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What are your criteria for assessing your work?

As I review my notes in anticipation of hosting my follow-up coaching session with Visual Binge attendees tomorrow, I am struck by the two quotes I found this morning as I was reading.

Bashõ (Japanese poet, 17th century)

“Do not seek after the sages of the past. Seek what they sought.”

Neal Allen (Vipassana practitioner)

“I admire the capacity of any human being to come into wisdom on their own by questioning the assumptions that are around them.”

The preparatory work for our session is to bring and share any sketchnoting or graphic recording completed since the UnConference last month. My second, and perhaps more important request was that participants bring a short list of criteria for assessing their own work and the work of others.

I am all about leaving one’s inner critic ”at the door” AND I see the value in appreciating what is working in a piece and what can be made even better next time. 

What would be your criteria?

What matters to you?

What is important to your audience? (Perhaps there are varying answers based on the different audiences…)

My top 10 criteria are straightforward though not separate—they exist in combination. This task of assessing one’s (or others’) work is both art and science. I believe that the visual I have quickly created is a better representation of these criteria, as the list below seems more mechanical, like a checklist. This (assessing our work) is not that (a checklist to determine quality—from spectacular to inept, or some other continuum). To me, these elements work in concert, and perhaps not enough of something (maybe white space?) is compensated for by something else (the vitality of the colors used or movement through the piece).

What do you think?

1. Layout

    Conceptual fit with the content 

   Title—what percentage of the visual?

   Placement of title on the page

2. Use of white space

3. Use of color

   Literal, strategic, figurative/metaphorical

   Color palette chosen

 Number of colors used and for what purpose (i.e., all the colors of the rainbow are important if there is a rainbow… if not, then I would suggest, two or three colors beyond the foundational black and the color chosen for shading {which might grey, periwinkle blue, yellow, orange… the list goes on!})

4. Logic flow

Can I understand how information moves across or around the chart or “page”?

5. Lettering

Is a hierarchy use and used well/in an easily comprehensible way?

How legible is the handwriting?

6. Interplay/balance of words and drawings

Some subjects require a lot of text—precise terminology, quoting people, etc., in other instances, icons, figures, and containers can be supported more minimally with text

7. Containers

Which ones are used and how?

8. Iconography and graphic elements

Are they a fit for the subject matter?

9. Execution

Neatness,  recognizable/well-drawn icons (Is it a lightbulb or an ice cream cone?)

10. Clear communication through style used (perhaps a more personal taste criteria)

What do you notice when you look at your sketchnotes orographic recordings (yours or other people’s)?

I hope that you will consider these criteria and be in touch with me with your thoughts. I am always (okay, almost always/often…) ready to expand my thinking.

What habits bring your work to the next level?

What makes for good practice?

Just last week, Jill Langer and I completed the bikablo Basic Day 1 Virtual training. Folks are jazzed by the end of this experience. Both they, and we, want them to continue deepening and broadening their skills. We discuss during the training how to maintain and grow the habit of practice. As you can imagine I suggest the following during and after working on a piece:

Be

  • conscious—of every stroke you make
  • consistent—in practicing—find ways every day to use your new skills
  • accuratein your appraisal of your work, using criteria/success factors we have discussed
  • kind to yourselfappreciate what you’re doing well
  • diligent—in applying what you have decided about areas to improve

As I think about, Seven Questions That guide the Work of Inspired Teachers, an article from ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), that I just read about being excellent teachers,  I am most struck by this paragraph:

How can I make clear the criteria for quality work we will use in class and help students understand why those benchmarks are significant? How can I help them learn to assess their own work using those standards? How can I support each of my students in reaching for excellence?

