Category Archives: Read for Work

Stella Collins, Neuroscience for Learning and Development


This book provides a good overview of brain functioning and of how the physical structures and its biochemistry is related to the psychological and behavioral elements in learning.

While there is currently a strong interest in neuroscience and lots that is published about it, Collins warns about being critical about what we read that starts with “what neuroscience says…”. As for everything that comes from scientific literature, we should be critical of whether what we are told is in fact scientifically sound or not. (Key questions to ask: Who did the research? What’s on their agenda? Where was it first published? When was it published and when else? How was the science done? What is the result saying?)

One of the key things Collins tells us about is that to learn we must first be curious. The positive feelings that come from satisfying curiosity are generated by the same mechanisms as other pleasurable experiences, such as eating a delicious piece of chocolate if you are a chocolate lover. Dopamine is released and it’s quite addictive!

Second, there has to be a way for learning “to stick” or to be remembered. This means that we have to create the right level of attention and motivation for learning to be persistent about learning. Sometimes, it means providing options to practice and repeat, in order to create new neural pathways. It is also helpful to make the learning multisensory (for all learners!). And focus is better than multitasking, of which you can remind learners that try to learn while keeping in touch with the day-to-day of their work. Other tools to help learners remember and anchor learning: linking learning to emotions, novelty, stories, smell or context. And foster creativity by helping learners to be playful and to experiment with new ideas and behaviors.

If you are a learning and development professional, chances are you use techniques and tricks that you have learned on the job, rules of thumbs acquired from others, and your “good old common sense” based on your own experience. This book looks at why some things work and some things don’t. And you might be surprised at the things that we do that are not as effective as we might think. Understanding why will make us far more effective.

Thanks to Kogan Page and NetGalley for access to a review copy of this book.


Collins, Stella. Neuroscience for Learning and Development: How to Apply Neuroscience and Psychology for Improved Learning and Training. Kogan Page, London, 2016.

Other things:

Robin Hoyle, Informal Learning in Organizations


Informal learning is the holy grail of learning and development in organizations, especially in difficult economic times… When we cannot spent on formal training, when those who approve budgets are skeptical of formal learning programs, when anything that has a clear cost attached to it is perceived more like an expense than an investment, we turn our attention to informal learning.

In my experience, none or very few organizations promote and support informal learning effectively. It is often synonymous with complete laissez-faire and the assumption is that employees will manage their own development independently from any structure provided by the organization, and often on their own time.

Robin Hoyle’s book, Informal Learning in Organizations: How to Create a Continuous Learning Culture, published last September, clearly points out that informal learning is learning outside of formal learning structure such as classroom training or online e-learning modules. However, it is not necessarily self-directed, and it is fully informed by the needs of the organization for competency development and performance improvement. The objective is to increase the capability of the individual, the team, the organization.

The author also cautions the reader about the current hype in use of social media to support learning and focuses on the fundamentals of integrating learning with work and finding simple yet effective ways to measure outcomes. Organizations often give up on measuring learning outcomes, especially with informal learning. It is difficult without a measurement of outcomes, to make a good business case for investing in learning, whether formal or informal.

This book is practical, straight to the point, and provides clear examples. I recommend it to all learning and development specialist who are struggling with integrating informal learning in their learning strategies.


Hoyle, Robin. Informal Learning in Organizations: How to Create a Continuous Learning Culture. Kogan Page, 2015.

Other things:

And Google books will give you access to a limited number of pages of the book:

Informal Learning on Google Books

Paul Brown, Joan Kingsley, and Sue Paterson, The Fear-Free Organization: Vital Insights from Neuroscience to Transform Your Business Culture


In this book, the authors seek to demonstrate how fear, a powerful emotion that tend to override others, gets in the way of individual performance at work. As a consequence, it also affects organizational performance negatively, and it especially damps down efforts in implementing change. One of the questions they are trying to answer is how we manage and lead in such a way as NOT to induce fear?

While reading this book, I had the following questions in mind:

  • Why do we need a fear-free organization?
  • Why does fear matter?
  • How do we control fear or manage its impacts?
  • What roles do leaders play in organizations?
  • How do we create and maintain organizations where individuals thrive?
  • How de we create and maintain organizations that perform well and who can adapt to changes in market conditions without deletious effects on individuals?

