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Visual Explorer™: March 2010

March 25, 2010

"Can this blind man do Visual Explorer ... ?"

"I was of course pleased to meet Enos and glad to have him as part of our program. My mind, however, began working overtime on how I would incorporate him into the upcoming Visual Explorer exercise. What could I do to be sensitive to this blind gentleman’s needs? ... "

Steadman Harrison at the Center for Creative Leadership sends us this story from the Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative:
"In December 2006 I traveled to Kenya as part of a research initiative called Leadership Beyond Boundaries. I looked at the map and guessed that it would take me about an hour and a half by car to drive from the capital city of Nairobi up to a smaller town called Nakuru where I was to host a Leadership Forum Workshop for our contacts at ERMIS Africa. In Nairobi I hired a driver who agreed to take me out to Nakuru and we started our journey.

"Kenya is a very large country. The short trip I had anticipated turned into a nearly 4 hour drive across the Rift Valley ridge of mountains more than 8,000 feet above sea level. The road was last paved in the 1960s and at times the driver chose to drive off road because the potholes were so bad. At one point I looked out and saw a heard of zebras and asked if we could pull over so I could take a picture. The driver simply veered the car off the road and drove straight out into the field into the middle of the heard so I could see them better. This was the start of my adventure.

"I’ll focus here on one story that happened that first day at the workshop in Nakuru. I decided to set up Visual Explorer early in the morning before the workshop began as a bit of a backdrop and to create some intrigue about the activities we would cover later in the day. The colorful 8.5 by 11 pictures lined 3 of the walls of the conference room. This was an open enrollment workshop and my friend, Bancy, had sent out all the invitations. I had no idea how many participants we would have nor did I know anything about their backgrounds. As participants came in that morning I would introduce myself and some of them asked a few questions about all the pictures spread out around the room.

"Enos Awili was about the tenth person to join us that morning. He came in being led at the hand by a friend. Shortly after being seated he invited me to come over and speak with him where he told me a little bit about his life.
Born in 1950, I became blind as a result of infections by Trachoma and Glaucoma combined. I then went through the normal academic education in a residential school for the blind twenty-seven miles from Nairobi city. I then worked for a bread-producing company until it closed down in January 1993. Since then, I have not been in any gainful employment but thank the Lord for providing me with sponsors who paid school fees for my three children. Despite my financial problems I still feel it’s my duty to teach people about the ethics of good leadership and how to stay free from HIV and AIDS scourge. So I am here today as a representative for Persons with Disabilities National Council of Kenya and look forward to this program.
"I was, of course, pleased to meet Enos and glad to have him as part of our program. My mind, however, began working overtime on how I would incorporate him into the upcoming Visual Explorer exercise. What could I do to be sensitive to this gentleman’s needs? After introducing Visual Explorer that morning I promptly assured Enos that he could be fully involved in the exercise.

"As the exercise began I asked him to briefly describe both his organizational challenge and the ideal future state of his organization (the two questions I had asked the group to consider as they picked out their two pictures). I then led him around the room briefly describing each picture. To my surprise this didn’t take long. When we came across the picture of ‘a donkey with its feet tied together’ he exclaimed that this was his picture he was looking for. And when I described ‘the bird with outstretched wings having just caught a fish’ he said that this was his future organization. The really rich part of the exercise was watching Enos’s sheer delight as each of the members of his small group described the two pictures in great detail.

"At the end of our debrief, he was in tears as he shared what a great gift it was to be a part of such a wonderful exercise that captured the challenges facing the disabled people of East Africa and the hope that he had moving forward to a day when so many people in need would have the resources they needed to soar like eagles.

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March 08, 2010

Visual Explorer with the Afghan National Army

A collage of officer's VE images from the program

Earlier we looked at Visual Explorer in Afghanistan, used there in leadership development with the Afghan National Army. Clemson Turregano at CCL leads that work. Check out this great collage (top of post) they made of the VE images picked by the class--fabulous. The slideshow below puts the initiative in context and shows the program design.. But the very best part is this next story from Clemson, when his set of VE images got vetted by the local mullah ....
I had laid out the VE pictures in the hallway prior to the class. Going through the deck, I removed any that I thought might be culturally sensitive (women in shorts, that kind of thing). There were still pictures of women, but none that I found might be offensive to Islam. As I was about to welcome the students, a nice gentleman appeared in full Afghan regalia, toting a very nice camera. My translators informed me that he was the local imam, responsible for the area in which the school was located. He spoke a little English and informed me that he was a photographer and asked if he could look at the images. I replied that I welcomed his insight and asked if he might review the pictures so that they would meet all the ‘cultural’ requirements. I left him alone for a while and when I returned, he and I spotted the one picture I had overlooked – Lady Godiva on a horse. Before I could get to it, he looked to the one next to Lady Godiva and said ‘This one OK’ – then he saw Lady Godiva, and handing the picture to me, he stated, ‘this…not so much…’ We both laughed and then he stayed most of the day to watch the interaction with the class. When he left, he thanked me for allowing him to help us.