“How to Stay Curious (by Doing Something as Simple as Doodling)” — SXSWedu 2015

another deeper dive into my sketchnote doodles from SXSWedu 2015

At the start of SXSWedu 2015, I had been really looking forward to seeing one  presenter in particular: Sunni Brown. I had seen her present about Gamestorming previously and thoroughly enjoyed that playful approach to problem-solving.

Later, I discovered, read, and adopted as guidebook, her marvelous book The Doodle Revolution. Along with Dan Roam and Mike Rohde, Sunni Brown brought me around to using visual thinking more explicitly as part of my thinking and design process. When I saw her listed as one of this year’s featured speakers, I knew I wanted to hear more from Sunni, so I arrived early and sat on the front row for her presentation.

SB_Doodling2After opening us up to surprise with a series of images from the marvelous — and wordless — book Zoom (Istvan Anyai), she spoke of how kids start off in the world full of wonder, and then discover a magic power, squealing with delight at the simple realization:

I make marks!

Making a squiggle in the sand with a stick or a scribble from a crayon on paper delights the mind as the child sees thoughts become visible right there in front of them.

Making marks on the world in whatever form you want opens up horizons of the mind, setting no limitations to the visual world. If they can think it, they can draw it.

SB_Doodling3Then, as they grow and go to school, they hit…the Wall of Words.

Suddenly, drawing and scribbling and doodling are pushed aside as letters, words and sentences take over. Serious learning and serious thinking, we are told, involves words, not pictures.

“Words are just one portal into knowledge and there are many, many other portals, but this is the dominant learning form we encounter when we go into schools…”

In the end, we tend to suppress our own visual thinking, or at least sublimate it to verbal thinking processes. We’re taught that words work better than pictures for serious matters — an unfortunate untruth. Sunni described her personal journey from a skeptic regarding the value of visual literacy to realizing its power. Landing in a creative agency loaded with visual thinkers, she found herself immersed in the use of visualization for thinking, planning, and communication, and started to see the power of this universal language.

Working worldwide with various clients using tools of visual thinking, she saw how people around the world responded quickly and easily to the use of these tools, and she became a practitioner and evangelist for doodling — the Infodoodler-in-Chief.

Making Thinking VisibleCiting the book Making Thinking Visible (Ron Ritchhart), Sunni described how to use visual thinking to break down how we work on problems and communicate into “thinking moves,” such as:

1) Wondering & asking questions
2) See it from a different Point-of-View (POV)
3) Build an explanation
4) Noticing & describing (process map)
5) Reasoning with evidence
6) Revealing complexity below the surface

Next, she shared examples of how each of these thinking moves can be supported through specific visual thinking exercises and doodling. Then, she led us through quick versions of exercises for 2 specific techniques.

Empathy Map, drawn at Sunni Brown 2015 SXSWedu presentationFirst, we made an Empathy Map by imagining someone we had a hard time empathizing with. Then, take their Point of View (POV) and doodle something for what they think, see, say, hear, feel and do, possibly helping you to find grounds for empathy.
Here’s the quickie I doodled that day:

Then she had us doodle an Appreciative Inquiry where we recalled a pleasant time or event; specified 3 positive elements of that experience, 2 of which had to be personal attributes or traits we brought to that moment; and then imagined how we could use those 2 elements to create a new place or action.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI), drawn at Sunni Brown 2015 SXSWedu presentationSo, here’s what I drew in an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that day this past spring at SXSWedu — complete with a wild idea that might merit exploring: creating learning adventures for friends  — and maybe others.

I left Sunni’s lively presentation with my brain brimming over with exciting possibilities, ready to carry ideas forward.

I felt energized and empowered to look at the same old world in a new way through the wonder-filled lens of a kid’s eye, and doodle daily, exclaiming (even if only to myself):

I make marks!

BTW: Here’s the SXSWedu podcast from Sunni Brown’s presentation — there are no visuals here, so doodle your own!

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in creativity, doodle, education, Learning, SXSW, visual thinking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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