A visual whirlwind tour through Asia by Frank Wesseler

I went half around the world to train advanced visualization skills with our partners in Singapore and China. I learned why you should not write names with red ink in China and had many other insights during my journey.


The city was packed with people when I arrived, so I wondered: „Do they all want to join our new advanced training?“ Then I realized that the formula 1 race was on. Luckily, I had our certified trainer Jaya Machet by my side, who knows Singapore inside out. We ran the training at the national library of Singapore in a bright room and fantastic group of people to work with.

The advanced program worked really well and we learnt about cultural differences, that were very interesting to stumble across: After drawing step-by-step-faces (we call it the “muppet-technique”), you typically hold the drawing in front of our body to then take a picture with the person you just portrayed. In the chinese culture (I was told), this seems to be a weird position, as this is how you would hold somebody’s picture at a funeral. You also do not write a person’s name in red color. This is due to the fact that death row criminals names were written with chicken blood and later on with red ink. It really struck me and I was happy that our participants openly shared, so that we could all learn from each other.

The training was great and the jetlag got the best part of me during a foot massage, the Saturday after the training when I fell asleep :).

Jose, Sau Ling, myself, Eunice, Wee Meng and Jaya


On Sunday, my travel continued to Shanghai, China, to run two training programs. First, Visual Process Mapping (Europeans watch out – next training opportunities will be in Belgium and Germany) and second, Visual Storytelling. I love to return to Shanghai, as I used to live there back in 2002 and 2003. The pace at which the city has changed is just incredible. I didn’t have that much time to indulge myself to the city, as my schedule was pretty packed.

The training room is right next to the water, where the paper is taped to the windows

After prepping the room on Sunday evening, we started the training punctually on Monday morning. The Visual Process Mapping training is still quite new in our training offerings and each class is different. Hence I was very excited about this opportunity. It is crucial that every participant brings an individual process challenge, to make the training relevant. It seems that some things are universal and can be applied in any culture. I believe that exploring work processes visually could be one of them, especially to bridge gaps when it comes to a common understanding to achieve alignment.

I was hosted by Xiaoli He and the bikablo CONTUR team, our training partners in China, and we used the opportunity to meet up with IFVP-member Phil Guo at Deloitte Greenhouse on Wednesday. I’ve met Phil at several IFVP conferences and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk to him in his hometown. The Greenhouse is a great workspace with a modern design and we also had the opportunity to meet up with Phil’s team to talk about visual facilitation. Even though the visit was short, it was very enjoyable and always good to catch up with friends when you have the chance.

Our certified trainers Oscar, Eva, Xiaoli, Jiayi and myself

On Thursday we started with the Visual Storytelling training. Half of the participants had also participated in the Visual Process Mapping training. This time, they were in for a completely different scope. For me, it was the second time to deliver this format in Shanghai. Thanks to the great training location and the comfort coffee, we could spend exciting two days, where I learnt a lot about the participants. They openly shared quite personal stories. There might be a trend for Chinese people towards personal growth, after having spent most of the time during adolescence to achieve a career (Of course, this is just a personal observation of mine). There were quite some stories regarding this topic in the class and an interesting observation I thought.

The discussion about digital vs. analogue visualization is equally interesting for western and eastern practitioners.

In hindsight, the 10 days were a visual whirlwind tour through Asia. It was great to see familiar faces and to learn with all of them.

Frank Wesseler is a bikablo trainer and Lean Six Sigma expert. He heads up bikablo’s global trainer team.