BRIMMING with ideas if I just give her the pen more often and
  5. through regular practice, my creative thinking ‘muscles’ become stronger and so, over time I am likely to produce MORE not less ideas.

I also hold a very strong belief that EVERYONE has an INNER ARTIST with amazing potential for creative and novel thought.

We just need to get to the Creative Thinking Fitness Gym more often!

person leaping with joy

Infographics in five ‘fearless’ steps!

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how to build an infographicWe live daily in an info-blur world. Communicating the complexity of our ideas is often challenging to do well.

Organisations are looking for ways to cut through that blur. The requests to help distil wheelbarrow loads of information onto a single page is on the increase. The resulting graphics are dense with information yet easy to read and understand. Their sexy title of ‘INFOGRAPHICS’ has become common lingo. Whole books are now dedicated to them.

I am not attempting to do a deep dive here on this subject – others have done it better and with more authority – but a recent project has made me reflect on how I go about developing them. It would be fair to say, my ideas have evolved on a long-ish road… with small-ish number of lightbulbs!

The main challenge is often helping people convert their technical thinking and ideas into a clear picture. The complexity – and my clients’ intimate knowledge of it – can be a big stumbling block.

So, how to cut through?

I now use  five design steps to guide the collaborative thinking I do with my clients to build their infographic:

1. Big picture outcomes: I start by asking: what are the overarching goals that you wish to hit with this infographic? If it did everything you could wish for, what would you have achieved? What would you have/not have?… feel/not feel?… think/not think? How will it be used by you and your organisation?

2. Synthesis and visual conversion of main points: After we have identified the big picture outcomes, I request material that will point me to the important concepts that are relevant to the graphic. I then convert these key points into visuals and summarise all the different elements into one graphic. This ‘one page summary’ chart is a starting point for our discussions at the first meeting. I also develop a visual style reference – where examples of style characteristics (e.g. hand-drawn Vs computer rendered, formal Vs relaxed, colourful Vs monochromatic) are represented in a second graphic.

What style graphic copy

3. Meeting 1: At the meeting I cover several critical things – 1) CONTENT: What must be included? what would you like to be included? 2) METAPHOR: is there any image or metaphor that works well with the message e.g. a road journey, a landscape or a tree form? and 3) STYLE: for each of the characteristics, where do you want this graphic to sit on the spectrum?

I make sure that by the end of this meeting there is some clarity about the image I am producing – I don’t end the meeting before that has been agreed.

4. Draft infographic: With the outcomes of the first meeting, I develop a draft (or drafts) of the graphic and send that with notes about the meaning of the elements that I have included as a ‘back story’ for the graphic. I want to check that the images and their meaning resonate with the client. I seek their ideas – this may mean a second meeting to ensure feedback is understood and possible solutions can be discussed and agreed together. Hopefully, if I’ve done a good job in steps 1), 2) and 3) this stage will be straight-forward.

5. Final graphic: With the refinements incorporated, I send a high resolution image/ set of images to the client.

One final hot tip from me – I often find individual graphic components in PowerPoint can allow the client to easily edit text boxes for specific contexts rather than rendering the entire graphic in a design software that can’t be manipulated by the client at their office.

So, there you go! I hope the above gives you some useful ideas about how you would go about distilling complex sets of information into a clear and engaging visual. While there are drawbacks and challenges lurking in every field – e.g. overuse – I think infographics have an important role to play in communicating our complex messages.

I would love to hear your feedback…

I LOVE venn diagrams

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I have long been a huge fan of venn diagrams. I don’t know what it is about a couple of circles scratched out on a pad that has the potential to say it all. Maybe it comes from the reflection that my life is a series of experiences where I move towards the overlap of things I enjoyed…

Art–science, the environment–working with groups, people–creative activities…

About a year ago, in my journey into all things graphic, I found ‘Indexed’ by Jessica Hagy – http://thisisindexed.com/ – she has a great wit and decisive way of capturing ideas in a simple diagram.

