More and more, I’ve been using drawing as a way of bringing together workshop participants, capturing ideas, getting them out of people’s heads, and into the room. You don’t have to be the greatest artist in the world to make a useful or meaningful mark on the page, and those marks can sometimes reveal or provoke the most inspiring and unexpected thoughts.
Together, we’ve drawn “arrows of time” to capture challenges from the past and future; we’ve made simple collaborative comics to demonstrate how easy it can be to stitch people’s ideas together into a common narrative; and, most recently, we’ve experimented with comic book guru Nick Sousanis‘ activity, “Grids and Gestures“.
“Grids and Gestures” invites people to tell the story of their day by filling a sheet of paper with shapes which resemble the panels of a comic-book.
The shapes, arranged across the page, represent the sequence of events and experiences which someone faces over the course of their day. Each shape in the grid is then completed with a gestural line or shape to represent their physical or emotional activity during that portion of the day.
I was exploring ways to help staff in large, diverse, and disjointed organizations to connect with colleagues in other teams, who might be in other buildings or even other cities.
I asked participants to draw their day as a series of comic-book panels, and then to write one word in each panel. They then formed groups of three and shared their “comic book diary” of a day in their working lives.
Some entries captured the way in which an orderly, well-intentioned to-do list gave way to impromptu conversations, sudden thoughts, and newly arising projects – with a need to ring-fence “sacred time” at one’s desk to ensure vital work got done.
Another example emphasised the prevalence of email, punctuating the day, while project work had to be fit around other duties – and questions didn’t always connect straightforwardly with answers.
“Grids and Gestures” proved a useful, lively way for people to articulate the rhythm and content of their working day, and to explore the similarities and differences in experience across teams, divisions, and geographical locations of an organization. It isn’t about being the “best” artist, it’s about using pen and paper to express & share the experience of your working day.
If you’d like to try something similar with your colleagues:
- Give everyone a piece of copy paper and a writing implement.
- Ask them to break up the entire page into shapes, like the panels of a comic book. (Show examples if need be). Tell them the panels can be any shape or size. These panels should represent the things that you experience during your working day.
- Invite participants to write one word in each panel.
- Get them to share the story of their day with one or two other participants.
You can read more about Nick Sousanis’ original “Grids and Gestures” activity here.