Thursday, December 13, 2012

We're ALL Visual Learners

If you're reading this sentence, you're a visual learner. To get to my blog, use your mouse, swipe your screen or click on the link I tweeted out, you have used the visual processing aspect of your brain. Just like you do to walk from your bed to the bathroom in the morning and pick up your toothbrush instead of a hair brush when you need to brush your teeth.

Almost two weeks ago I went to a talk by Dan Roam at the Rotman school here in Toronto and have been on a completely new mental direction ever since. Dan's book, 'Blah Blah Blah: What to do when words don't work', has been so affirming. It has set my creative imagination on fire and has prevented me from sleeping at a decent hour as my idea generator has been working overtime.

As Dan has stated in a number of fantastic podcast interviews (Boxes and Arrows, Mastermind Podcast, etc.), we have purposefully trained our brains to ignore the visual part of it that makes life so wonderful and meaningful. The linear and the verbal rule the world today. As he has said, we aren't electing Prime Ministers and Presidents based on their drawing skills, but rather their ability to talk. Contrast this present reality with another: the incredible growth of applications like Instagram and other platforms -Twitter and LinkedIn- updating their UI's to be more visually oriented.

Let me quote Dan here for a minute and target this passage to all those linear-focused business folk out there:

"The biggest buzzword in business these days is innovation. The business press, business leaders, and business schools can't say it enough: 'Innovation is the key to success.'...
When we're searching for innovation, aren't we simply seeking a different way of looking at the world? ...Why is it that at the moment in history when we most need to see the world differently, we don't force our mind to look at problems differently? If our goal is to look differently, where have all our pictures gone?"
Good question.
So, let's try an experiment. Take a gander at some of my recent Instragram photos:

Now, what did you just learn about me? 


  1. A very powerful visual tool in communicating ideas is Mind Mapping. I just completed a Business Analysis course on tools and techniques and Mind Mapping blew me away. It uses visuals to convey information in a way that the brain works (both sides).

    I've used it since in a few projects. There's even an app for that! (Actually several).

    Mindmeister is my current fave.

    1. I think I put MindJet on my iPhone within the first week of purchasing it. I have a big whiteboard up on my wall for mind-mapping purposes and love how it helps me work through roadblocks, connect ideas and create new ones.

      I will now be checking out Mindmeister... Thanks!

  2. Sorry I missed Dan's talk at Rotman. Awesome that you're all fired up about visual learning and mind mapping, Mr. food/drink/cat/architecture (enormous enclosed spaces?) fan. I love the whiteboard for thinking things through too. I'll have to check out those apps for whiteboarding on the go. Thanks!

    1. One of the reasons I fell in love with my iPhone early on was that it gives me so many opportunities to create, capture ideas (verbal & visual), connect with others and learn on the go, anytime, anywhere. (A good data plan helps! lol!)

      I recommend you take a listen to a podcast that features Dan as he basically goes through the same ideas and such as I heard at Rotman. Well worth the time.

    2. I started using MindManager in 1991. While housecleaning, I just came across the floppy that I got when I bought it! I also found some old paper mindmaps that I made before I bought MindManager.
      We have been using Freemind for a while at the corporate level and it is a great little product for a perfect price.
      I am also involved in a group that is looking at modernizing Compendium which is an open source multi-dimensional mapping tool. It is also used a lot for dialogue mapping. I use it for problems that do not fit on a two dimensional page very well. If you start to get a lot of links between nodes on a 2D mindmap, you are developing an idea that really is multi-dimensional.

    3. Thanks, Ron! Lots to check on there and nice to hear how involved you are with the process and the tools.