Inspired by Jessica, I started cataloguing my own thoughts.

The Result – a ‘things I love’ series and a ‘things I’ve learnt’ series. Both are a ‘work in progress’. I will continue to add to as ideas arrive.

In the meantime, here they are. Hope you enjoy…

 

Gear freak – chart markers & great titles for your library

Neulands No. 1 Markers – beautiful range of 25 colours & they are refillable!

I’m often asked at my training days about my tools and my reference library. They are important parts of the whole graphics practice. I say that, having had some not-so-good experiences with markers that die on the first chart in the first session of an all-day event. So, if you are starting out or just curious about what others do in their practice, here’s my ideas…

Chart markers: A graphic facilitator’s and graphic recorder’s main tool for ‘working at the wall’. I love Neulands No. 1 Markers for all round chart work. I also have a range of their Big Ones which are large and fabulous for headings and big comment boards. They are refillable and have replaceable nibs, so I recommend these also. Their extended life means greater reliability and less hassle for you. But for the absolute mainstay of your kit – THE BLACK MARKER, I love Charters markers (available from The Grove International). Their black is rich and in my mind, the best on the market.

Great titles: There are so many categories that interest me, and I don’t want to overdo the list… So I’ve reduced it to six titles in two categories. They are… (this is just like the Golden Globes!)…

Visual language books – filled with pictures, images and concept icons – my favourite three are:

Visual Thinking by Nancy Margulies & Christine Valenza

  1. Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping your Ideas by Nancy Margulies & ChristineValenza
  2. Bikablo: Facilitators dictionary of visual language available through Neulands (and Bikablo 2.0: New Visuals for Meeting, Training & Learning). I know that’s technically two, but heck!
  3. Pocket pics: Difficult Concepts available through The Grove International

Visual practitioner how-to books – filled with ideas of how to run and get the best possible outcomes from meetings and events using your visual thinking techniques – my three favourite are:

Fellow Aussie, Amantha Imber’s Creativity Formula

  1. Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes & Idea Mapping can Transform Group Productivity by David Sibbet
  2. The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide: How to use your listening, thinking & drawing skills to make meaning by Brandy Agerbeck
  3. The Creativity Formula: 50 Scientifically Proven Creativity Boosters for Work and for Life by Dr Amantha Imber

I use the above six titles regularly – dipping in when I need to check an image or source an idea from the plethora these talented people have collated from their experience. I think all six are a great addition to any practising Graphic Facilitator or Recorder’s professional kit.

Happy gear freaking*!

 

 

* term used by uni friends when we were into all things outdoors and we would spend any spare moment at our favourite store seeing what great new stuff – like freeze-dried vegemite – was available for our through-walks!

 

An exploration in two-handed drawing

Two-handed tandem drawing with Dave Lovegrove

Ever been a little bored and tried doodling with both hands? How about experiementing with your ‘other’ hand to write your name? When I’ve done this in the past, I find it feels pretty weird but also interesting – both the sensation and the result. Yesterday, Dave Lovegrove* – an artist and art teacher – and I decided to do a tandem two-handed drawing exercise.

Here’s what we did:

Duration: we allowed one to two hours

Our materials – pens, ink and brushes

Material:large scale chart paper taped to a clean wall surface and a range of drawing implements (we ended up using marker pens, ink & calligraphy brushes)

Method:

  1. we positioned ourselves in front of the wall, standing in a relaxed posture and allowed the sounds of my farm to penetrate our ears and be a sound track to our drawing
  2. holding a pen in each hand, we drew using both hands at once
  3. we drew without judging what we were producing (I found closing my eyes and focusing on my body’s movement helped here)
  4. we also tried to avoid actively drawing any particular object or subject
  5. we allowed each hand to act in symmetry of the other, sometimes one taking the lead then the other
  6. as we drew, we allowed ourselves to take up the whole area of white paper.

