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Visual Explorer™: November 2008

November 16, 2008

Strategy as a Learning Process

Hughes, R.L., & Beatty, K.C. (2005). Becoming a strategic leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

An important part of strategic thinking is visual, imaginative, and intuitive. Visual Explorer is a tool for supporting this often neglected part of strategic thinking. VE supports strategy as a learning process, and can help clarify shared strategic understanding of who we are, where we are, and where we want to go, as well as discerning key strategic drivers.

The benefits of Visual Explorer ™ for strategic leadership & strategy creation include:
  • Help assess “who we are” and “where we are” as a company in a marketplace
  • Scan your environment and your organization with fresh eyes
  • Explore, clarify and communicate mission, vision, and values
  • Helping identify key strategic drivers
  • Surface ideas, intuitions, and new perspectives
  • Get people out of their “stuck” perspectives
  • Engage emotional undercurrents
Rich Hughes and Kate Beatty (2005) describe strategy as a learning process. Their book Becoming a Strategic Leader shows the importance of both R-mode (“right brain”) and L-mode (“left brain”) processes for this type of learning, and describes how to use VE as a tool for strategic thinking.

Visual Explorer is useful for the front and middle of this learning process: assessing where we are, and, understanding who we are and where we want to go, and focusing on key strategic drivers.

VE is also useful in “clearing the lens” of the strategic learning process—clarifying mission, vision and values.


The five basic steps for a Visual Explorer session apply here, as well as the further measures suggested for fostering dialogue. It can be quite useful to capture the key images, metaphors, and language from the VE session as a means of engaging others in the strategic learning process.


Bruce Byington, CCL Senior Faculty, teaches a process of strategic driver identification using Visual Explorer. Strategic drivers are those relatively few determinants of sustainable competitive advantage for a particular organization in a particular industry or competitive environment (Hughes & Beatty, 2005, p. 27). Visual Explorer’s R-mode processing can bring out new ideas and help to "unstick" people and groups.

1. Use VE to explore some of the following framing questions:
  • What industry or business are we in?
  • What is our vision?
  • What would real success look like?
  • What are we missing that might surprise us?
  • What is the key organizational capability we need to drive our strategy?

2. Brainstorm potential strategic drivers, as informed by the VE dialogue.

3. Sort, classify, and prioritize potential drivers.

Further Reading

Hughes, R.L., & Beatty, K.C. (2005).
Becoming a strategic leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mintzberg, H. (1989).
Mintzberg on management: Inside our strange world of organizations. New York: The Free Press.

Palus, C.J. & Horth, D.M. (2002).
The leader’s edge: Six creative competencies for navigating complex challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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November 09, 2008

Enneagram and Visual Explorer™

submitted by
Rev. Elaine M. Kebba, M.Div.
Thomas J. Kebba, M.A.

The purpose of using Visual Explorer in the context of an Enneagram Workshop is to begin the process of inner transformation. This exercise will highlight the fact that there are many kinds of people with different personality types. It will suggest that what may be good advice for one person can be disastrous for another. A goal for this exercise is to help people become aware of the “filter” with which they think about and approach life without prior knowledge of the Enneagram. The challenge to the participants will be to use this exercise as a reference point for themselves when they are evaluating what part of the Enneagram, especially Enneagram Type related information, directly relates to them.

DIRECTIONS The leader(s) of the workshop will distribute the Visual Explorer pictures on the floor, table, or other accessible surface. The participants will be instructed to choose two pictures while thinking about two questions:

Step 1: Choose a picture that reflects YOU at your BEST.

Step 2: Choose a picture that reflects YOU at your WORST.

Step 3: In groups of 3 or 4: each person shares their pictures and why they chose them. Other group members listen without comment or inquiry.

Step 4: Each of the group members shares how the pictures chosen speak to them in terms of being at their best or their worst - i.e. "if this were my picture, it would reflect in me . . ."

Step 5: The initial presenter listens and makes connections to their own sharing (how it is the same, how it is different, how some connections may make sense for them, how some connections may not make sense for them, etc.).

Step 6: Group debrief

Step 7: Workshop leader(s) refer back to the Visual Explorer exercise at the end of the workshop day and asks the group about the connections they now see for themselves in terms of their “best self” and “worst self” and how that relates to their Enneagram Type.

A Bibliography

1. Aspell, Patrick J. & Dee. The Enneagram Personality Portraits: Enhancing Professional Relationships, San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 1997.

2. Baron, Renee, and Wagele, Elizabeth. The Enneagram Made Easy. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994.

3. Goldberg, Michael J. The 9 Ways of Working: How to use the Enneagram to Discover your Natural Strengths and Work More Effectively. New York: Marlowe & Company, 1996.

4. Palmer, Helen. The Enneagram in Love and Work. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995.

5. Palus, Charles J. and Horth, David, M. Visual Explorer: Picturing Approaches to Challenging Changes. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership, 2008 (Revised).

6. Riso, Don Richard, and Hudson, Russ. The Wisdom of the Enneagram. New York: Bantam Books, 1999.

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