Creating images in mind and memory

July 17, 2013 | bit-wartung | Methods & Tools |


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With „Creating images in mind and memory“ we start a new blog series. We reflect what images and metaphors can do. We promote that images and metaphors belong to every facilitator’s toolbox.

By Corinne Sprecher, Agridea 

A good facilitator is like …

At the beginning of a workshop on facilitation with university students, I asked them what images came to their mind, when they thought of a good facilitator. The results were as diverse as convincing to me:
A good facilitator is like…
… a herding dog.
… a funnel.
… a bastion of calm.
… a white sheet of paper.
… a sponge.

 What different types of facilitators come to your mind, when you read these comparisons? What situations are they handling? What challenges are they facing? We discussed the diverse roles, tasks and qualities of a facilitator that these images expressed. Such as the role of a facilitator to keep everybody on board: A facilitator that feels responsible for the group as for a sheep flock. Another image underlines the task of a facilitator to channel ideas of the group and support the synthesis of a result; ensuring that no drop is lost. Neutrality as a key characteristic of a facilitator was also put forward, as well as the quality to keep calm, even if a storm is coming up in the group. I was impressed by the density and quality of the discussion that was triggered by this simple exercise of 15 minutes.

The information content of images is often denser than of words.

The example above shows how much can be expressed by a simple image. Images can underline statements in a powerful way and entrench them in our memory. What fascinates me over and over again when working with images and metaphors in groups is how they open up new views on situations and concepts and trigger additional associations for the discussion. People see additional aspects in images and metaphors that I might not have thought of. A whole new level of discussion is opened up for sharing and learning!

Images are true-to-life. They touch our emotions.

Images can also facilitate the understanding of complex concepts. The example of “a facilitator” above might not be a very complex one. But still, how much more alive is the view I get on the role and characteristics of a facilitator when I discuss comparative images in groups, rather than if a list of characteristics and functions. Good metaphors touch our emotions and experiences and the stick to our mind.

Images uncover the hidden.

Metaphors also show how people see the world and what assumptions they bring along. If someone speaks of a facilitator as a bastion of calm, this uncovers the assumption that group processes can get rather messy and conflictual and most of all the role of the facilitator is to remain level-headed.

For me, images are one tool to make sharing and learning particularly inspiring. Hence, the effective use of images and metaphors should be part of the toolbox of any facilitator!

The fascination of using images and metaphoric language in facilitation: Do you share it?

What experience have you made in using pictures and metaphors in facilitation? What are your favourites? How do you select and apply them? We will share our and invite you to share your experiences, ideas and thoughts on how to use pictures and metaphors in facilitation in this upcoming series of blog contributions.

Further reading on…

… how to add metaphors to your toolkit:

… how to choose the right metaphor:



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