Later this month, we’ll be holding our latest NET2 session, Stop Getting By, Start To Fly – The Best Steps Businesses and Other Organisations Can Take in Difficult Times. There will be no expert at the front, no font of all wisdom, everyone hanging on her every word. Instead, we’ll be unlocking and channelling the expertise and collective wisdom present in the room.

So how will we do that?

Well, first thing to say is that all sorts come to NET2 events. There are deep learners, focused on drilling a mile down into their favoured areas of interest. Others come because they are dissatisfied with the way things are and are curious about how to make a change for the better. There are those who seek personal development and those eager to help develop others. While some want to learn new tools and techniques to take back to the office, others are simply glad to be out of the office, among friendly faces.  Most like to meet people and network with friends old and new, people who get where they are coming from, with stories and knowledge to share that will help recharge the batteries before we return to our daytime haunts.

Put people like this in a room with tea and coffee and, like most everybody, they’d talk whatever, and no doubt learn something. But when the goal is to actively unlock and harness all that capability and positive will for change to produce something concrete – such as a detailed framework of the best steps to take in difficult times – then it’s vital to have a productive, tried and tested way to do that. On the 29 March we’ll be using Logo Visual Thinking (LVT).

But what’s that? Well, for those who know next to nothing about LVT, we took a few minutes out to ask Peter Cruikshanks, who will be facilitating our time together on the 29th, about LVT and why he’s such a fan of the approach.

NET2:  So, Peter, thanks for agreeing to lead our next meeting and for talking to us today. We’ve had a go at LVT before, all those hexagons and white boards, it’s fun. But what’s the attraction for you?

Peter:  I’ve been a fan of LVT for about 10 years, ever since John Varney introduced me to those yellow hexagons in amongst the delights of High Trenhouse.  Ever since then I have been getting out my hexagons at almost every opportunity. Especially since going out on my own as a consultant to owners of SMEs in Yorkshire.

NET2:  Yes, lovely place High Trenhouse. But why do hexagons work for you and your clients?

Peter:  Here’s my thinking. Firstly, we all need time to think and talk. Everybody seems to be getting on with actions, achieving goals, and doing lots of “doing”.  Yet most organisations that employ people are complex and success needs some thinking and collaboration.  And for me that’s where LVT comes in – it encourages bosses, managers and workers to stop and think about an issue or question, then express their thoughts on the hexagons, and then share that thinking with others.  In my experience that sort of activity doesn’t get done enough and we risk ending up with half-thought out actions, supported by half the team.

NET2:  So it’s a tool for reflective collaboration with a view, ultimately, to purposeful action?

Peter:  Definitely. I describe it as STOP, THINK, TALK AND ACT – a bit like the Green Cross code!

NET2:  Right, seventies memories of Dave Prowse come flooding back. But what is it about the quality of the collaboration and all that talking? Many of us can talk with the best of them. Is LVT just an excuse for a talking shop?

Peter:  Not at all. How many times have you heard people say, ‘I thought you meant…’ whether at home or at work?

NET2:   Plenty. Often with people who I expected would get what I was on about.

Peter:  Exactly. In every organisation I have worked in as an employee or consultant, somebody in a leadership role has said, ‘we need more communication up and down this business’.  There is always some truth in that, but it’s not just more communication, it’s better communication. In organisations, there is so much scope for misunderstanding, jumping to conclusions, and the like.  Mostly it doesn’t matter too much. With day-to-day stuff people work it out – eventually. But when these errors happen at a strategic level, then it’s time to worry!  So here is where LVT stands out – by focusing on the words people use and using dialogue, clustering phrases together to create ‘molecules of meaning’, people come to understand what’s really meant and the chances of misunderstanding are significantly reduced.

NET2:  Okay, so is it like brainstorming plus, with hexagons?

Peter:  Definitely not. We’ve all done the Post-It brainstorming, haven’t we?  I find the content or quality of the output is often very mixed, ranging from one word ‘catch all’ comments to really tactical ideas that form somebody’s pet agenda.  And who loses out?  The organisation has to work harder to be innovative and the individuals involved feel let down from their brainstorming session.

NET2:  Been there…

Peter:  Of course. Yet LVT, with its rigour, is a method that gets quality out as the output – with the help of a good facilitator! [Laughs] And when used to its full extent it reveals new levels of thinking and ideas that a few sticky bits of paper can’t.

NET2:  Sounds good. So, even though we’re not a management team coming over all strategic, you think LVT will help us collaborate and pull together our diverse thoughts on the best steps businesses and other organisations can take in these troubled economic times.

Peter: Absolutely. It’ll be enlightening. And for those who’ve never come across it before, I have no doubt LVT will be a good technique to try out.

NET2:  Great stuff. Thanks again for agreeing to do it. We’re looking forward to it. And thanks for this chat.

Peter:  You’re welcome, NET2. See you in Brighouse on the 29th.

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