Beyond Words: Unlocking the Power of Visual Thinking

Today I’d like to explore the limitations of relying solely on words when your goal is to learn, solve problems, or share ideas with others.

While words are undeniably valuable tools for communication and expression, they can also lock you into a box that prevents you from tapping into the full potential of your brain.

Let’s start with the drawbacks of exclusively verbal thinking.

First, it often leads to confusion. Words, whether spoken or written or even just thought, can be fleeting and abstract, making it challenging to grasp complex concepts or navigate through a sea of information.

An over-dependence on words can also lead to stagnancy, where you get trapped in repetitive cycles of thinking or discussion without making tangible progress.

Exclusive reliance on words can breed boredom. Meetings and conversations dominated by verbal exchanges may lead to some participants checking out.

Finally, the fleeting nature of verbal communication can lead to forgetfulness, as information conveyed solely through words may not be as effectively retained or recalled.

To overcome these limitations, I encourage you to embrace visual thinking as a complementary approach, which involves externalizing thoughts and concepts with simply-sketched diagrams and drawings.

By incorporating hand-made visuals into your thinking processes, you unlock a myriad of benefits.

First, you move more easily from confusion to clarity. Visual representations provide tangible reference points that support the comprehension and organization of ideas. You get the benefit of cognitive offloading that Annie Murphy Paul describes in her book The Extended Mind.

Visual thinking also helps you move from a state of stagnancy to one of creativity – sketching out simple diagrams and drawings will spark new areas of exploration and help you to see your work from a different perspective.

When you start weaving more visuals into your work, you fight off boredom and support engagement, both for you as the mark-maker as well as for any others that you’re working with. Each visual gives your brain something new to latch onto and work with, making the overall process of idea exploration more interesting.

Finally, visual thinking prevents forgetfulness and supports recall because of the stronger connections that you’re making in your brain as explained by the theory of dual coding. Whether you consider yourself to be a visual learner or not, you’ll benefit from more visual processing of the new ideas that you’re learning.

Our biology is built for visuals. So why not tap into that potential as you’re working through interesting problems?

Whether it’s with simple diagrams like mind maps and flowcharts or something drawn like a sketched scene or visual metaphor, incorporating visual elements into your thinking process can help you learn deeply, solve problem efficiently, and share ideas effectively.

To start (or continue) developing your skills, check out our library of courses. I’m now hosting live monthly Q & A sessions for all course participants. I’d love to see what you’re working on.