How Data Visualisation facilitates group processes by Martin Haussmann

Do you think that diagrams, charts, curves and tables are boring? So did we! Until we met Stefanie Posavec, the author of „Dear Data“ and trainer of our Dataviz Drawing MasterClass on May 28. Looking forward to this great training, and inspired by her cheerful charts, the bikablo trainer team invented a clever decision-making technique „on the job“, while preparing an internal train-the-trainer event. Learn more on how we made data work for our intentions!

Two weeks ago, a group of bikablo core team trainers met in our Cologne headquarters in order to share their skills and get ready for our three day Visual Storytelling Training. The training has about 15 different learning phases. Every trainer knew some of them, others not, others „just a little bit“. So, at first glance, we were overwhelmed by complexity: Which content should we choose to work on this day? How could we get everybody satisfied in his or her specific needs?

„Lets do a data collection first,“ said Heidrun (she has a background in maths). „Step by step“!

So the first thing we did was to visualize every learning phase as a box on a large graphic wall.

Step two: I asked every trainer to grab a color marker and create a caption for our chart. For better overview, the facilitating specialists in the team chose brown tones, the illustrators and graphic dudes blue tones.

„Let’s self-estimate our skills in the respective learning phase,“ I said. Zero is for I have no clue what this is, more than one hundred means I am a master/mentor and can train other trainers.“

Having set the parameters for our data collection, every trainer spontaneously drew his bars into the charts. This data gathering took only three minutes:

„Now let’s have a look and analyze our data,“ I asked the group. „What patterns do you see“?

„There are learning phases where our skills are quite diverse,“ Carola said.

Andrea added: „But, fortunately, there’s always either a facilitating specialist or a graphic specialist who considers him- or herself a master. So with the right trainer combination we always have a skilled team.“

„Besides of that,“ Stefan remarked, „there are phases where most of us feel insecure or even less. So these are the phases we should focus on now“!

„I have an idea,“ Carola said. „Let’s use the space below our bars to indicate which phase everyone would like to work on“!

And that’s exactly what we did in order to complete our data chart:

By stepping back from the graphic wall in order to get the whole picture, the group immediately agreed on three phases that would form the agenda of the workshop – in the order of relevance that our chart was indicating. To be honest: we even worked on a fourth one, since this agenda setting (by data gathering and evaluating) took not more than 15 minutes in total!

After our day, we had a second evaluation as a checkout showing the learning success that everybody had enjoyed:

„That’s great,“ Heidrun said, „we really made it“!

„And I am so much looking forward to Stefanies training next month to get more inspiration for ready-to-use visualization techniques like this that make group work and decision making so much easier,“ Stefan remarked.

Our happy bar charts now form part of the Visual Storytelling trainer handbook, giving everybody orientation on who to get support from for every phase.


From Bikablo Akademie