Because of its versatility and ability to engage all kinds of people, VE is widely used in organizations, communities, schools and coaching relationships, with the outcome of better conversations about things that matter.
What size Visual Explorer deck do I need?
The Post Card size works well in almost any situation. The smaller Playing Card size is best for personal use or impromtu use, and for one-on-one coaching or interviews. The Letter size VE deck is the most visually compelling and makes the most powerful impression, and works well in formal programs where there is room to spread out. The images are the same across the different sizes.
How many decks do I need?
That depends on how many cards people are asked to choose during the session. A complete set of Visual Explorer images is usually adequate for a group of 24. VE (and any of the Leadership Explorer tools) can be quite compelling when each person has their own deck, and which they get to keep after the exercise as a take-away tool (there are 3 decks in a compete set of Post Card size VE.)
Can I get the digital versions of the images in the decks?
We are not currently licensed to provide the digital images and we hope to provide this in the future. Many users simply photograph or scan the images.
How much space does it require?
That depends on two things: the size of the group and the size of the Visual Explorer images. If you are using the letter size, you need surfaces-floors, tables, furniture-on which to spread out the pictures. It works very nicely to have a separate room to lay out the images so they can be comfortably browsed, especially if the group size is more than twenty. The playing-card-size Visual Explorer is extremely portable. No extra space is required because the cards can be browsed right in your hands.
How much advance planning does a Visual Explorer session require?
Those who know Visual Explorer reasonably well can have it as a tool "in their back pocket" with no advance planning whatsoever. More typically, the planning time depends on whether it has been specifically designed into a training program or organizational intervention.
How much time is needed to conduct a Visual Explorer session?
The session itself can be done in as little as an hour; anticipate a good conversation and allow at least ninety minutes. Groups often extend the dialogue productively for hours and hours.
Can I run a session faster than that?
Do not shortcut the sharing of images during the Visual Explorer session if dialogue is the goal. Paying careful attention to the images is important for getting past the surface and engaging with each other in a way that supports dialogue. It takes time to reach that stage of conversation.
What do you tell people who are skeptical of the value of Visual Explorer?
We actually invite people to be skeptical, but we also invite them to hold their skepticism lightly and enter the experience "as if it made sense." One time a scientist we worked with voiced his skepticism, which we welcomed and responded to, and he replied, "Not proven. But carry on!"
Is Visual Explorer a game, or is it a simulation?
Visual Explorer is not in itself a team exercise, game, or simulation. There is no single right way to use it. It's a flexible tool used to facilitate a good conversation.
I work with engineers/scientists. They don't like this touchy-feely stuff. How will Visual Explorer work with them?
Scientists who have used Visual Explorer often recognize its combined effect of image, intuition, and metaphor as related to scientific creativity. The depth of dialogue achieved in Visual Explorer sessions convince people from all kinds of disciplines of its value. Chuck Palus and David Horth are scientists and engineers by background. They often find that once the engineers and scientists have got past the skepticism phase (in which their skepticism has been invited), they rapidly dive deeper into conversations. One conversation stimulated by Visual Explorer was supposed to last no more than ninety minutes but went on with everyone deeply engaged for eight hours.
I work with executives. They don't like this touchy-feely stuff. How will Visual Explorer work with them?
Because Visual Explorer is not an exercise but adapts to the purposes at hand, it takes on a serious feel when used in these kinds of situations. Executives don't like being distracted from work, but as they experience the way in which Visual Explorer helps them grasp challenges and create new options, they become convinced of its value. One experienced Visual Explorer facilitator has described how he plays with a deck of Visual Explorer images without revealing what it is when working with executives and they become intrigued and ask what he's playing with. After a quick demonstration, these senior leaders eagerly embrace it.
Who can conduct a Visual Explorer session? Will I be able to conduct the Visual Explorer session by myself? What if I lack experience?
Visual Explorer does not typically require a trained facilitator. It is often self-facilitated by a leader or member of a team, although most sessions benefit from prior experience and skill at facilitation. Visual Explorer is somewhat self-correcting and forgiving, such that the default process tends to be a positive one-a good conversation supported by meaningful imagery. A Visual Explorer facilitator need only support dialogue among the session participants, which usually requires only a beginner's level of facilitation skill.
Does Visual Explorer really work?
Visual Explorer is effective in a wide variety of situations, in part because it's so simple. But its unobtrusiveness and simplicity can be misleading. A dose of skepticism is to be expected and can even prove useful in any process that seeks to question assumptions, as a Visual Explorer session often does. As long as the group's selected topic is relevant and carries a sense of urgency, so that the dialogue is about things that matter most, almost every participant experiences some value from taking part in the Visual Explorer process.
What do you tell participants when setting up the exercise?
You need to address the two main questions the group will have
- Why are we doing this activity?
- What are the instructions?
Just give a brief, clear rationale based on addressing some shared issue, with Visual Explorer as merely one tool for looking at the issue. Don't position Visual Explorer as some kind of magic bullet. The instruction you give can vary according to the group and the specific application, but you can quickly go over the process at the beginning of the session.