Working Visually From Intent to Impact

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Complex ideas—such as digital transformation strategies, diversity and inclusion programs or multi-year plans—all start with a single thought. That initial thought is likely a bit blurry, maybe missing details around the edges, but clear in its intent. Creative problem-solving thrives in this blurriness. By working visually from the start, our clients begin to confidently face the unknown, transform chaos into clarity and move from intent to impact. Throughline’s Systems Model, which we apply to every project, enables this success by breaking work into three phases: Explore, Envision and Execute.

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Explore: Creating Space to Ideate

Putting that initial thought on paper can be intimidating. To some, the open space on a page represents a lack of clarity rather than the freedom to create. Providing a thought-provoking virtual or physical collaboration environment takes brainstorming to the next level of impact by adding structure to that blank page. Through the simple power of human-centered prompts, paper and sticky notes (virtual or in-person), individuals can actively contribute ideas while watching in real time as the blank page begins to transform. Two common frameworks we use to structure these brainstorming sessions are:

  1. Envision the Possible. Create space for participants to answer the following prompts and uncover potential next steps as well as gaps related to the initial idea: I like..., I wish..., I wonder...
  2. What Does Success Look Like? Capitalize on the diversity of experiences and knowledge in a team by asking all participants to contribute their vision of success for the topic of discussion.

As the initial idea begins to take shape, so does its audience. Examine potential stakeholders by asking, “who are the potential partners, decision makers and end users related to the mission?” Identifying these groups ensures the messages and story crafted during Envision will resonate with those who need to hear them most.

Envision: Building Your Map to Success

Brainstorming is a valuable method to gather ideas, considerations and inspiration for how to turn the initial idea into reality. But what comes next? Some may prefer to jump straight from brainstorming into action, but we’ve found it is important to intentionally review the data points and build a plan to ensure a team’s time and resources are well spent.

  • Reestablish the mission: After rounds of brainstorming, it’s possible to lose sight of the original intent or objective. Revisit the initial thought that inspired this process. If the team has shifted in a better direction, be aware of any necessary course adjustments and allow time for a second facilitated session if needed to address the new idea.
  • Clarify the milestones: Bringing an idea to reality requires multiple steps. What does the roadmap to success look like? Take the time up front to identify major milestones and requirements to boost the team's readiness.
  • Tell your story visually: Visualizing your mission, including its origin and development, allows for more powerful engagement with stakeholders than text alone. How can you build excitement and buy-in while avoiding the typical slide show or text document? Check out a recent strategy placemat we created for Virginia Tech’s Office for Inclusion and Diversity Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference. The placemat visually communicates how sponsors can empower over 1,000 faculty Women of Color (WOC) in higher education from around the country, all within four days.
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Execute: Bring Your Idea to Life

By taking the time to explore an idea and plan for the road ahead, leaders can move confidently into the execution phase knowing their decisions are well-informed. The focus areas below can help to ensure the resulting strategy resonates with crucial audiences and delivers change-making impact.

  • Communicate the Vision by planning a rollout tailored to key stakeholders.
  • Align Objectives to Strategy to reinforce a common understanding of goals and milestones.
  • Empower Change Champions across your team to ensure full adoption of the vision moving forward.

It’s not always easy for leaders to take the time to Explore the unknown and Envision clarity amidst chaos. But, by building these phases into your planning from the beginning, those initial thoughts can transform into change-making strategies.

Reach out and let us know which ideas you’d like to move from intent to impact—no challenge is too complex!

Julia Tylor

Creative Director