These questions are at the heart of my thinking. Sharing my ideas during the training creates the conversation about ongoing professional development.  It’s an aspect of being a graphic recorder or a Sketchnoter that I addressed in my session for the Visual Binge last month. In that engagement, I asked the participants to look at graphic recordings from four different sources and begin to create their criteria for successful work. We’re about to do a follow-up coaching session and my plan is to have us all share our respective criteria for excellence. Here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Consistent, strong/clear lines/strokes
  2. Containers, graphic elements, and figures with closed edges
  3. Appropriate perspective-—what is in front and behind other objects or figures
  4. Following guidelines for use of color (the bikablo method)
  5. Consistent shading/source of light and with regard to various types of objects (the bikablo method)
  6. Effective layout chosen for content of work—open to interpretation though I believe there are criteria (I would use waves or eddies to indicate content in a sea-themed drawing —or treasure chests, fish, etc., rather than put a square or a circle in the water.
  7. Logical flow of content
  8. Spacing between objects/use of white space to enable easy understanding of all content and relationships between content areas
  9. Use of frame or container for finished work
  10. Signature of visual practitioner on work (unless not permitted due to contract)

What are your criteria for your work, and presumably others’ work, as you learn and grow from seeing what’s out in the world?

As you bring your work to the next level, what does that look like to you? How will you facilitate your learning?

You know me, I’d suggest continuing your education in a formal/structured way… making a plan and working your plan

  • find a buddy to draw with consistently or an accountability partner
  • work with a coach individually or in a group
  • take the next level of training

What’s your next step?

PS: I hope you will share your thoughts about my ideas. I’m always looking to expand my thinking!

Searching My Treasure Chest for Gems!

When’s the last time you had the opportunity to re-discover a delightful aspect of your work?

Last night was ATDNYC’s Volunteer Connection &  Happy Hour—what fun we had!

I offered to develop an interactive activity that would introduce folks to each other. It’s been a while since I’ve kicked off an event with more than a well-crafted check-in question. I do love my check-in questions yet I wanted to provide a deeper experience. A few different ideas came to mind and then, I had it!

Several years ago, I crafted a networking activity for the inaugural event of the Women’s Leadership Center of the American Management Association. I suggested a storytelling and storycatching experience, in which the women created their own fairytales to introduce themselves and to learn about their colleagues. (A story catcher is a listener with a special intention—who illuminates the gifts and attributes of the storyteller. As listeners, we can become a force for deepening relationships.) The experience was a smashing success.

How often do you make the time to scan the landscape of your past and polish off a gem for a new use?

So I dove back into my materials and created a new fairytale to share as an example. Materials were sent in advance, just in case folks wanted to think about the story they would quickly create during the activity. I had just a few minutes before the meeting to draw a visual capturing the essence of the fairytale—the past, coming to a crossroads, and making a choice. The event arrived and I set the stage by talking about storytelling and story catching, helped participants understand the tasks, and then prepared them for the fun by reading my colleague’s poem, Once upon a time…

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, she said, is a very good place to start.

It takes you very far away, yet stays close to the heart

Of things that were and things that are, both difficult and true

And yet, if you can look this way, they seem outside of you.

 

Start right at the beginning, when someone gave you birth

And tell a bit about the frame of sadness or of mirth

Did you come into a castle, a village or a shack?

Did you have everything you need or did you live with lack?

 

What were those gifts, given there, that stayed with you since then?

What have you used, what have you left, what have you to befriend?

What was it in your character, your nature or your play

That pulled you to the centre or made you stay away?

 

Of course a child, must grow up soon and leave the family home

So did you find a place to be or take to the world and roam?

What were the challenges you met, what was the love you found?

Where was the world a swampy mess and where was solid ground?

 

What lessons still remain in you, what have you had to shed

That makes you who you are today, with all the life you’ve led?

What brought you to the crossroads, the place where you now stand

And by what name are they called, that place of sacred land?

 

Who stands there now to challenge you, what message have they brought,

About that which now could lie ahead, the calling that you’ve sought?

So take courage first, and take a breath and then pick up your pen

And craft a story for us now, the journey can begin…

 

Mary Alice Arthur

30 April 2011

 

It was awesome! I had a partner too and discovered so much more about her in the few minutes she shared her story that I had learned over the last half-year we’d known each other. Several of the participants spoke about the experience and others wrote about it in the chat…

“I loved listening and learning about my partner in this creative, fun way. You could learn about the person in a deeper way through this storytelling format.”

