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What is Strategic Illustration?


A picture to save a thousand (forgotten) words.


Strategic Illustration in a ProMeet workshop for the Technology Strategy Board. Read more about that workshop.

I think the least memorable (and no doubt least read or understood) strategy document I have seen weighed in at just under 100 pages.

One has to wonder what the purpose of such a document is.

A text heavy word document is not going to help make an organisations vision or strategy memorable, and the 100 pager I referred to was not exactly a page turner. I honestly wondered if anyone had actually read the whole thing?

Keeping plans visible

wallchart and gridcard system we use is excellent for gathering all ideas, views and perspectives, quickly and succinctly, and it is very very flexible.

It is also useful to keep plans highly visible, and in helping teams regularly be guided by and held accountable to agreed plans, and just as importantly in the fast changing world share learning from plans that seem quickly redundant and update plans easily.

But wallchart full of gridcards does not summarise a vision, plan or strategy
visually and some believe that working in pictures, especially on tasks that require creative or innovative approaches helps groups engage the creative visual side of the brain, aiding creative thinking.

What is Strategic Illustration?

I was taught strategic illustration by Chris Chopyak, from Alchemy, and
she defines it as such:

“Strategic Illustration is a process of creatively engaging people to work together to develop a “picture” of a vision, plan, product, message, and story.

We all process information differently. Using graphics, colour and metaphor allows us to process complex information visually and completely.  Highly illustrated maps simplify content, employ right and left brain modalities to help us understand our situations, opportunities and challenges with clarity and accuracy. 

The maps are retained by the client and used to help focus actions and business decisions.”

Maps and templates

You don’t need a facilitator to try using visual thinking. Strategic Illustration pioneers the Grove have a set of maps and templates you can
buy to try it for yourself.

A couple of the blank templates that I like are shown here (these are (C) the Grove)





You can see that with this set of four maps a group could, in a couple of hours:

- look at the changing context

- see different perspectives on a vision, and unify those into a single articulation

- plan key objectives and set out key stages / milestones

- identify five bold steps that might make a difference to implementation of a plan

Grove have 20 in total to choose from, see them all

Visible living plans

As well as encouraging creative thinking, the ability of strategic illustrations to live on and be a constant reminder of what’s important is a very helpful way of having goals, strategies and visions that live on day to day, something not likely in a chunky word document.

A well thought through and artistically produced set of illustrations can be reproduced to be visible in many sites and I’ve seen them used as screen savers, and even mouse mats.

If you’re dreading the yearly business planning cycle then why not try a fresh approach. If you need help,
get in touch.

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