Visual Thinking Strategies

February 8th, 2013

Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with Ann DuCharme, an expert in Visual Thinking Strategies, a new tool that can be applied to enable and drive business model innovation.

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), as Ann shared with us, is a research based educational methodology that improves creative thinking skills through a carefully facilitated discussion of art. Its origins are cognitive psychology (how people think) and museum pedagogy (how people look at art). VTS challenges assumptions and examines alternatives in a safe, respectful way. It allows thinkers to constantly shift and revise with no loss of integrity or ownership, and meaning is built as a group conversation. All points of view are valid, even if not ultimately integrated. All these factors together maximize the setting for innovative thought. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

TGG- Ann, you believe that looking at Art – paintings, installations, sculptures, for example – can improve Business. Aren’t Business and Art completely unrelated fields?

Ann- Not really, if you think about the enormous demands on business today to stay competitive, that means creative thinking – creative thinking that is much more than “Thinking outside the box,” or brainstorming, or even just coming up with good ideas. Those are kind of one-dimensional or linear constructs. Creative thinking encompasses a more layered approach. The goal of VTS, similar to the goal of the popularized approach of Design Thinking, is to connect people with their creative side and have them generate their own really good solutions.

TGG- That presumes everyone has a creative side.

Ann- They do! They absolutely do. Even if the thought of being creative and making art terrifies you, or is totally foreign, you are still a creative person. You can’t help it – you were born that way. You have a brain after all, yes? You make constant creative decisions: about what you wear, what you eat, how you communicate, how you work – basically how you approach life’s myriad options and challenges.

TGG- Sounds interesting. How can a business team practice VTS?

Ann- A Business team can practice VTS in several ways. In early stage ideation, VTS generates lots of interconnected ideas and/or can act as a “primer” for innovation work. As a mid-meeting creative injection, it can move teams past blocks to consider new alternatives. For team building, VTS can build communication pathways, easily, and creatively. Each time, it levels the playing field, because all ideas are valid.

TGG-  Cool! How have you seen teams best apply VTS to drive results?

Ann- The best results that I have seen in VTS (and the most documented) have been in Education and Medicine. VTS as a tool for creative thinking in Business is a relatively new concept, and an outgrowth of the work that’s been done in the other fields (For more – Education and Medicine). I think the timing is right for VTS in a Business environment. Right now, companies are so focused on cost containment – doing more with less in the day-to-day. Despite that, or because of that, success hinges on being open to a process that can help maintain or improve creativity.

Thanks to Ann for sharing her thoughts on VTS.  We see direct application of VTS to drive innovative thinking, especially in the challenging space of helping teams see possibilities for entirely new business models. To learn more, feel free to connect directly with us, or with Ann at

Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Paulo Colacino