I’m a project manager by trade. I thrive on variety and being a bit stressed all the time, and project management really gives you that. For many years now, I’ve worked creatively and visually to deliver projects and change in companies. I’ve seen for myself how a workforce can both have more fun at work but also be more engaged, take more responsibility and be more productive by working more creatively together.
When I talk to people about this, they say things like, “but our work is very serious/dry/logical. I can’t see this working”, or, “I work with very senior/logical/serious people. There’s no way they’re going to respond well to me working more creatively with them.” So I tell them this story…
Before I ran a visual workshop with the Directors of my last workplace, I knew they had mostly been in ‘dry’ meetings, with lots of reading and wordy presentations. That’s what grown-ups do, right? So I prepared them to open their minds to a new way of working, and laid out explicit rules that effectively made me the boss of them…for a brief morning session at least. I created a game of Top Trumps with the list of projects on our wishlist that year and we spent the morning playing the game. We came out with an agreed project portfolio for the year that reflected our 5-year strategy. In 2.5 hours.
At the time I ran the strategy workshop with them, our management team did parallel work with a well-known 3rd party consultancy. It took us over 3 (not fun) days with the consultancy (can you imagine the cost of that in people’s time alone?) to come out with a couple of big impressive spreadsheets. So what happened next? My company abandoned the 3rd party work and just adopted my creative approach…it was simpler, it spoke to people, it was memorable and it got the job done. Painlessly. We did it annually then.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see such a side-by-side comparison of creative vs. traditional ways of working again in my career. But it proved what I already suspected from my experience: working visually engages people, it helps them focus, it promotes creativity in idea-generating and problem-solving, it makes meetings more productive and enjoyable and it makes communications clearer. It really doesn’t matter how senior, logical or serious people are…there is something about working visually, standing up, laying things out, voting for things with stickers, that engages everyone on many levels.
Now I suspect you’re thinking that this may have worked in the fluffy kind of workplaces I worked in, but it would never fly in yours. Well, here’s the interesting part…
I worked in highly regulated UK/European banking and financial services environments. Mostly with IT changes. Never with much of a budget or many people (don’t believe everything you’ve heard about banks…). So believe me when I tell you, if I can prove to a bunch of bankers (literally) that working more visually is not only more fun, but delivers better results, then you can do it in your working environment!