The Math behind drawing Together

When we each draw what we’re thinking we have a very different kind of conversation

In Episode 007 of my podcast, The Conversation Factory, I talk with Dave Gray, Author of the classic Gamestorming and his new book, Liminal Thinking. It’s a wide ranging conversation, but the opening quote I pulled out at the start of the episode is one of the most important ideas about redesigning conversations. If there’s one thing you can change to make your conversations more effective it’s this:

If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.

Drawing is without a doubt the most powerful way to transform ANY conversation. Most conversations have one interface: the air. Once what I’ve said is past your eardrums, I have *no* idea what’s really going on inside your head! Drawing makes sure there’s a tangible record…hell, a paper trail, of our conversation, what we’ve agreed to, what is in or out of the conversation.

Navigating a family meeting with Sticky Notes

A few months ago now I helped my mom and dad work out some scenarios around selling their house and moving someplace else. Me and my brother, together with my folks, generated as many options as we could: They move, and rent out their big house, they sell it all and rent something else, they sell and buy and so on…we made a big poster for each option and then stuck up comments on each, using a format called “Rose, Thorn Bud”…which not to be too meta, is also a conversation design: We could have just done plusses and minuses, we could have done a SWOT analysis on each…but Rose Thorn Bud (which is from the boy scouts of america) is a kind of “friendly” design for conversational analysis.

Color Coding adds layers of information

We used different colors for Rose Thorn Bud, a trick I learned from teaching design thinking with the LUMA Institute…and after our meeting we had a visual heatmap of how the whole family felt about all the options on the table. It really helped my folks step back from the confusion of choice and get some clarity about the steps ahead. And it helped my mom realize that she and my dad haven’t tried living in enough other places to make a choice about living somewhere else…and that they ought to figure that out before they sell! Seeing it all laid out in front of them helped them really see that.

More drawings means more points of contact

That, in essence, is Dave’s point about drawing making a series of triangulations for a conversation. Rather than one person trying to hold all those points in mind, we used color and space to do it for us…in this example, a board for each future for my parents, and a color-coded emotional heat map of each future.

if you’ve made it this far, you’re awesome. And you might consider signing up for my email list:




Insights distilled from the Podcast

Recommended from Medium

Trends in Modern Web Photography


Design Ops: Atomic Design

Can you code for Miranda?

How to Change Bullet Color in Google Slides (Best Practice)

Five key parameters for running a successful website

Interview with a Maze Designer

Clearing the tech hub glass ceiling: An inclusive approach to a civic engagement-focused…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Daniel Stillman

Daniel Stillman

Host of and @gothamsmith co-founder. Often riding bikes to the ocean.

More from Medium

Leading Alignment with the Ladder of Inference

Design Thinking the People-centric Modern Organization

Leading through Transformation

Mobius’ refounding moment — why and how we transitioned from Mobius 1.0 to 2.0