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Using visualization to drive creativity & strategy

Posted on Monday, 17th January, 2011

I think Mark Suster might be my soulmate. His post on TechCrunch this morning “How I Use Visualization To Drive Creativity” is one of the BEST posts I have ever read. Yes, ever. It’s good to know (and feel validated) that I’m not crazy for following almost the *exact* same processes as Mark does when it comes to the creative process for communicating information.

photo credit: Hugh Macleod

As someone who loathes lined notebooks and prefers not to take notes on my iPad in meetings, I am sometimes mocked for being “old skool”. Take it or leave it people, I like my fine tip ballpoint pens, sharpies and sketch books—that will never go away (well, except for when I use my Livecribe Echo pen which has helped matters for time/sharing efficiency purposes only— who doesn’t like a pen that translates your notes/sketches to a PDF or converts it into a word.doc in 3 seconds?)

People look at my notebook and often seem confused (or worse think I am confused) because I take notes in clusters and then almost always connect them with different color pens/highlighters as I start to create a structure for whatever it is that I am trying to relate or communicate. I do the same prior to building PPT/Keynote decks. It’s formally called mind mapping, but I call it creategic [cre-tegic]; a combo of creativity & strategy.

As an artist by training in my younger years & a business/strategic minded professional in later years, I feel the combination of both lends to greater success, especially as it relates to communicating ideas to others; specifically non-creative audiences that may benefit from a visual depiction of an idea coupled with sound talking points for a clear and focused explanation. And as always, it’s always about making sure your audience gets it, not you.

It’s no secret I sit atop the data/infographical visualization soapbox. I live and breathe this in my professional and personal life. It also makes no sense for me to reiterate everything that Mark penned is his post above—so I’ll leave you some key points I agree with from his executive summary, and hope you read the entire post because IT. IS. THAT. GOOD.


-Almost all business success relies on creativity. This applies equally to VCs, startups & big company executives.

– Despite the importance of creativity, there seems to be almost no focus on teaching it, encouraging it, training at it & incorporating it into our daily routines.

– The need for creativity extends well beyond product design.

– Many people are visual thinkers. Therefore to drive creativity people need to do visual brainstorming.

– You need to find what works for you to put yourself in that environment and learn how to do “self talk,” learn how to create visual charts, learn how to test & iterate ideas and the learn how to effectively communicate results.

– I use tools to invoke my creatieve self.  One example is driving, which has an actual physiological reason it makes you creative. The key is channeling what you learn when you drive onto paper for retention purposes so you have to write it down soon afterward.

– One of the books that first made me aware of the “creative brain” was “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.  It’s a book about creating art but shows how an artist’s mind gets “into the zone,” how creativity can be invoked, and why looking at what you create in a different way than the rational mind would conceive is an important part of creativity.  She literally encourages you to draw things upside down.

– Other ways I drive creativity are time pressure, showers & occasionally wine. All are known creativity drivers and are covered in the book mentioned above.

– For others they swear by music.

– Adding structure to creativity is not an oxymoron. It’s how you codify your ideas.

– Like anything, creativity takes practice.  There’s no such thing as “not being a creative person.”  Some people are more creative than others but it’s within us all.  You just have to dedicate yourself to a wanting to tap your creative juices.

– I apply visual thinking for nearly everything I do: preparing for important phone calls (I imagine my opening lines, I imagine the responses), writing keynote presentations, deciding whether or not to invest in a company, preparing for board meetings – you name it.  These are all creative processes.

– Visualization is a well known technique in professional sports where the difference between winning & losing is often psychological more than physical.  If it can work for them, it can work for you.

You can read more about how Mark’s mind works & how he transferred his energy from Entrepreneur to VC on his blog

Gotta love a creative minded business individual…well, or at least I can.


    • Jess

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