Reveal insights and paths forward through nonverbal expression with Drawing Together

Christiaan Verwijs
Nov 8 · 5 min read

Liberating Structures are a collection of interaction patterns that allow you to unleash and involve everyone in a group — from extroverted to introverted and from leaders to followers. In this series of posts, we show how Liberating Structures can be used with Scrum.

Have you ever been part of a group conversation where one person dominated because they were better at expressing their thoughts than others? Or because they were able to use more fancy words? Have you found yourself or others jumping to conclusions based on how you interpreted what another person said, without validating it with them?

The purpose of the Drawing Together

Drawing Together is a Liberating Structure that is all about creativity and interpretation. It exists to reveal insights and paths forward through nonverbal expression. Instead of using verbal language as its medium for interaction, it makes use of constrained visual language with five purposefully abstract symbols. This simple vocabulary allows everyone to fully participate because it removes the influence of knowing more (or fancier) words, as well as being more skilled or faster at verbalizing thoughts into words than others.

Drawing Together was created by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, based on prior work by David Sibbet and Angeles Arrien.

Illustration by Thea Schukken

Steps to facilitate Drawing Together

The five symbols as drawn by Keith McCandless

Examples of Drawing Together

Examples of Drawing Together. And Maryse Meinen explaining the symbols during a meetup.

Combinations of Drawing Together

Tips

Conclusion

Drawing Together emphasizes what is true about all languages; there is no meaning in the symbols or words themselves. Instead, their meaning flows from how senders and receivers interpret them. And these interpretations can be vastly different — something we often forget when we use words. Drawing Together helps groups to purposefully create space for expressing and interpreting complex thoughts as well as validating their interpretations.

Participants of Drawing Together often note three reasons why Drawing Together works so well, despite initial worries of having to ‘draw instead of talk’. The first is that Drawing Together uses a purposefully constrained and simple visual language to level the playing field for participants. Even this constrained language allows a universe of possibilities in terms of what stories can be told through it, as well as the interpretations flowing from them. Secondly, hearing another person interpret your drawing without context often reveals big insights for the drawer as well as the interpreter. Finally, Drawing Together can visually reveal big patterns in groups.

We’re always eager to hear where you’ve used Drawing Together. Please let us know in the comments.

Interested in learning many different Liberating Structures in an intense 2-day workshop? Check out our agenda for upcoming Immersion Workshops. If you’re aiming to join, book early — they are exceptionally popular. And join the Dutch User Group to learn more about Liberating Structures.


You can support us by purchasing from our webshop, by joining one of our events or by becoming a patreon.

The Liberators

The Liberators: Unleashing Organisational Superpowers

Christiaan Verwijs

Written by

I aim to liberate teams & organizations from de-humanizing and ineffective ways of organizing work. Professional Scrum Trainer & Steward @ Scrum.org

The Liberators

The Liberators: Unleashing Organisational Superpowers

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