Since 1993, I have been using cartoons as tools for conversations. The illustrations are simple and the concepts are straightforward, but the impact of these are pretty mind-boggling.
The main illustration that sets up all these themes and frameworks is called, Square Wheels One and it looks like this:
My general approach in using it is to give people one minute of silent contemplation about their ideas and perceptions, framing it as, “This is my model of how organizations really work.” Okay, if you have not seen this before, give it a minute of your time before reading below.
The methodology of using this is anchored to the Rorschach Inkblot kind of process, where people project their beliefs onto the illustration. Different people focus on different aspects of the cartoon, and there are no boundaries. After that one minute of individual silent contemplation, I then allow the tabletops of 5 to 6 people to discuss their ideas, freeform. Sometimes we collect them on easel pad paper (which slows down the process dramatically) and sometimes we just allow the conversations. I say that they have 5 minutes for the discussion, but I only stop it when the murmur and laughter subside or if I am under real time pressures to move on (like in a 30 minute workshop).
15 years ago, I tried to collect the different ideas that came up from the different groups that were in my workshops:
And there were lots of different responses, for sure:
I actually collected 13 PAGES like those above before I quit collecting. It became a huge mental issue of sorting and the activity became somewhat pointless — I had proved my point about ideas and the projective nature of thinking. And I will admit that even today, I still occasionally get a response that I had never heard before. Amazing.
Some of them are a Real Hoot, that I collected on this page:
The Big Idea here is that people have an amazing amount of creativity and perspective if we can only allow them to express it. If we can direct that same energy to workplace improvement ideas and build teams and teamwork around those things that they want to address, we are way down the road toward building involvement and engagement.
We sell simple toolkits for Dis-Un-Engagement and the involvement of people in solving performance issues in their workplaces. And I can readily customize materials for special and specific uses and users.
The ideas are there. The Square Wheels are everywhere. What can we do to simply get our people focused on identifying the things that need to be changed, playing with new or different ideas, and then building the informal teams needed to implement some solutions.
We can get them to do things with each other, instead of generating resistance to change from what our ideas might be. We can let these activities reinforce achievements and drive internal motivation. We can remove the things that they find are un=engaging.
So, I started playing with some cartoons and slogans and poems and Haiku to play around with the ideas that we can make improvements. Here are a few around Square Wheels One:
Yeah, and more to come!
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
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