Michael Pemberton


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Setting aside the psychological and cognitive dynamics for a moment, I'd like to propose that you may be more of a visual thinker than you consider yourself to be. I would also propose that your challenge may not lie in visual thinking but in visual synthesis and visual translation. I'll explain.

1. Consider the first phrase I used, "Setting aside." These words connote a visual of some sort. In fact, language is difficult to use without word pictures that create some sort of visual in our minds. for example, "See what I mean?", "Upstream suppliers", "slower than molasses in January", "like a lead balloon", and "Pie hole." The fact that we can use these word pictures as a verbal shorthand attests to our visual thinking ability. Granted, with a nod to the symbolic interactionists, many of these may be more or less well defined in my mind than yours. They are nevertheless indispensable in our verbal communication.

2. Visual synthesis is a different matter. I believe I understand your challenge here, being somewhat challenged in that way myself. Although we know that we are not really right brain/left brain divided, I'll use those concepts to help explain. The left side of my brain is somewhat dominant. I would prefer to read a math book to a novel. Yet I have become a successful graphic recorder. And it's not due to my art skills. I have learned to hijack the analytical functions for storage and association while I role play a symbolic interaction with my critic committee and come up with a graphic that works. This is very labor intense, high calorie exercise. It costs.

3. Visual translation is another thing. While synthesis takes a significant volume of information and synthesizes it to a graphic, translation does exactly the opposite. Your brain settles on the message you want to communicate, then you must formulate a graphic to represent your thoughts. This is very risky. We often fall short. Further, no single graphic could communicate all that we want. It becomes inaccurate somewhere near the edge of context. Our internal critic committee convinces us that the graphic will fail, but live on in misunderstanding. However, if we use words, we have the opportunity to edit. Edits are cheap! So, with visual translation there is a risk we are loathe to accept. We figure that it may be better to just use good old squishy yet limited range words.