Monthly Archives: March 2011

Visual Facilitation: An OD tool, a systems tool, and support on the doctoral path



Below is a short article I wrote for a Fielding Graduate University newsletter for doctoral students in the Human Organization Development Phd program.

Visual Facilitation: An OD tool, a systems tool, and support on the doctoral path

Visual Facilitation is a tool that is used in many ways by OD practitioners, coaches, facilitators, trainers, educators and individuals to support big picture thinking, engage different ways of knowing and enhance creativity and innovation. Fielding has been a leader in OD and continues to push the edges of our practice. One of these is the inclusion of Visual Facilitation in their continuing education graduate courses. Fielding is the first academic institution to offer a full credit course in Visual Facilitation and it is entirely virtual. The course engages the learner in visual methods as well as integrating the tools of Visual Facilitation into one’s practice.

Whether you have the time to take the course or not, there are many ways you can begin using some Visual Facilitation techniques to support your doctoral work and your journey along the Fielding path. I have worked with a few doctoral candidates, using visual maps to explore the research questions, build visual models of the findings, define a timeline and order for the learning journey and as one way of data collection.

One misconception with the use of tools like Visual Facilitation is that one needs to have artistic skills. This is mistaking the product for the process. The most powerful quality about using these visual tools is not the map or document that is created by you or by the group, but rather the enhanced engagement that happened as a result of working this way. With a simple mind map structure, you could explore the connections between your literature as part of building the Literature Review. Using a wall to plot out your topics, will allow you to see the connections between content that may be more challenging at first, in a linear, written format.

Using post-its to identify the bigger topics within each KA and see all of the KAs together will provide an opportunity to see patterns and connections. Making a large mind map of the whole dissertation structure, with an arm for each chapter, and branching out the needs and requirements for each section can offer a view of the whole project that may be difficult to see in traditional formats.

Besides the dissertation and research itself, there is a tremendous amount of information from different areas about navigating the path through Fielding to complete your PhD. These multiple streams of requirements and deadlines can be complex. Creating a visual timeline, plotting these dates and deadlines, including your own goals and objectives, and your personal and family timelines can allow you to see opportunities and prepare for challenges with greater foresight.

Though the Fielding course, “Leading Change that Matters with Visual Facilitation” may not be on your learning path, you could also consider the resources of fellow Fielding students who are interested in using Visual Facilitation and looking for opportunities to expand their skill and knowledge. Perhaps partnering with one of these students for some part of your work could be mutually beneficial. In addition, Regina Rowland and I are co-facilitating the course and are resources if you want to consider engaging Visual Facilitation in some part of your work or learning journey.

The twelve week course begins September 26. Registration opens in July!

Below is a link for more information about the course:

Feel free to contact me with questions: