Career Advice
June 7, 2022

Visual Thinking Strategies: Guiding People to Provide Effective Feedback

Visual Thinking Strategies: Guiding People to Provide Effective Feedback

Visual Thinking Strategies: Guiding People to Provide Effective Feedback

Credit: Freepik

Have you ever been in a situation where you received feedback that is not supporting you in any way? Pointless feedback. Sometimes, it is not because the person who is giving the feedback has no idea what they are talking about. It could be other factors as well such as they are not clear what kind of feedback they should give or what sort of feedback we as the receiver are looking for.

If you are aiming to get the feedback that you want, the visual thinking strategies technique could support you in getting good quality feedback that you need. This technique could be implemented in your career or life in general. In this blog, our mentor- Kimberly Morrow, the Director, Strategic Enterprise Learning Consultant - UX Design at Fidelity Investments will share how to use the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) technique to guide people in giving effective feedback. 

What are Visual Thinking Strategies?
Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a powerful tool for:

  • Soliciting meaningful design for feedback
  • Improving data-driven thinking and decision making
  • Improving communication skills
  • Mitigating bias
  • Allowing psychological safety within a group or more

VTS is used to have a meaningful conversation about a large variety of stimuli including art, poetry, marketing content, and even coding. Creative break from the usual grind that helps to connect with others on a deeper level. 

The Benefits of Using Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)

Photo by fauxels from Pexels
  • Thinking
    Evidence-based, metacognition, cognitive dissonance.
  • Communication
    Active listening, precise language, feeling heard.
  • Leadership
    Facilitative/servant leader, leader vs manager.
  • Design
    Critiques, User Research, Aha insights, Big Picture.
  • Innovation
    Creativity, Open-ended, No right or wrong answers.
  • Inclusion
    Bias mitigation, psychological safety, teaming.

9 Tips to Practice Visual Thinking Strategies

  1. Look at a visual and think together
  • Logistics: Stay on camera (if virtual), raise your hand, and do not use the chat section.
  • Norms: Stay engaged, speak your truth, listen for understanding, experience discomfort, no fixing, expect and accept non-closure.
  1. Silence
  • Allow for deep looking and thinking.
  • Looking and thinking are ACTIONS.
  1. Question 1: What is going on in this visual?
  • Open-ended.
  • Objective (no context).
  • Everyone’s ideas have equal weight.
  1. Question 2: What do you SEE that makes you SAY that…?

In order to prevent people from getting defensive: 

  • Use "what" vs "why".
  • Use "see" and "say," vs. "think," "feel," or "believe."

Ask for evidence:

  • Helps teach everyone involved to use data and evidence in their thinking.
  • After a short while, people start automatically providing evidence.

People will automatically provide evidence.

  1. Question 3: What more can we find?
  • Prompts the group to go beyond the surface to the more complex.
  • Nothing that's been said already is right or wrong, we're just looking for more.
  • What else do you notice?
  • Staying in inquiry.
  • We = group is in this together.
  1. Point
  • Ensure that the facilitator understands what each person talking about.
  • Ensure the group is following along.
  • Allow for corrections.
  1.  Paraphrase
  • Allow the facilitator to comprehend and verify what is being said.
  • Provide psychological safety not favoring anyone. 
  • Use throughout your work. For example, “This is what you say, did I hear it right?”
  • Reduce vague, opinion comments to get specific feedback
  • Spur innovation, make some space for it.
  • Listen to understand, not to agree or argue.
  • Verify what you heard (objective).Stay neutral and do not insert your ideas. Do not favor any over others.
  • Use conditional language; maybe, could be, wondering if.
  1. Persist & Explore
  • Many discussions end agreed upon, but there may be many other ideas that are missed.
  • HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)
  • Loud, assertive, aggressive wins
  • Limits inclusivity, creativity, learning, innovation, and teaming.
  1. Slow Down to Speed Up
  • Solve the right problem before you start solutioning.
  • True understanding leaves to both collaboration and efficiency.
  • Innovation does not equal incremental improvements

Visual Thinking Strategies Resources

  1. Harvard Project Zero
  2. Watch How visual thinking enhances the way we see and understand
  3. Online Courses

Learn other effective ways to give and receive feedback by booking a 1:1 session with our mentor. Receiving and giving feedback is equally important to improve our career growth and development. Through providing feedback as effectively as possible, people will not only be able to understand what needs to be improved and what has already been agreed upon, but they will also have an opportunity to express their opinions and be heard. 🙌🏻

Kimberly Morrow (ADPList Mentor) 
Director, Strategic Enterprise Learning Consultant - UX Design at Fidelity Investments
ADPList account: 
LinkedIn account: 

Editor and Writer:
Farah Radzi
Content Marketer and Writer at ADPList
LinkedIn account: