Impact360 has begun sharing problem-solving tools with our partners. In early February, we were invited to showcase our Storytelling for Inclusive Problem-Solving Workshop to our partners at the National Weather Center, National Weather Service, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

Our Storytelling for Inclusive Problem-Solving Workshop helps researchers and practitioners learn about the powers of storytelling and visual depictions to improve problem-solving effectiveness. But why use storytelling and visual thinking to develop these skills?

For communicating complex information or facilitating collaboration, a good story is what helps bring listeners and readers together towards better understanding and productivity. In this case, a good storyteller can create empathy with characters in a way that builds empathy among listeners or readers.  When we relate to the characters more closely, their problems can become our problems, allowing us to understand each other and collaborate more effectively.

Visual thinking is the process of thinking and collaborating using tools and methods that leverage humans’ most powerful capability for understanding: visualization. 75% of our brain’s sensory neurons are dedicated to visual processing. Our brain retains pictures at far higher rates than words. Visual thinking is not an artistic expression or entertainment. It is a language for thinking, communicating, and problem-solving. Anyone can draw well enough to do visual thinking.

During our full-day workshop in Norman, I was able to witness many revelations, and I’d like to share a few.

  • Storytelling and visual thinking actually work: the use of stories and visuals forces a problem-solver to focus on the critical aspects of their problem and cut through the clutter. With our minds continually firing on different important topics through the course of a day, it is compelling to understand the source of a problem quickly.
  • Researchers and Practitioners have superpowers that the problem-solving world needs: while some of us identify as researchers and others as practitioners, the fact is, very few wicked problems can be solved without us working together. Our workshop allows participants to build empathy for other disciplines, incorporate them into their work, and be placed on equally uncomfortable, but transformative footing.
  • Storytelling is only the beginning: This workshop is intended to provide some fundamentals to problem-solving, but solving that problem begins after the workshop. We work collaboratively with our partners to activate their stories and turn them into feasible, fundable projects.

Over the next several months, we will continue to pilot this workshop in places like Portland, Oregon, Dallas, Texas, and New England. We look forward to fully incorporating it into our regular service offering here at Impact360. We hope we can coach you in how storytelling and inclusive problem-solving can enhance your job performance.


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Reducing natural hazard impacts and disaster risk requires better communication and collaboration between researchers and practitioners. We want to hear from you: What are the challenges and victories you encounter with integrating research and practice in your work?

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