Visual thinking vs left brain thinking

I am a visual thinker. In the past I had problems fitting in to a project environment where everybody is so called analytical or as I love to call them, left brainers.
Every time I would “draw out” the plots, user stories or user flows I would be called to order. As if I was in school. I had to step into the mental mode of the analysts in the project and transform my drawings into “meaningful” lists. They didn’t understand that I process information differently. I prefer a visual approach. This was/is a recurring problem throughout my professional life.

I could see the whole but I could not express it. Especially because I was trained to use my left brain. We all are in some extend trained left brainers.
(Thankfully this is changing gradually).


As our world is changing and we want to grasp information quicker than ever, and fit that information on to small screens we have come to rely on imagery more and more.
Just as we have learned to use symbols or group of symbols to express language, we are now learning the visual language, the meaning of icons or group of icons.

Visual thinkers think in images. They can oversee the whole but are bad at explaining the whole with words. Visual thinkers are also bad at documenting. This feels like setting things in stone. And change is good for visual thinkers.
To start making meaning out of this complexity it’s a good practise to draw it. After all, most of us learn words by seeing. It’s an association.

I believe that in the near future we will also learn to visualise next to learning to read and write. We already have a lot of common visuals. Think about the question mark for help, the magnifying glass for search and the door with an arrow for exit, or all the icons used in your favourite applications. Just check across applications which are the same and with the same meaning.
We might even put them in their own icon family just as fonts.

For now we as visual thinkers must rely on our own methods. Creating our visual language to quickly make sense of those meetings.

Time and visual thinkers

I’m always asked in a project: How long will this take? As a visual thinker I don’t have a clue. I see the final product or phase in my head and I know how to get there.
Sometimes some challenge slips in that makes me take longer and other times the work is done in 5 minutes while I thought it would take me a whole day.
This always gives the team members the wrong expectations. They tend to manage my time for me. We estimated you will do this in half an hour. I hate that.

The team members think in minutes and hours. They look at the hands of the clock. Tic tac tic tac.
Everything is written down. John will take 4 hours, Ben will do 3 hours. Every bit that can be planned or is chronicle or measurable (Story points aren’t measurable).
I don’t have a big sense of time. I don’t wear a watch. When the project leader steps my way to ask me “How Long”, I already start to stress. I immediately think: let me do my thing.
Of course this isn’t doable for the project.

How I solve the problem of time

I make a list. Yes. But not a left brainy list. I draw the list. You can also think about making a mind map. But I prefer to draw.
From the drawings I start to make some sense of things. I have the stuff “listed”.
Next to the drawings I draw a clock with the estimated time. This makes more sense to me.
I even use colours to highlight some parts. Especially when I use calendar items.
I only use primary and secondary colours (Blue, Yellow, Red, Orange, Green and Pink).

After this exercise I can start translating my drawings to the “meaningful” list for entering in Jira or other tool used for tracking projects.
In this way I have catered for the left brainers and I have done my thing so that I don’t get lost.

Now I know there are more visual thinkers out there who deal with left brainers. I wonder how you solve the problem of space and time.

Let me know in the comment field or on my Facebook page.
We as visual thinkers can all learn from each other.

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