What do you think about when you look at this image? It’s called Jack in Office (Edwin Landseer) and it’s an engraving from the nineteenth century. Jack in Office shows several dogs, one harnessed and sitting on a table, with five other dogs around the table and in the background.

Jack in Office (Edwin Landseer)

Jack in Office has always made me think about organisational power and politics. It feels like a challenging image that captures something about leadership and culture in the most difficult places we might imagine working. It’s definitely art that produces some conversation, and it has a darkness to it that can cause discomfort – so people need to be in the right frame of mind to discuss the range of associations that they make to it.

  • If invited to think about this piece in terms of organisation culture, what comes to mind?
  • How could an image like this help you think about aspects of your own organisation? Maybe not this image – so what kind of image would you would choose?

Read on to look at other methods that use images to support development.

Using images to support individual and group development

The use of images like drawings, photos and illustrations can be a powerful way to support both individual and group work. They can add great colour and life to group sessions of all kinds.​ The images can be sourced from anywhere; often from beautifully presented packs, created by group participants or simply ‘found’ on the Internet. I photographed Jack in Office on my lounge room wall for use in this post.

The value of the images is in the way they can stimulate play, assist people in expressing themselves and make unconscious thoughts available for learning. Individuals and groups can use images to support collaboration and communication, and to support their work on organisational tasks. A number of image-based methods are outlined below.

Images in OD

System Drawing

Sample Use:

  • Whole of organisation Values / Culture Renewal
  • Supporting teams in crystallising the contribution they make to the whole
  • Surfacing opportunities for improvement among elements of the system.

Support with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry to help people work with the system drawings.

Role Drawing

This method supports the individual to explore themselves in role. They are invited to draw themselves in their current role. As with other drawing methods, the role drawing is a great method for making unconscious thoughts available for individual learning.

The facilitator supports this activity with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry. Role Drawing is something that would be done in a coaching context and normally as part of a coaching program. 

Further Reading:

Role Biography

Sample Use: Career / Role Coaching

This method explores the individual’s role history. They are invited to draw themselves in role at different ages. For example, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 etc. As with other drawing methods, the role biography is a great method for making unconscious thoughts available for individual learning.

The facilitator supports this activity with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry. Role Biography is something that would be conducted in a coaching context and normally as part of a coaching program.

Further Reading:

Role History

Sample Use: Career / Role Coaching

This method explores the history of a role, distinct from an individual’s history of their roles.

It is a great method for making unconscious thoughts available for individual learning. A role-holder makes a drawing that shows their impression of their role’s history. For example, what is the contribution the role is making today? What was the contribution it made when it was held by the role-holder before, and the one before that?

The facilitator supports this activity with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry.

Photos including Social Photo Matrix

Sample Use: Change / Transition / Team development

Responding to photo images is a lovely method to help make unconscious thoughts available for individual and group learning. 

The Social Photo Matrix follows a sequence that assists participants in surfacing their response to images. If the facilitator pre-selects the photos, the same sequence can be used or the facilitator may determine a different session flow.

Use structured facilitation methods to support meaning making or driving the development of calls to action.

Further reading:

Social Dream Drawing

Sample Use: Change / Transition / Team development

Drawing of dreams is great for making unconscious thoughts available for individual and group learning. It may be that not everyone has a dream to share, so the facilitator needs to work with what comes into the space.

Support with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry to assist participants in surfacing their response to a piece (or pieces) of art.

Use structured facilitation methods to support meaning making or driving the development of calls to action.

Further Reading:

Artwork

Sample Use: Values and culture renewal

Artwork is great for making unconscious thoughts available for individual and group learning

Support with methods like Association and Appreciative Enquiry to assist participants in surfacing their response to a piece (or pieces) of art.

Use structured facilitation methods to support meaning making.

Painting

Sample Use: Team start up, Team development, Team renewal

This method generally involves a ‘task’ to paint together. Sub groups or individuals each paint a piece of an overall image, representing ‘something’ in the team or organisation. Boundaries are fairly loose but guidance may be provided about palette, materials and dimensions. The facilitator takes the pieces away and processes them into an overall image that is presented back to the team at a later date. The idea is that is displayed in the work environment.

In a hybrid world, this method will be evolving into digital production, processing and display.

Great for Team development, Collaboration and Communication

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