Now I See It! (The link between visualization and creativity)

We are visual people.  We recall past events by the mental picture we see (or create).  Words are powerful and can be precise, of course, but visual images can often leave very strong and lasting impressions in our minds.

It’s even in the way we describe our understanding of things.  When we say, “I see it!” to describe an idea, this is more than just saying, “I understand what you are saying.”.  We may actually visualize some embodiment of the idea, like someone using the product, walking through a business process, or people faces lighting up as they get their problems resolved.

To be clear, I am not talking about using images or visuals in our presentations or descriptions.  I am quite familiar with business diagrams, process maps, various charts and graphs and other (good and useful) visual tools we have developed over the decades.  These can be helpful, sometimes very helpful (or sometimes not).  Instead, I am talking about the mental work of visualizing something.

So what is the link between visualization and creativity?  In a recent TechCrunch post from Mark Suster, he claims that “all business success relies on creativity”.  He then goes on to describe how he uses visualization to drive creativity.  It’s a long post with one small NSFW element.  It’s also very personal, from a “what has worked for me” approach from Suster.  Other than that, I think it’s a good article.

It’s good because we don’t think much about creativity.  We label something as “creative” and use that terminology post facto, or in preparation of something we do.  But “being creative in something we are doing now” is something that’s relatively difficult if you are out of practice.  So before you draw, write, sort data, open a powerpoint template, even start an outline, maybe we should take a moment and visualize.  Think of what you are asked to do: re-design a business process, look for trends in data, create the world’s most perfect powerpoint page, prepare a weekly report, snuff out competition.  See if visualizing (as described in the TechCrunch post) helps.  It’s free, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  And it gets easier and more productive over time.

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