Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

20 Techniques to Improve Meeting Productivity: #13 Art

February 10, 2014

“My participants sometimes seem to get bogged down in their own logic. This inhibits their creativity and negatively impacts the energy of the group. I am looking for a way to get people to think more creatively so we can develop a deeper understanding of an issue. Is there a technique that will help us see things through different eyes?”

13. ART

What Is ART?

ART is a technique for helping your meeting participants think and express themselves differently.

When people articulate their thoughts in atypical ways, they tend to produce a broader spectrum of information. And sometimes the most unlikely methods of expression produce the most revealing information because such methods encourage people to use the part of their brain that taps and stimulates their perception differently.

ART involves having participants express their thoughts and ideas visually on paper. If used correctly, this type of artistic expression will increase the effectiveness of your meetings by providing new insights and boosting creativity, energy, and fun.

When to Use ART

  •  When people need to visualize their future, a change, or a decision
  •  When you want to clarify a point that is difficult to articulate
  •  When you want to summarize what has been completed
  •  When you want more creative input

How to Use ART

1. As a part of one or more relevant agenda items, ask your participants to draw or otherwise visually depict their ideas on paper. This can be done individually or in small groups, and the ART can be literal or figurative. Provide the necessary paper and a wide variety of colored markers.

OPTION: You may also bring other art materials, such as scissors, magazines to cut up, colored paper, and whatever else comes to mind.

NOTE: Be sure that your instructions highlight that ideas are the goal of the exercise. Artistic skill is irrelevant.

NOTE: You may perceive ART as a high risk idea and thus be hesitant to use it. But try it. The technique works well at all levels of an organization and can provide very creative and revealing information. You will be impressed with its effectiveness and high fun factor.

The following are some specific examples of how to initiate ART:

To share information about staff responsibilities, you might say, “Create a visual aid to explain how you spend your time in a typical week.”

OPTION: Use collages. Ask people to prepare a visual of the things they accomplished in the last year, for example, pie charts of percentages of time use or projects accomplished.

To gain an understanding of the group’s current situation, say, for example, “Draw a picture of what it feels like to work here.”

To create a vision of the group’s preferred future, you could say, “Imagine we have been able to accomplish all we discussed and agreed to today. Think of our group in five years. [Choose a number based on your circumstances.] What will it look like?” Or you might say, “Draw an animal that describes our group as it is today. Draw another animal that describes the perfect group of the future.”

NOTE: Use this information to create a list of words that describe your group’s preferred future.

To gain information on the attitudes in your department, you might say, “Show us, either literally or figuratively, our department’s attitude toward the new management philosophy.”

2. After the ART work is completed (usually fifteen to twenty minutes is enough), have the artists present and explain their work.

NOTE: Take photos of the drawings and include them in the minutes of the meeting.

3. Ask the group members to summarize what they learned from the ART process.

For example, you might say, “What in particular stood out to you during this last exercise?” “What conclusions can we draw?”


ART is a technique that helps your meeting participants think and express themselves differently, that is, visually on paper. This type of artistic expression can lead to a deeper understanding of an issue and also increases a group’s creativity, energy, and enjoyment.

1. Ask all participants to draw their ideas on paper. The pictures they draw can be literal or figurative.

2. Ask the individual or small-group artists to explain their work.

3. Have the group members summarize what they learned from the exercise and what conclusions can be drawn. ___________

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