Given the often difficult conditions in which organizations must carry out business and the need to manage ever-accelerating change (or so it often appears to individuals within organizations), it is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms that influence behaviors and relationships in order to foster the most fruitful ones.

The authors look at the neurobiological foundations of emotions, the self and the ability to learn. As an opposite of fear, trust generates more energy and leads to more positive results.  They say on page 218:

Fear is the wrecker of trust. Trust is the antidote to fear. It can only come from individuals who first of all trust themselves, understand their own strengths and weaknesses, do not  exaggerate on either side of the scale, and have integrity.

Because fear is linked with survival and because the brain associates change with a threat to stability, we can conclude that human beings are hard-wired to resist change and to fight for the maintenance of status quo. In extreme cases, constant change may create so much stress and fear as to drive people crazy. On page 21, the authors give the exemple of King Christian of Denmark whose fear-ridden childhood drove him to madness and whose strange behavior forms the basis for Per Olov Enquist’s novel The Visit of the Royal Physician.

Five of the eight basic human emotions (fear, anger, disgust, shame, and sadness) lead human beings to focus on survival, whereas only 2 (excitement/joy and trust/love) foster a sense of attachment. The remaining one (surprise/startle) can lead to either depending on context.

The authors propose the following process to ensure a fear-free organization: First, we must start with a good-hearted leader, use human resources professionals to “organize energy”, have the right metrics to understand how energy is mobilized to generate the right results, and design all systems to “secure attachment”. On page 224, the authors say “Begin to see that profit is the statement of how energy has been applied in the system and that there is a remarkably bountiful supply of energy in people if properly attached so that energy is outward flowing, in the service of the organization, no inward flowing, in survival mode.” We must also foster the right cultural dynamics, make sure we make good use of meeting time, bring joy back at work and encourage behaviors that highlight the joy and trust that people feel. And lastly, let’s be clear that is not going to be a final end state, but will require constant work to maintain.

The authors provide a foundation from neuroscience for all the idea they propose. Given I have little knowledge in this area, I could not assess whether their presentation is accurate but it has certainly sparked my interest.


Brown, Paul, Joan Kingsley and Sue Paterson, The Fear-Free Organization: Vital insight from neuroscience to transform your business culture. Kogan Page, London, UK: 2015.

Books and authors recommended by the authors:

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations: A guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of consciousness, Nelson, Parker, Brussels:2014.

Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations by authors associated with Vital Smarts

Stone, Patten and Heen, Difficult Conversations

David Rock’s SCARF model

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

Joseph Fiksel, Resilient by Design


For those of us who work in change management in organizations, we are more often used to think of “resilience” as a characteristic of individuals who demonstrate some kind of flexibility when faced with change. Beyond psychological aspects, we can also talk about the resilience of organizations or communities and this is what Joseph Fiksel does. He defines resilience in this way:

“Resilience is the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change.”

The complexity of considering the resilience of organizations resides in the fact we have to take into account different elements: people, products, processes, assets, markets, and communities. He also suggest that we should think about organizations as systems, but as living organisms rather than engineered systems, to emphasize the ability to flex and adapt to a changing environment.

The approach that he proposes is broader than both classical risk management and business continuity practices that tend to focus on specific elements of the system and fail to consider the broader context. This may lead to a narrow focus than in not in line with the kind of fast, sweeping changes we seem to see more and more nowadays.

The four attributes of resilience that are discussed in the book are: adaptability, efficiency, cohesion, and diversity. Resilience is created by managing the tensions between these 4 attributes and each organization must find its own mix. The author proposes to create a role of “Chief Resilience Officer” which includes the consideration of risk but takes a broader view (and may require an expanded skill set).

While he does not mention the VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) in the book, the kind of world he describes is very much in line with the world that Bob Johansen (2012) describes and what he proposes is an approach to enable organizations to not only survive, but prosper, in this kind of world. What he describes as the “new normal” is a world where crises are commonplace and where our inability to control the world that surrounds us increases the need for resilience.