    Using black pen, we emphasised the marks and patterns that were present

After we laid down the first layer of colours, we paused, reflected on what was emerging then took up two different colours adding to the first layer of marks and patterns we had produced.

After about 30 mins, we each selected a black marker and started to emphasise certain marks or patterns that appealed. Then using black ink and calligraphy brushes we added another layer of marks to the drawing.

The result: A large-scale image that has two distinct sides – reflecting the two artists and our different physical approaches. Dave’s side is angular and edgey and mine is rounded and swirly. The layering of colours and use of different drawing implements makes an interesting final image – there is a lot going on and the more you look the more you see / discern from the marks and patterns within the layers.

Dave Lovegrove and I in front of our tandem drawing

As a process, the tandem approach was great. At times, we talked as we drew, putting into words what we were experiencing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first part where we were breaking ‘new ground’ on a clean white expanse. I also enjoyed the use of ink and brushes – the marks were very definite and that was extremely satisfying. I am aware that this style of making marks and working with the patterns that emerge is a preferred way of working for me. I felt a kind of freedom from the burden of reproducing something – a representation of an object or likeness of a person.

Our tandem drawing, hanging on the wall outside my studio

Drawing is part of my work as a graphic facilitator and recorder. As a result, I find the two-handed drawing very freeing as an exercise in drawing movement. I get a physical ‘release’ similar to experiences I have had in yoga and other physical exercise that is akin to an endorphin rush.

Our exploration in two-handed drawing is part of my 2013 approach to expanding my drawing skills and repertoire.

Stay tuned for the 10 pens for 10 fingers drawing adventure with Dave – currently a work on the ‘drawing’ board!

Have you tried two-handed drawing? What has been your experience?

*You might like to check out Dave’s website – http://davidlovegrove.com/

INTERESTED IN EXPLORING YOUR CREATIVITY? Check out the Creatively Fit courses I offer.

 

 

Tips on drawing ‘…but I can’t draw!’

In the time I’ve been doing graphics work, I’ve often thought I’d love a Carmen Ghia for every time some-one has come up to me with words of admiration and concluded that they couldn’t possibly do anything like it. …but I can’t do what you do, I can’t draw!

Well, I have to agree with Ed Emberley* the artist and illustrator who believes anyone can be an artist. If you can wield a pen, you can add images that create impact. (*Ed is famous for his learn to draw books. If you’ve not yet had the joy of dipping into his world I highly recommend it.)

So, to these doubting admirers, I ask: ‘Were you born driving a car?’

Ok, so you want some ideas to help along your drawing skills? Here are five tips to get you going…

1. Be prepared to learn. The first tip is an obvious one – you have to want to give it a go AND be ok with it looking a bit ‘not good enough’ at the beginning. Keep reminding yourself that hill starts seemed impossible at the beginning too!

2. Get yourself a Yoda. Go to the local library and borrow a ‘how to’ book or watch some of the great YouTube material available. See how others do it.

3. Set yourself some goals. They say creativity without some constraints dissipates. Pick a theme, such as faces and work on it, til you can reproduce them without thinking. (They call this unconsciously competent.) Then select your next theme you want to tackle.

4. Indulge your artist. Your creative brain loves colours, pens, textured paper. Find some lovely materials that delight your creativity.

5. Practice, practice, practice.

Remember, you weren’t born driving a car! And enjoy!

Joining the blogging mob

The door to my studio is handpainted red. Affectionately known as the ‘hobbit’ door because unless you are 4ft tall, there’s a good chance you’ll bang your head as you enter. I thought the door was a good image to put alongside my first post. I’m entering a new place via a red door.

Like my studio, I hope that this place will be somewhere for others to find and share stuff.

Like what you read here? Want to know more about Curious Minds Co. and the work we do? Check us out at: www.curiousmindsco.com.au

happy reading, Michelle

 

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