“We learned so much more than in a typical intro!”

I closed the activity with the thought that we are the authors of our stories… let’s be sure to write the ones we want.

 

What activities have you created over the years to amplify the experiential nature of the events you design?

What are some of the best experiences you’ve had as a facilitator, trainer, or participant? I’m guessing that you have your own treasure chest full of ideas, and just a few might have been buried for a while. Time to polish those gems and share them!

If you’re seeking to get more in touch with your story, or have a desire to start a new page (so to speak), let’s get together!

Enjoying the Journey

What was your last big project? Take a moment to bask in the memories. As you reflect on your experience, what was the high point and what insights do you have now? How has what you learned influenced your work?

Context for the Queries

Just last week I completed a long-term project for my Appreciative Inquiry facilitator certification. Re-living (through reading my notes, emails, documents, and reviewing recordings of the meetings), reflecting on all the aspects of the experiences, and creating the final report was a significant endeavor.

As I was finishing up, I happened to say to my daughter with a chuckle, “I made this harder than it needed to be.” And, I felt just fine about it! I was reminded of my Signature Strength of Creativity  (from the VIA Signature Strengths Test)—how it excites and energizes me, pushing me into new and different experiences. And, how it is my greatest challenge, while I love to continue being generative, truth be told, there is a time to say, “Done!”

Have you ever done that—embrace a project so completely that you devote more time than you anticipated? How long does it take you to realize that you have gone down that rabbit hole? What is your thought process in assessing if you want to continue in that way? Upon completion and reflection, did you think it was time well spent? Of course, the answers may vary depending on the project.

I discovered, in creating my final report, that I wanted to create a visual story of the process. In itself, creating multi-panel stories is not a new idea for me, though I usually use markers and paper or my iPad. This time, having worked with Miro (the online collaborative space) for over 10 months now, I took a deep dive into it—expanding my skills through extensive experimentation. I had an initial plan and it grew into a fun and challenging endeavor.

Here’s one of the 14 panels I created to share the project—its conception,

The time and energy I devoted to designing and developing the online presentation of the project has led me to savor that aspect of the experience. It’s something I would never have expected—what fun!

What do you continue to learn about yourself? How are you continuing to grow? I’d love to know!

Creating Greater Connection with More Time… Part 2

In seeking to mine for more gold from my various recent experiences with Deep Dive into You (with my colleague/buddy Heather Martinez), the Agile MeetUp groups, the audiences in my Zentangle classes, and a recent meeting with colleagues, I am drawn to thinking more about time, environment, and connection.

Sebene Selassie’s book, You Belong, is also top of mind for me. She writes about reclaiming connection. I wonder about the dynamics of connection/feelings of belonging and their impact on people’s experiences. There are so many ideas and practices in her book that I want to reflect on further and experiment with in my sessions.

In reading, Say What You Mean, Jay Oren Sofer’s book, I am also reminded to create the time and mental space for myself to consider Relational Awareness. It’s “the capacity to include both you and me, the external and the internal, balancing our attention in a dynamic way.” (p. 50)

  • How can I create (and model) more relational awareness?
  • How will I help participants gain greater awareness too?

I believe that knowing and planning for each of these factors alone,

  • time
  • connection
  • audience members relationship with each other
  • setting/occasion

is insufficient. Having two of these variables, or even three working in concert doesn’t “guarantee” a great experience… the more I think about it, having great information about all of them doesn’t promise a stellar experience either. The variables of structure, content, and processes —the design of the experience—and the facilitator’s skills—need to be added to the mix. In my experience, the folks that work effectively with all the ingredients of the recipe, to create the alchemy, are few and far between. There are plenty of folks who can manage one, two, or three aspects of the experience… it’s just not enought.

What’s your experience?

When you connect with your heart and your mind, and reflect on your most meaningful experiences in groups, as the facilitator or as a participant, what are variables matter most? What is your recipe for spectacular deliveries? I’d love to hear about it!