Do strong personalities dominate your development team? Are code reviews painful? Are you blindly following orders from a backlog, or are you learning from observation?

Visual Thinking Strategies, or VTS, is a cross-disciplinary technique applicable to anyone working in a collaborative setting where observation is key. VTS develops critical thinking skills by viewing and discussing works of art in a group. It is backed by over 30 years of field research showing its effectiveness and accessibility. By allowing individuals to talk about art - without needing a background in the field - VTS advances skills you can use to create more relevant products and stronger teams: Observing, Brainstorming, Speculating, Reasoning with Evidence, Cultivating a Point of View, and Revision & Elaboration.

During this interactive exercise, we’ll discuss selected works of art as a group. There are no right answers or group consensus being sought. We’re creating an environment and process for looking, thinking, reasoning and revision - skills that are mission-critical to anyone working in a software design or development role. After our group discussion, participants will learn the basics of image selection and facilitating VTS sessions within their own organizations. In addition to the above, we'll cover how VTS can help you and your team with the following: Comfort with Ambiguity, Openness to the Unfamiliar, Civil Debate, and Willingness to Participate in Group Thinking.

 
 

Outline/structure of the Session

  • Introduction of VTS and brief background - 5 minutes
  • Interactive VTS session with the entire group - 60 minutes
  • Review of case studies - 10 minutes
  • Information/instruction on facilitating your own VTS sessions - 10 minutes
  • Q&A - 5 minutes

Learning Outcome

  • Understanding the history & benefits of Visual Thinking Strategies
  • First-hand experience with the VTS method
  • Basic understanding of how to facilitate VTS sessions

Target Audience

Broadly applicable to anyone working in a team - coaches, developers, designers, product managers

Requirements

  • Standard lecture setup. The session works best with a group of under 80 participants due to its interactive nature.
  • The ability to control house lights while discussing the artwork is a nice-to-have.
  • Participants need to bring a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn something new by being a part of the process.
schedule Submitted 4 months ago

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  • Matteo Taddei
    By Matteo Taddei  ~  3 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Alexandra,

    I have the feeling we can shorten this topic in a 20min slot, could you please clarify me this point?

     

    Thank you!

    • Alexandra West
      By Alexandra West  ~  3 months ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Matteo - 

      It would be difficult to get much information across in 20 minutes since the actual VTS session itself generally takes 1 hour - 3 images, 20 minutes each is the standard. For this talk, I have compressed that greatly - 3 images in 20 minutes. The rest of the session is spent explaining the background & benefits of the tool, sharing a couple of case studies, and teaching a quick overview of the technique so attendees have a clear take-away. I'm not sure there would be much value if it was shortened.

       

      Thanks for letting me clarify - please don't hesitate to let me know if you need additional information!

      Alex

  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  4 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Alex,

       Thanks for the submission. I'm hopping across tracks to help out a bit ;)

    I like the idea of VTS - could you explain how you could see a team applying the observations from being in your session the following week back at work?  I think that might help the reviewers ground their decisions - seeing how the session would be applied to product / agile development.

    Best,

    Tosi

    • Alexandra West
      By Alexandra West  ~  3 months ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks Joel - great question! The teams would not so much be applying the observations back in the office, but taking the actual tool back with them. After I facilitate a VTS session I also teach the basics of using the method so attendees can take it home.

      Since this method, while over 30 years old, is brand new to the software space I also present two case studies (the C.I.A. and Harvard Medical School) so that attendees can see how VTS is used to enhance observation & problem-solving skills - as well as team building & collaboration. These are certainly skills used in design thinking, which is gaining in popularity in the software industry. It's a logical fit for an agile retrospectives & one attendee recently told the group he thought it would be a great way for product and development teams to come together. 

      If you have any suggestions on specific ways to make the description more appealing, I would appreciate them. I am happy to report the talk was standing-room-only in both Lithuania and Ukraine, so offering something a little outside of the box does seem to be attracting attendees. But of course, I am always looking to make it better!


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