by Katherine O. (KITTY) Heusner, Pd.D.

What do you do to encourage…

  • Digging deeper?
  • Uncovering unusual ideas?
  • Exploring at an emotional level?
  • Finding a different avenue to explore?
  • Shifting the energy of the process?

These challenges are ones people might face as they work with a client, facilitate a group or just alone. Consider using the power of visual thinking the next time you face any of these situations.

Using pictures and symbols can unlock new ideas because it taps into a different way of thinking. In a safe environment where no idea is wrong and where exploring is encouraged a visual can stimulate thought. It can also add an element of ‘playfulness’ that may reduce tension.

One technique that can be used in a variety of situations is to use a picture and consider how that image is like (a person, a situation, a product, a wish or goal). This is most effective if MANY ideas are generated and can be done solo or in a group. When the long list is captured then you can work with those ideas… clustering items, selecting most interesting (unusual, surprising, funny) ones, asking the “So what?” question to deepen understanding and possibly even relating the ideas to the original challenge.

A second technique is to have the clients/participants select pictures by going through photos, magazines, picture decks that symbolize the issue under discussion and to create a collage or story board. As people describe what they have created someone can scribe their descriptions. This written record can provide rich fodder for deeper understanding.

These two techniques just scratch the surface of the power of visual thinking. Enjoy considering the techniques you already use and consider ways to expand them to include a visual thinking element. Play with techniques solo. You might create a collage that depicts where you want to be in one year and then use the collage as the stimulus for writing about your goals. Key is to ENJOY as you tap into different ways of thinking and to invite your clients to do the same.

About Katherine O. (KITTY) Heusner, Ph.D.

Co-Chairperson of Florida Creativity Weekend now preparing for its 14th conference ( and Founding Member of Florida Creativity Alliance, Inc., Kitty is a lifelong learner involved in education as a student (PreK through PhD) and professional. Among her roles she directed instruction for three Florida County School Districts (Sarasota, Desoto and Collier). Kitty embraces her commitment to community and volunteer involvement by sharing a passion for using deliberate creativity for positive change. Her service includes: 30+ years in the Creative Education Foundation (10 on Board of Trustees – Sect. – 2006-10 and Board Chair 2011-14); and area service with Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida, TeamUp School Volunteer and Partnership Program and Gulf Coast Chapter of the US Committee for UN Women. Sharing with family and friends both in Sarasota and in the NC mountains, theater, traveling and photography also bring great joy. Her tagline is: “I open doors in hearts and minds.”