LogoVisual Thinking (LVT) is a Visual Thinking methodology in which you turn ideas into objects. Because you can manipulate them, you can make new meaning from ‘old’ ideas by changing their structural arrangement. Everyone’s ideas become shared material from which new patterns of meaning are fashioned. As they use LVT, everyone learns, improves their thinking, develops understanding and builds relationships. They own their results with no issues of transfer or communication. Groups are able to act effectively because integrating diverse knowledge and experience rapidly produces shared understanding.
With LVT you can:
- encourage exploration and create new structures of thought
- rapidly gather diverse inputs
- include all contributions without rejection
- replace old structures of meaning by dis-aggregation and re-aggregation
- change people’s level of perception
- guide the process without influencing the content
- achieve well informed high-quality results
Benefits of the method
LogoVisual Thinking helps to change the level of thinking and greatly accelerates the generation of shared outcomes. Firstly it reduces interpersonal friction and improves process. Secondly it appeals to all learning styles by using all intelligences – physical, spatial, visual, emotional, auditory and cognitive. Furthermore it is immediately engaging and helps people grasp the wholeness of things. Even without previous experience people can readily think together – gathering information, solving problems, developing plans, deciding actions. Even those who have difficulty articulating ideas work easily with this methodology. Facilitation is very hands-off, guiding the process while the people do the work themselves.
Tools and Media
You can do LVT with sticky notes, but because sticky notes are also used for trivial purposes you risk diminishing the process. Our preferred medium is dry-wipe magnetic shapes on dry-wipe boards which allow everything to be changed as ideas evolve. Lightweight portable whiteboards encourage reframing using multiple displays. At the other extreme, room-sized Thinking-Walls can cope with large-scale displays or many processes in parallel. The medium allows for changes of mind, encouraging people to engage confidently in open-ended enquiry (where there are no ‘right’ answers). People independently write their ideas with no need to agree because differences of perspective provoke creative thinking. The tools and methods make it easy to re-construct dismantled elements of old structures (to break things up and re-build them).
You can captured outputs as photographs or use purpose-designed software, so they can be translated into conventional plans and reports. Abstraction brings different ideas into proximity and provokes the emergence of new insights. Thinking in clusters and patterns (rather than lists or bullet points) helps people grasp the wholeness of things. As they explore relationships between ideas, their diverse experience and expertise interact to produce new structures of meaning.
These days it is easy to overlook the fact that computers compute but only minds can think! Unfortunately by using computers we lose the haptic quality of physically handling one another’s thoughts. Nevertheless, computer software specific to LogoVisual Thinking is valuable for personal work, for some group applications and for capturing the outputs from sessions that have used physical media. Using projectors, and sometimes video cameras, it is possible to involve large groups in interactive processes.
LVT is not so much an invention as a discovery of a highly effective methodology for collaborative thinking. The methodology was developed by CMC from a method originated by J.G. Bennett and his team at Structural Communications in the ‘60s. Although distinct in both applications and method, it shares some features with Nominal Group Technique, ICA’s ToP, CPS and KJ (among others) but integrated into a coherent methodology. It has proved successful in schoolrooms, for individual work, with management teams at all levels and for community groups addressing widely varying challenges.
Algebra of the Mind
We are all familiar with categorisation, which sorts information according to similarity, primarily so we can retrieve it by following logical trees, as in a filing system. In contrast, clustering ideas is intuitive differentiation (even conflicting ideas are put together) aimed at breaking free from past logic to allow novelty to emerge. LVT is an epistemological process, facilitating the creation of new meaning.
We encourage rigour in the way ideas are expressed with precision in few words. Instead of naming the clusters we write epitomes: a very important aspect of meaning-making, requiring that we “understand”. Epitomes stand for the substance of what is in the cluster. (Under-stand = sub-stance). The move from clustering ideas to exploring how epitomes relate, brings us to a different logical level.
As Gregory Bateson wrote (in Angels Fear pg152), “Structure is the algebra of that which is to be described; It is always one degree more abstract. Structure presumes a gathering and sorting of some of the infinite details, which can then be thrown away and summary statements offered in their place”. What he observed in the ‘80s seems strongly akin to LVT, in which details are gathered, organised and epitomised so that one can set aside the detail to work at a more abstract level. LVT is algebraic thinking. Ring composition goes further, by using narrative to add a further level integration.
Stimulate higher-level thinking
Logovisual Thinking has applications wherever people need to explore challenging issues and complex problems. Over the last forty years it has been used extensively to excellent effect: management teams addressing business planning, community groups thinking about future needs and students researching their theses. Instead of absorbing meaning structures from the past people are differentiating and integrating to make new meaning and achieve shared outcomes. With LVT we make connections between fragments of wisdom and experience. By dis-assembling experience and pooling the parts with others, we gain freedom from our mental boundaries. From the gathered items we identify new groupings and consider afresh how they inter-relate to form new patterns of meaning.
The difference that makes a difference
Rigour of language in place of casualness, clustering in place of categorising, epitomising in place of labelling, integration in place of sorting, all differentiate LVT from other methods. The difference is simple yet profound. Such thinking has the potential to change the world we live in by changing the way we perceive it. It pushes us to think at higher levels of abstraction. LVT brings people into relationship, makes learning fun, develops capability and enables people to successfully shape their
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