Visual Story Cards- Better Conversations About Things That Matter!

Visual Story Cards
are a tool for supporting collaborative, creative conversations in a wide variety of situations, helping develop ideas and insights into useful dialogue.

There is a sizable body of research and practice that shows the power of images and objects to enable effective dialogue about complex issues. As ideas and situations become more complex, words alone are not sufficient to convey our meaning and intent in any given situation.

The images contained in Visual Story Cards provide a visual vocabulary that helps us express ourselves via metaphor, intuition and emotion. I use them with groups for introductions, reflections, storytelling, and visioning.

The Visual Story Card Process Can Help Teams Or Groups To:
• Build consensus and agreement
• Creatively problem solve
• Talk about their passions and strengths
• Seek patterns in complex issues and make connections
• Seek a variety of perspectives
• Ask new questions
• Elicit stories and create metaphors
• Tap into personal experiences and passions
• Articulate what is known to the group
• Articulate what has been unspoken or “undiscussable”
• Create dialogue and build on ideas
• Imagine alternatives
• Spark humour and playfulness

As you can see, this isn’t just a brainstorming tool!

Framing Questions
By creating your own effective framing questions – those that elicit open, insightful and honest communication – you will make the most effective use of your Visual Story Cards. Good framing questions speak directly and honestly to the issues the participants care about, and encourage them to share their unique perspectives and experiences.

Reflect On Your Question(s)
• Is this question relevant to the real life and real work of the participants?
• Is this a genuine question?
• What “work” do I want this question to do? What kind of conversations, meanings, and feelings do I imagine this question will evoke?
• Is this question likely to generate hope, imagination, engagement, creative action, and new possibilities?

Sample Framing Questions
These sample questions help to stimulate new knowledge and creative thinking in a variety of situations. Here are some of the framing questions I use:
• What’s important to you? Why do you care?
• What opportunities can you see?
• What’s emerging for you?
• What new connections are you making?
• What had real meaning for you from what you heard?
• What surprised you?
• What challenged you?
• What’s missing? What do we need more clarity about?
• What’s been your/our major learning, insight, or discovery so far?
• What’s the next level of thinking we need to do?
• What would it take to create change?
• What do you need to feel fully engaged and energized?
• What unique contribution can you make?
• What are you most passionate about?

Visual Story Card Process
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to use the cards. You may find it useful to allow at least thirty minutes to one hour to work through a Visual Story Card process. Here is one example of a process that you could implement using the cards:
1. Identify the topic of conversation and focus it with one or more framing questions
2. Invite participants to browse through the cards and select one for each framing question
3. Participants share their images one at a time and connect to the framing questions; each person can respond to the others’ images
4. Extend the conversation beyond the group, leveraging the momentum and insights created in the session

Order Visual Story cards through our See Meaning shop, OR create your own bank of images from magazines and postcards.

Boosts learning and clarity: most people are visual thinkers. They can understand and build on ideas when they see them.

Validates participant voice: people can see that they have been heard.

Enhances creativity: we integrate visual approaches that inspire out-of-the-box thinking.

Fosters collaboration and change: using visual tools allows people to communicate, co-create and plan together with ease.

Provides a visual summary: this keeps the learning 'in the room' during your event. Or, post-event, share our charts by email, post them to the web or print them as a starting point for your next meeting.