Art Marman, Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and editor of the Journal Cognitive Science, recently wrote an interesting piece in the Harvard Business Review on The illusion of exploratory depth or unexpected gaps in our knowledge – things we are sure we know or understand, but when it comes down to the crunch – have little idea. He goes on to explain the detrimental challenges this lack of real understanding can have on business, where everyone nods politely and knowingly but actually have vastly differing ideas – if any, of what the concept or term at hand actually means.
Marman adds, “no matter the scale, discovering your explanatory gaps is essential for aspiring innovators. An undiagnosed gap in knowledge means you might not fully understand a problem. That can hinder innovative solutions.”
But what happens when diagnosing gaps in employee understanding begins to look like a time consuming occupation or even worse – embarrassing for those who might be expected to show what they don’t know?
An interesting strategy that can ensure valuable business time is not wasted on misconstrued or non-existent beliefs is to use Purposeful Creative Activity (PCA); a process where drawn images and clear directives are used to meet goal directive objectives. PCA provides a flexible and diverse communication tool that can be used to share, process or clarify work-related issues. The visual nature of the activity allows topics to be made ‘concrete’ so they can be collectively seen, explored and understood. Not only does the process augment verbal language, the images can also be used to trigger unconsciously held connections and insights.
Providing a very simple PCA directive such as ‘draw how you see the term ‘streamlined’ (the example used by Marman) allows employees to focus of the aspects of the term they understand without over-exposing themselves to highlight aspects that they don’t. Also, because images operate on an unconscious level they provide a communication tools that can be more memorable than words, while enabling the term to be ‘imprinted’ both verbal and visual levels and therefore more easily recalled.
Instead of an activity that diagnoses gaps in knowledge (an approach clearly ensconced in the medical/illness model of intervention), PCA proactively facilitates an activity which instead introduces a more positive ‘what we know collectively’ approach. Gaps in knowledge are quickly transformed with an approach that is not only enjoyable for participants, but also time effective and efficient.