I’d be curious to see what Fiksel and his colleagues have to say about the current trends in the resource industry (the one where I work), the drought in California (a personal interest of mine), and the economic crisis in Greece (where I have family), situations that have personal significance for me, but for which I could not think of “fixes”. With respect to the resource industry, I have the following questions:

  • If economic growth in China continues to slow, what happens to industries that have banked on demand fueled by it?
  • If China goes bust, what are the economic and social impacts to places like Western Australia? Other parts of the world where high demand for resources may cause temporary prosperity to isolated one-company towns? (Of course, there is nothing new about this, there are ghost towns all over the world but we are now much more concerned about sustainable development and human impacts.)
  • Given the current trends, demand is down for commodities like iron ore and prices are down. Organizations in this industry are cutting costs, reorganizing, outsourcing, off-shoring whatever can work can be, in an effort to ensure the viability of corporations. What will be the impact to locations where the work is eliminated? What will be impacts, intended or not, positive or not, to locations to which work is moved? What happens when fluctuations occur (up or down)? Have organizations built flexibility or have they only found a temporary fix? Have communities and various level of government really considered their long-term options?

Is strategic planning really looking at long term changes in the world? Are we really being strategic and creating organizations and communities where people can live and prosper, and can we ensure that people and in particular leaders have the foresight to design for resilience?

But is it even possible? Fiksel says: “As the world grows hyperconnected and the rate of change accelerates, the future becomes increasingly obscure. Humans have created order on an unprecedented scale, giving us the illusion of control, but we are more vulnerable today than ever.” Furthermore, “the type of order that we create is different from nature’s order; it is more tightly coupled, more rigid, and more brittle. The inevitable waves of change will eventually disrupt even the most elaborate structure.” He challenges us to find ways of integrating resilience and sustainability to create systems that can survive disruptions.

When I was an undergraduate at university, I used to like reading books about ecology, as I felt they gave a sense of the “big picture” of what was happening in the world.  My husband has often thought of my fascination with natural catastrophes (earthquakes and hurricanes!) as a simple morbid interest in human misery, but I am far more fascinated with the ways in which human beings and communities survive than with the events themselves. The newest literature on sustainability and resilience is even more multi-layered and interesting. While it makes the complexity of the world look less amenable to human intervention, it also provides fascinating insights on innovative ways to look at the complex reality that surrounds us.


Fiksel, Joseph. Resilient by Design: Creating Businesses That Adapt and Flourish in a Changing World. Island Press, Washington, 2015.

Johansen, Bob. Leaders Make the Future. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2012.

On this topic:

James McCalman and David Potter, Leading Culture Change: The Theory and Practice of Successful Organizational Transformation


There is no shortage of change management books on the market (or in my library!) but new takes on it, given the utter difficulty of successfully implementing change initiatives in the workplace, are always welcome. What I particularly like about this one is the explicit use of tools from the social sciences toolkit (both conceptual models and research methods) and their application to the practice of fostering cultural change in the organization. Of course, my bias as a sociologist shows when I say that. I have so often been asked what was the use of my graduate studies in sociology if I only ended up managing learning and development activities in a for-profit company, as if developing leaders and contributing to organizational change projects was in no way informed by a background in the social sciences. And what is management if not an application of social sciences and psychology?

Given the “messy and unpredictable” nature of change management work, there is no simple recipe that can be applied and rational, linear models emphasizing simplicity are unlikely to work. This is where careful study of the situation using methods developed by the social sciences to study social reality are useful. One has to dig deep to understand the meaning systems that have been embedded in a given social setting to effect lasting cultural change. The authors devote a few chapters to the elements that make up a culture.

They also define organizational development (OD) as the process of managing changes to cultural elements using methodologies from the social and behavioral sciences. The book also contains interesting discussions on power and leadership and on the role of language both in creating and stabilizing culture (or “cultural hegemony”) as well as in changing culture.

