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Policy Horizons Canada Broadens its Visual Communication Skills

In a recent blog post, we summarized the skills of a visual leader according to David Sibbet’s new visual leaders book. We love David’s message that visual thinking skills are for everyone. No matter what organization you work for, or what position you hold, you can develop visual leadership skills. The reward? Ultimately the regular practice of visualizing your thinking leads to more effective understanding of complex systems, and can help design more effective approaches to challenges or opportunities.

As the visual revolution gains momentum, more and more organizations are reaching out to learn visual thinking/meeting methods. They are training entire teams in these skills so that they can transform their own work process into a visual process.

Recently, Get the Picture, provided a customized visual facilitation workshop to Policy Horizons Canada, an organization within the federal public service. Policy Horizons Canada anticipates emerging policy challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing and complex world. Through scanning and foresight, they monitor and explore social, economic, environmental, and technological changes in Canada and around the world and how they may interact in the future.

Given their business, they recognize the importance of using innovative methods to co-create knowledge that will inform choices. By developing the skills to design, lead and capture visual meeting processes they are able to engage people and examine mental models in a whole new way.

Horizons may have only started their visual learning journey, but they are becoming true visual leaders! Here’s why…!

They set high expectations – Their vision – that the entire team would develop visual communication skills.


They are using visuals actively – Around the Horizons office you’ll find team members building their visual vocabulary on daily basis in a number of ways. Here is what they are doing:

– Taking visual notes during regular meetings
– Partnering to visualize concepts and practice drawing icons (building their visual library)
– Constructing visual maps of project teams and visual agendas
– Creating additional visual starter toolkits for colleagues and sharing their new skills
– Browsing online galleries of visual recordings to learn from other styles.

They are using visuals during meetings to harvest mental models – Horizons has facilitated several workshops which provided a space for participants to share insights, learn, experiment and test new practices and ideas. Here are just a few:

Come Scan with Us is an initiative where participants from various departments and
agencies come together to discuss exciting changes happening in the world that might have policy implications for Canada, and beyond.  Each session introduces a different tool or methodology and they have been incorporating visuals into the process.

New Picture

They have used visuals to map out processes and timelines for their current cycle of foresight projects. The communications team at Horizons hosted a five-part series called “What’s the Word on Comms Street” using visuals to help improve the staff’s understanding of communications.

New Picture (1)

They are contributing to the visual community – Horizons is always on the lookout for new opportunities to learn more about visual facilitation and explore new tools they can use in their visual practice. This July, some creative team members will continue their visual journey at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) Conference where they will explore the future of visualization and how visual practice may evolve.

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