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Visual Explorer

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For More Information: Center for Creative Leadership Visual Explorer,

To explore a complex issue using a visually mediated dialogue that fully engages each point of view in a fun, safe, relatively quick, and yet deep way. 

  • Rapid depth of dialogue and shared understanding among differing perspectives 
  • Produces memorable metaphors and stories 
  • Produces a creative relationship to the ideas, emotions, and intuitions of self and others 
  • Produces a visual record of the dialogue for group memory and future reuse 

When to Use:
  • When a deep, creative, fun, and productive dialogue is in order among a variety of differing perspectives 
  • Best used at the front end of a creative, exploratory process as a group needs to make sense of a complex challenge 

When Not to Use: 

When a group is driving toward closure, or when analysis of data can produce a definitive answer to a group’s issues 

Number of Participants: 

Types of Participants: 

Any; works well across vast differences in perspective, background, language, and culture. 

Typical Duration: 

  • Preparation: 20 minutes 
  • Process: 1–4 hours 
  • Follow-up: Selected images are used to engage ideas and restart dialogue with subsequent audiences 

Brief Example:
A corporate e-commerce team opened their two-day planning retreat with a Visual Explorer (VE) session. Each member chose two images from the standard VE set of 224 images: One about “what its been like this year to work on the team,” and another image about “what our work should look like in the next year.” The resultant dialogue set a standard of candor and listening for the rest of the retreat. The team leader was pleased that this normally buttoned-down group was energized by the process of talking imaginatively about their recent history and their desired future. 

Historical Context: 

Created in 1997 by Charles J. Palus and David Magellan Horth with colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership as a result of the work of Targeted Innovation, LeaderLab, and the Leading Creatively Project (see The Leader’s Edge). VE has roots in the work of David Perkins at Harvard Project Zero (see The Intelligent Eye); in the field of dialogue; in the group dream-work process of Montague Ullman; and in the understanding of leadership as relational meaning making in the work of Bill Drath.