The authors make great use of the gardening metaphor, where changing culture starts with planting seeds and creating the right conditions for these seeds to grow. As we all know, the results are not always as expected and this very well reflects the emergent nature of cultural change. We may very well end up with the intended consequences but also with some unintended ones. The authors say:

These cultural seeds may flourish and sprout new cultural themes, or they may fuse with established cultural themes and produce hybrids that continue that continue to preserve established norms but perhaps enhance the positive aspects of these norms, or they may lie dormant and spring into life once fertile cultural conditions emerge that favour their growth and development as new dynamic cultural assumptions, value and ultimately themes. The gardening metaphor is helpful in understanding what cultural change is really all about. It is a form of cultivation. It involves the sowing of symbolic seeds that may or may not take hold. These seeds need the right conditions to mature and it is these same conditions that are required to kill off unwanted cultural constructs. So even when the formal stage of the OD process is supposed to be complete, these symbolic seeds can spring into life as derivatives of the original cultural change work. (p. 218)

The authors present an extensive case study and describe the approach they have taken with their client to effect cultural change. This nicely complements the first half of the book that lays out the theoretical foundations of their approach to cultural change.

In my experience, what I have found to be most problematic is when the predominant culture includes attitudes towards that change that are in and of themselves antithetical to change. In some organizational cultures, strong assumptions are made about the nature of change as being mostly an issue of structure, and it is assumed that implementing the right structure will produce the right cultural changes. In such change projects, new processes and tools are put into place, and no explicit efforts are made to facilitate the culture changes that will help embed these new structures and will generate the desired results, often measured through performance indicators. McCalman and Potter present a solid case for how and why cultural change work must be explicitly planned and managed.

This book has also made me think about how current my knowledge of social science methods is… I still have the basics from when I was a graduate student 25 years ago, but I have not look into any of the current thoughts that may take advantage of new ideas or new tools available. It might be something interesting to dig into.

The book may be quite useful to what the authors call “change managers”, that is, any actors in the organization who intent on effecting change. Paying explicit attention to the cultural aspects of change may not come as naturally as focusing on the structural aspects (new organizational structure and new work processes).


McCalman, James and David Potter. Leading Culture Change: The Theory and Practice of Successful Organizational Transformation. Kogan Page, London, 2015.

William J. Rothwell and H.C Kazanas, The Strategic Development of Talent


This is not a new book and in fact, it has been sitting in my library for quite a while. I had consulted it when I needed info on specific issues, for example career management when I was facilitating career planning workshops, but I had not yet attempted to read it from cover to cover. So I have done that in the past month, reading 30 minutes at breakfast while having my coffee.

The strength of this book is how is how well is situates the planning of talent development efforts in the context of strategic planning for the organization.  I had never seen this be covered so extensively in other texts on talent development, or learning and development, planning.

There is a very interesting chapter on environmental scanning. It is defined in the following way: “Environmental scanning for Talent Development is the process of monitoring trends, issues, problems, or events that might create the need for future talent as a result of environmental changes.” The chapter then proceeds with suggestions on how to do this, while highlighting that this can be a highly creative process and that it may be done differently depending on circumstances.  The authors then go on to discuss how to do strategic planning for talent development and draw parallels with the strategic planning activities undertaking for the business as a whole.

The authors sometimes use what I would consider non-standard terminology, but it does not deter from getting to the very good ideas they present along the way.

One regrettable characteristic of this book is the poor quality of the binding. I did not survive one read-through and there are now loose pages.

The whole book seems to be available for free here:


Rothwell, William J. And H.C. Kazanas, The Strategic Development of Talent: A Framework for Using Talent to Support Your Organizational Strategy. 2nd edition. HRD Press, Amherst, MA: 2003.

Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team


I have  been asked to do an MBTI workshop for a team of executives because the leader had read Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions ofa  Team and was inspired by its use of the MBTI. I had flipped through Lencioni’s book several times (I have owned a copy for years) but had never read the book cover to cover. I figured this was the right time to get into it so I would have a sense of where that request came from.

I already knew that it advocates the use of tools such as the MBTI to increase team members’ self-awareness and ability to adjust to each other’s differences. A team I had been a part of some years ago has use the concept of personal histories to increase sharing and trust in the team, but without follow-up, it had no lasting effect.

So it was time I read the whole book to get an overall view of Lencioni’s approach. The book is a quick read, and rather than being a structured exposé of the approach, it is a fictional story about how the approach can be applied to a concrete situation, an extended example of how it can work out. Lencioni calls it a fable. Some people don’t like this type of business book, feeling it is a watered down approach, and that it does not covered options and alternatives. The book does end with a 35-page section that lays out the model in a structured way, defining the 5 dysfunctions, describing the behaviors found in a team that suffers from each of the dysfunctions and those that don’t. It also provides suggestions for overcoming the dysfunctions. These have been expended in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a  Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators, published 3 years later, which I have also perused but must also read through.

