Expedition into uncharted territory

To EuViz 2014: Interview with Martin Haussmann and Karina Antons
Interviewer: Jost Burger

A project group is a team of scientists and explorers who understand that their work is like the mapping of an unknown territory; this is a beautiful picture of what development teams do every day. How this mapping can be assisted visually is studied by EuViz in the track on "Visual Dialogue".


Martin Haussmann and Karina Antons are known in Europe as pioneers of visualization techniques that facilitate group reflection graphically. They combine didactics (Antons) and visualization (Haussmann). As Visual Facilitators they help clients get to grips with projects, change processes or strategic issues using graphical methods. The basic idea is that maps represent group processes and mental models graphically. The focus of the workshop is on concrete ways to represent abstract images.


Mrs Antons, Mr. Haussmann, can you briefly outline what participants can expect from your track? 

Mapping is a basic visualization strategy in dialogue and process support. Imagine a group to be a team of researchers, and their dialogue process is an expedition into uncharted territory. The visual facilitator or Graphic Recorder serves as a cartographer for the expedition: he listens, identifies important discoveries and, step by step, uses them to build a diagram. So, slowly, a map of the research area is created, which provides orientation, makes blank spots clearly visible and represents areas of knowledge in their overall context.
This strategy can be used universally. It is best known in the form of the popular Mind Mapping strategy by Tony Buzan, where thought processes are represented as paths and branches. But there are many other mapping approaches, which we want to discover, share and systematize together with the participants.

What will that mean in practice? 

For day one and day two we have chosen three different study corridors. On the first day, we want to create an impact with the mapping strategies that the participants use together. This will be done in a method marketplace. The "methods fact sheets" developed in this way will, in their turn be mapped and systematized. What is my approach? How large is the group with which I work? What role does visualization play? What are my success factors?
On day three, we take mapping literally and delve into the logic and imagery of actual maps. As developers of bikablo visualization training, we have used this approach for some time. What happens when a dialogue group presents the subject matter of their exploration in the form of a map? What happens when the group uses the topography of continents and islands and typical cartographic elements such as cities, roads, bridges, mountains or rivers? How do they then interact with each other at a factual level and a metaphorical level and what is the added value of this approach for finding complex solutions?

You speak of the "dance", the "magic" between facilitator and group. In addition to the visualization methods per se, how important are techniques for building a strong connection? 

There is a saying that every problem looks like a nail if you only have a hammer in your tool box. It is the same with the visual methods that we develop for our process accompaniments and training. Of course it is helpful to have many different tools ready and to be able to use them effectively. It is however important to recognize contexts and to ask the right questions to find out which tool may be useful at which point. Therefore, training laboratories and pilot group work are important success factors for us.

  During the process a map of thoughts, projects and ideas is created in real time. How can this map be used later? 

Generally the best use is discovered through the process itself: the group wants to display the dialogue map in a prominent place in the company premises and to talk with colleagues about it. They want to fill in the details and use it as a basis for further discussions. Or, in another iteration they produce a second, revised version of it. It is important that the process and product are always in correct proportion to each other.

  "Old timers" and newcomers are invited to your track. What does that mean for you - to what extent do the newcomers help to develop fresh techniques and styles? 

The exciting thing about the international "Visual Practitioner" scene is that overall it is still very young. There are a variety of different approaches, and it's a great environment for exchanging, trying out and reflecting. In this respect - and this motivates us immensely - it does not matter so much if someone has been working for years as a "Practitioner" or is completely new to the business - we can all learn from each other.

  In your view in what general direction is visualization headed? 

Even though Kommunikationslotsen has worked with visualization for over ten years we often feel like newly-hatched chicks, looking over the edge of the eggshell fascinated by and curious about the world - and all its different directions. Our challenge is, however, to go beyond the great wall of pictures, that fascinate our customers and to offer the right questions and procedures at exactly the right points in change processes, so that we can really make a contribution.

  One last question on the conference: What expectations do you have of EuViz 2014? 

That all participants go with open hearts, eyes and ears and in resonance with each other, and thus bring something new into the world.


The interview was conducted via e-mail; the questions were answered jointly by the interview partners. 


"The group is a team of scientists, and their dialogue process an expedition into uncharted territory. The visual facilitator or Graphic Recorder serves as a cartographer for the expedition." Martin Haussmann, Karina Antons: Expedition into uncharted territory

"It is essential to recognize contexts and to ask the right questions to find out which tool may be useful at what point." Martin Haussmann, Karina Antons: Expedition into uncharted territory


changeX 25.06.2014. 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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