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Treasure Hunting

On EuViz 2014: interview with Andreas Gaertner
Interview: Jost Burger

How can positive contributions be properly appreciated, held firm, secured? Especially if the discussion gets to be on the lively side? Appreciative Inquiry is a tool to achieve this. Visualization helps too. How? That's the subject of track 5 at EuViz 2014: "Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Visualization".


Appreciative Inquiry is a tool for organizational development. At its core, it's an appreciative way to discover positive feelings, beliefs and visions within an organization - in order to discover strengths, develop people and build organizations. The topic of Track 5 in EuViz 2014: "Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Visualization", is run by Andreas Gaertner and Ralph Weickel.
Andreas Gaertner is a professional illustrator and worked for many years as a graphic recorder. That is to say: he is concerned with presenting complex content in clear and comprehensible images. Ralph Weickel is a specialist in Appreciative Inquiry at the European Center for Positive Change.

  Mr Gaertner, can you tell us a bit about what to expect from your track? 

In our track "Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Visualization" we and the participants shall set out together on a treasure hunt. We shall try to find a wealth of positive symbols, and explore together how these "good symbols" are relevant to appreciative exploration.

So what does that mean in practice? 

All participants already have an internal map for this treasure hunt. Ralph Weickel and I shall provide a few tools, so we can find and capture a lot of positive symbols.

The core idea of Appreciative Inquiry is the appreciation of all those involved - how can visualization support that?  

First of all, I feel myself valued as a participant if the contribution which I give verbally in the group, is "secured" visually. My contribution was heard, it mattered and it was captured by the recorder. Secondly, Appreciative Inquiry, especially in the initial phase, aims to draw attention to the positive, on what is going well. The basic assumption behind this is: whatever I put my heart into, I should do more. For this we can use the potential of visualizations very effectively. When we associate a contribution with a drawing, we anchor the content in a lasting way in the minds of the viewers. Our very strong sense of visual memory ensures this.

What does Positive Visualization mean? 

The importance and impact of positive visualization is something we wish to explore together. There is no specific definition for an "appreciative symbol." Every person has their own set of mental pictures, which they combine to create something positive and we want to find out what they are.

And what's behind the "4-D Cycle"? 

The "4-D Cycle" of Appreciative Inquiry consists of several stages. First, there's the Discovery phase, understanding how to identify and understand the best in us. This can be helped by interviews and conversations. Then the Dream phase follows. Here, visions are designed; it is almost a dream of what could happen in the best case scenario. The Design phase is the time to define concrete plans for the future and visions. The last phase, Destiny, is the implementation phase. It determines what will happen. It is when new ideas are realized.

Is it not difficult when people in a group have different levels of drawing ability? What happens when someone is not so gifted at it?  

Visualization is a cultural technique. It is not an art. Therefore, it is not about good or bad, beautiful or ugly drawings. We pick up the pen to convey information, not to create works of art. And yes, you can learn to visualize. I recommend the bikablo Visual Facilitation training for beginners as well as the more advanced.

Is there such a thing as common roots shared by visualization and participatory methods?  

I would say that the one cannot exist without the other. Participatory methods are used to develop new perspectives and ideas based on the opinions expressed. Participants can compare what they hear with their own presuppositions. Now, when visualizations are used as a sound box within the game, this will create a new perception channel, and the exchange, the questions and the ideas can improve in quality.

How do you see Visualization developing? 

If Visualization continues in this way, then in a few years it will be one of the basic tools in society. Visualizations are a prerequisite for the delivery of content. Teachers leave pictures on a blackboard, professors explain clearly and visually what is going on in their minds, and in a large company's conference room, the use of visualizations ensures that the vision and the strategy are finally understood.

One more question regarding the conference: the tracks run parallel to each other don't they? How can participants at the conference learn about Visualization's different fields and professions from each other? 

It's simple. During the coffee breaks and over a beer in the evening. That's where the real exchange takes place.


"Visualization is a cultural technique. It is not an art. Therefore, it is not about good or bad, beautiful or ugly drawings. We pick up the pen to convey information, not to create works of art." Andreas Gaertner: Treasure Hunting

"When visualizations are used as sound box within the game, this will create a new perception channel, and the exchange, the questions and the ideas can improve in quality." Andreas Gaertner: Treasure Hunting


changeX 08.07.2014. Alle Rechte vorbehalten, all rights reserved.


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Jost Burger

Jost Burger ist freier Journalist in Berlin. Er schreibt als freier Mitarbeiter für changeX.

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