According to Lencioni, this is “how members of truly cohesive teams behave:

  1. They trust one another.
  2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
  3. They commit to decisions and plans of action.
  4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
  5. They focus on the achievement of collective results.”

So the corresponding dysfunctions are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. These dysfunctions are interrelated and should not be addressed in isolation.


Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA: 2002.

Lencioni, Patrick. Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a  Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA: 2005.

Other things (Lencioni’s consulting firm)

Simplifying Talent Management


The authors of One Page Talent Management propose a streamlined way to do a number of activities in the talent management space: performance management, 360-degree feedback, talent reviews and succession planning, engagement and engagement surveys, and competencies. For each area, they review what is know to be effective practice (which they call “the science”), propose simplified ways to achieve success compared to what is commonly done in organizations, and rebut expected objections to their approach.

While some suggestions do ring true for me compared to the cumbersome processes I have experienced with some of my employers, other approaches they suggest do not quite jive with what I see as effective from my experience. My biggest criticism of the book is the lack of what I would consider credible references to back up their assertions of what “the science” says. Not that they don’t cite credible academic authors and studies by well-known consulting firms… it’s just that they don’t always make a case for dismissing some of the current practices. Of course, I say that in general, and I am not going to present an argument for all the specific places in the book where I raised my highbrows. And to be fair to the authors, the book is an interesting read and its length and clear organization make it an interesting overview of a number of current practices in talent management.

Each chapter features a review of current thinking (“the science”), suggestions for lighter processes (eliminating complexity, adding value), suggestions for creating transparency and accountability, arguments to overcome objections to their suggested approaches, a series of questions to assess whether your organizations’ practices pass muster, and case study materials. Given the length of the book (less than 200 pages), it is very much crisp and straight to the point.

I particularly like the final section of each chapter, where a number of questions help the readers assess how these practices are used their own work environment. For example, the following questions pertain to the 360-degree processes:

  • Is your 360 process customized to the behaviors that are most important for your organization’s success?
  • Does it take more than ten minutes to complete?
  • Are the results easily understandable by the average manager?
  • After reading the 360 report, does the manager specifically know both which behaviors to change and how to change them?

From previous use of different 360 tools, my experience is that they are often very comprehensive (they include many behaviors with no sense of what matters most), they take a long time to complete (often about one hour), the results are difficult to interpret, and managers are quite baffled by what to do next. Certainly, a simplified data collection tool, a more straightforward report and built-in guidance on what to improve sound like an improved approach.


Effron, Marc and Miriam Ort. One Page Talent Management: Eliminating Complexity, Adding Value. Harvard Business Press: Boston, MA, 2010.

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, Cooperrider and Whitney


I was travelling and flying this week which gave me time to read this short book that gives a quick introduction to the basic elements of appreciative inquiry. The approach is dubbed a “positive revolution” and the preface describes it this way:

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a new model of change management uniquely suited to the values, beliefs, and business challenges facing managers and leaders today. It is a process for large-scale change management that can enable you to engage and inspire your highly diverse and dispersed workforce; to involve customers and other stakeholders in the future of your business; to discover and extend your business strengths and strategic advantages; and to balance outstanding financial returns with heightened societal contributions.

It describes how changes can be approached from the point of view of building on strengths rather than from the point of view of problem-solving. It focuses on identifying the positive core present in your situation rather than trying only to fix problems. It is therefore far more engaging because it expects people to make a positive contribution based on what is already going well. The acknowledgement of existing strengths helps everyone to build on success.

The four key phases of the AI process are discovery, dream, design and destiny. In the first phase, we identify what already works well. In the second phase, we develop the future vision. In the third step, we create possible options for the future and finally, we build momentum towards ongoing change.

The book describes the process of the AI Summit, a 4-day large-scale meeting that engages the whole workforce in a change process. It also spells out the success factors for appreciative inquiry: co-creation, simultaneity of inquiry and change, the joint creation of meaningful stories and metaphors, the anticipation of the future through positive images and an assumption of affirmative collective action. In other words, we can build the future together!

