Draw Toast on TED.com

My fourth TED Talk has gone live.

Draw How to Make Toast is a quirky design exercise that reveals unexpected insights into how we frame ideas, communicate, collaborate and solve problems using system thinking.

The exercise is a fantastic warm up for anyone who wants to run meetings in more engaging ways. Visual thinking reveals the structure of our mental models: how we think things do work and how we feel things should work.

Draw Toast shows how the nodes (the objects that make up our mental models) and links (the relationship between these objects) are based on our experiences, preferences, and biases. We get a laugh when we see some drawings featuring toasters, electrical outlets and refrigerators and others frying pans, condiments and smiling people. What we consider important in our mental models automatically appear in the diagrams.

For making toast, this can seem trivial. But when we apply the basic idea of drawing out important topics – say, our organization’s vision, its cash flow, our customers’ experiences and our perception of risk, what we value in service innovation, among others – we can quickly arrive at very different pictures of how we think things do work and how we feel they should work. The difference – often invisible within a group – can make a big difference.

I’m a huge advocate of visual thinking when it comes to solving problems. Making ideas visible helps people see their own mental models and develop shared pictures of complex challenges and ways of solving them. In the forthcoming Wicked Problem-Solving™ book and toolkit, I’ll be sharing practices for using visual thinking.

Enjoy the video, visit the Draw Toast Design Exercise and try visualizing some deeper questions beyond how to make toast.