Wednesday’s Toolbox: visual thinking, sequestration

Apologies to my readers for the week’s absence, and thank you for sticking with me.

I have been continuing to read about visual thinking, visualization, and modeling of problems, and I will report on my explorations in future posts. One of the things I am sorting through is the difference between great infographics (which I am finding an abundance of!) and great visualizations or models of problems. While the concise and effective presentation of information is a talent to be lauded — and I will bring you future examples — the visualization of a problem is a different beast. It struck me, on my ride home on the bus in our Chicago snowstorm yesterday, that there is a very talented group of people who visualize abstract problems most effectively: political cartoonists. For starters, check out Political Cartoons Every American Should See.

I confess I am in awe of political cartoonists and their talent. I cringe at every abstract word I choose in an intense game of Pictionary with my family! A quick search finds that there are many lesson plan resources for teachers wanting to use political cartoons and visualization to teach critical thinking skills. Following that lead backwards, what can we learn from political cartoons about visual thinking?

On another problem-solving topic, do you use sequestration, or something like it, in your own life to solve a problem? A problem of indecisiveness, or a problem of lack of consensus? Have you ever been not able to arrive at a decision, so take a little of this and a little of that and end up with nothing that works? Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, a friend, or a colleague, where you cannot agree on the best option, so you agree to take a “cut” out of both of the pieces/projects in which you are invested? Who wins? Is it fair? Does it move the issue forward? Does it “solve” the problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday’s toolbox: visual thinking

Since my first post on using visualization as a problem-solving tool, I have been out collecting visualizations of problems to share with you and reading up on the cognitive process of visual thinking. Yesterday, I came across this wonderful video of Sam and Friends, Jim Henson’s first television show, running on a Washington D.C. affiliate of NBC from May of 1955 to December of 1961. Kermit (yes, Kermit!) and Harry the Hipster talk about Visual Thinking. As expected from Henson, it’s imaginative and most delightful.

Wednesday’s Toolbox: visualization

Visualization can be a powerful tool for problem-solving.  It’s used formally in many disciplines — from mathematics to architecture, and physics to landscaping.  Indeed, visualization is one of the primary ways we study problems, design and plan, and arrive at solutions.

For those of us more linear, wordy types, illustrating or drawing a problem may not come naturally.  But learning and practicing problem visualization can help us develop powerful skills.  In future posts, we’ll be exploring visualization as a problem-solving tool on a more sophisticated level, but let’s start with basic charts.

While my problem visualization skills could use some development, I note that I use charts and graphs regularly, as well as arranging my words spatially to enhance my understanding of a problem and make plans.  Consider the simple to-do list.  We tend to use words to make our to-do lists, but we may also add symbols and color to add additional information.  Further, most of us don’t write the word DONE at the end of each task after it’s completed, but draw a line through the words describing the task – a simple illustration that helps us quickly focus.

Do you have visualizations of problems — or know of others that you’d like to share?  If so, email me at, and I would be glad to post them.  I am building a library of sample visualizations, and with your permission, would love to include your work.