While this book does not describe in details the principles and methodology, it does a good job as an introduction. It may be useful books to put in the hands of decision makers that need to be introduced to the power of AI.


Cooperrider, David L. And Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 2005.

Communicating Better? Some Useful Ideas


Some months ago, an internal client approached me with a request for a “communication skills” course. Specifying the need when I get such a request is always interesting because what is really needed may be something quite different from “communication skills” in the end, even when we keep that as the name of the workshop. Part of the request was about technical writing and that is not part of my skill set, at least not as a trainer, even though I officially did write some manuals and other technical documents when I worked for a software firm. And the client did not want to include presentation skills in the package (phew, not a topic I like to cover).

We eventually settled on the following mix: active listening, feedback, managing differences of opinions, and doing better meetings. Then I got to work on the specific objectives, content details, flow, and optimum interactivity throughout. As usual, I turned to my library for some inspiration and “rediscovery” of content to energize my work.

When I ask people to list what an effective, active listener does, one of the few things that people fail to mention is effective handling of emotions. They will readily list other skills most often mentioned in the literature on communication skills, but the ability to recognize and identify emotions in others (as well as empathize) is rarely discussed until I bring it up, usually when we have a full flipchart already. Part of that skill is to recognize emotions in oneself and to manage them effectively. One book which does of good job of discussion the difficulty of that is Difficult Conversations, that came out of the Harvard Negotiation Project (the same people who put out Getting to Yes, another book that is of relevance here).

In Difficult Conversations, the authors point out that there are three levels of conversations: the “what happened” conversation, the feelings conversation and the identity conversation. The first one is about clarifying what happened, figuring out who’s right and who’s to blame. That is not always fruitful, it can generate a lot of negative emotions, and figuring out how to have a more collaborative discussion about differing interpretations of a situation can be much more helpful. The second one is about identifying and surfacing emotions that underlie the conversation in the first place and can cause it to derail when they are not made explicitly part of the conversation. The third one is the “ego” conversation which centers on questions of self-worth and self-esteem. Each level of conversation, when unrecognized and mishandled, can lead to a difficult conversation that leaves all parties bruised and unsatisfied, and sometimes further away from resolution than when they started. Diving back into this book before getting into this workshop was a useful reminder.

The second book I stuck my nose into was Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. Her approach to conversations is very similar to what I have seen written about problem solving and conflict resolution approaches but by not calling them that, she shifts the focus to everyday conversations that can be conducted much more collaboratively and openly. Her “confrontation model” is structured almost exactly like the way I explain providing constructive feedback. She also highlights the importance of asking open-ended questions to jump-start dialogue, in fact turning “what happened” conversations into founts of understanding. I was given this book while I worked at a company where the president liked it so much, he required his whole executive to read it.

What I found in putting together and delivering this workshop was that what people seemed to need the most was not so much better communication skills, but better ways to work together. While communication is part of that, of course, that’s not the whole story. I had designed the workshop to make them work together (the fact we were working also on meetings was the perfect excuse), and debriefs include both a discussion of how the assigned work went and how they communicated together while doing the work.

I handled the “content” aspects of having better meetings by using the “Effective Meeting Situation” business simulation from Human Synergistics (

I focused work tools for meetings around the concept of making things visual. I referred to David Sibbet’s Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity, as well as Dan Roam’s Blah, Blah, Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work. I like Sibbet’s emphasis on the visual approach as a way to engage groups. It was very interesting to see this at work, even as a simple mindmap to generate ideas to organize a team activity. The participants had never used this approach and it was amazing to see the energy in the room. Dan Roam makes the point that over-reliance on words moves us away from clarity and forces us into linear thinking thereby stifling creativity. Using a visual approach just seems to unblock people’s ability to work and create together.

This goes much beyond the questions of “getting people to better communicate” and moves in the direction of “getting people to get things done together” which often the basis for better performance and a better work climate.

I look forward to checking in with my clients to see what they are actually incorporating in their day-to-day work.



Stone, Douglas, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen. Difficult Conversation: How to Discuss What Matters Most. Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1999.

Scott, Susan. Fierce Conversations. Berkley, New York, NY, 2004.

Sibbet, David. Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. While, Hoboken, NJ, 2010.

Roam, Dan. Blah, Blah, Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work. Portfolio/Penguin, New York, NY, 2011.