Below is the second installment of our series on The Aesthetics of Change. In the coming months, we will continue to explore how art and design facilitate change at the personal and organizational level through expert interviews and dialogue.
A Living Case Study
In the kick-off to this series we introduced a number of theories on how the arts can act as powerful agents of change. We considered the views of aesthetic theorists such as William and Henry James, Immanuel Kant, and S.T. Coleridge. In the following case study, we bring these abstract ideas into the here and now—using them to better explain, understand, and push our understanding of the visually intensive work that we do at Collective Next. In particular, we’ll zero in on our use of scribing or graphic facilitation as a tool for transformation.
The Scene: My Head Hurts
“Distributed value chains,” “radical adjacencies,” “FinTech hubs,” “machine intelligence.”… Translation please? Come again? New terminology and complex concepts fly fast and furious at Innotribe at Sibos, SWIFT’s epic gathering of innovators in the financial networking space. Even the techies who are accustomed to the language games of this world were being asked to perform contortionist feats of the mind. Its geeks and their gurus on speed.
In moments like these you say your head hurts—and it does. The rest of you? Oh right: the chair is killing your back; you’re hopping from that third cup of coffee; 0% of daily water intake requirement achieved.
Everything in complete service to the forebrain.
And, yet, you’ll recall that the venerable William James, whose philosophical lead we’ve been following in this series, said something more or less like this: lasting change requires more than just the brain. We innovators must also be engaged at the level of our sensory selves, our visual aptitudes, and our capacity for imagination.
Enter Scribing: We’ll Draw You A Picture
Into this esoteric, cranio-centric, Innotribe at Sibos scene we doth enter…
In our traditional scribing we create a real-time, visual representation of ideas. We generate a vivid, graphical artifact of the dialogue; a map that guides the viewer deep into the spirit of the conversation—engaging mind, imagination and the senses through shapes, colors, spatial relationships, and original fonts. We ground the brain back in the body, the very place where it does its best work.
It is one thing to see a piece of our scribing after a session, as a completed work that captures the zeitgeist of a session. It brings home for you in a crystalized manner the myriad concepts and ideas that were explored. But to witness our scribing in real time, to watch our scribes create these works before your very eyes, is the complete experience.
As the ideas and concepts of the session fly through the air, sometimes in unwieldy forms, you get to watch our scribes reach out, catch them, and distill them down to their very essence in lines and colors. If you’ll allow me to shift metaphors, I’ll say that to watch a scribe at work is to be taken on a journey, from a hazy landscape of suggestions to a vivid, post-cataract surgery-like world of crystal clear ideas and so many new directions to explore.
The Catch: From a Mile Up the Road…
At last year’s Innotribe, we faced a particular challenge. Some of the greatest minds in FinTech and banking were introducing world-changing ideas—and it was our responsibility to capture and translate these ideas visually. The problem: the Innotribe space was roughly 27 miles away from the main action of Sibos (NOTE: this may not be the exact distance, but it felt like it.)
So for us the big question was: how do we make the dialogues come to life for the 6,000 attendees of Sibos who were not able to make it to Innotribe? How could we engage them not only in the output of the conversations but engage them in the journey, in the sequencing and distilling of ideas and insights, the very aspects of scribing that make the journey
better than, er, JUST AS GOOD AS, the destination?
Solution Part 1: “SuperScribing”
For the uninitiated, SuperScribing is electronic scribing, where we replace the usual scribe-friendly whiteboards and markers with a stylus and tablet. As the scribe works, the scribing is projected in real-time onto a gigantic screen, enabling a larger audience to partake in the journey as it unfolds. So, “SuperScribing” solved one challenge. We now had a more portable and scalable asset that we could easily ship around Sibos, and beyond, to display the output from each workshop.
But, there was a greater problem that we hadn’t solved. Yet.
Solution Part 2: “Narrative Animation”
In the introductory piece to this blog series, we explored several concepts that are crucial for the work of graphic facilitation. Here’s one: Henry James’ conceit that as human beings we have an inherent drive towards narrative. We think in stories, and our mind lights up when engaged in a good tale. As scribes we try to tap into the narrative instinct.
With a little technology, ingenuity, and magic (okay, fine, just ingenuity and technology), we found a way to animate our SuperScribing into a flowing visual narrative that was more powerful than a static graphic. Check it out:
This is one of the short animations we developed from our Sibos Innotribe 2014 SuperScribing. Check out more examples here.
Here’s how it works:
As in all good narratives, we created an arc—with suspense, development, conflict, and resolution. Participants were invited to join us on the narrative journey—and they did, soaking in the crucial information along the way. Animated SuperScribing proved to be a maximally engaging medium through which to reach a broader audience of Sibos guests.
Up Next: Singapore
In a few weeks we return to Sibos. And this time we want to take it all to the next level. As a result of the inspired and tenacious work of Peter VanderAuwera, Kevin Johnson and the rest of the SWIFT team, Innotribe has made it to the main stage at Sibos. Just as they’ve pushed forward, we’re going to push our visual work into the most engaging terrain we’ve yet to occupy. And there will be plenty of opportunity to let it shine during and long after each of the 24 Innotribe workshops.
We’ll let you know how it goes.