The power of images in communication

Craig Browne

A LONG TIME business friend of mine, Stephen Kozikci, has also been a long time CCS user. He consults with businesses to help them find ways to grow and develop from his company, Gordian Business.

When he was writing his book about persuasive communication and presentation (Persuading For Results) Stephen came to me to talk about the use of images generally in persuasive communication and also to ask permission to include mention of the CCS in his book. We were proud to be included of course, and pleased to offer the benefits of our experience with images as a tool to improve communication (you can read a PDF of the chapter we ended up in here: The Interactive Image).

During our discussions Stephen shared an anecdote on the use of the CCS told to him by a business colleague that he would be including in the book. His colleague, Vicky Karatasas, had used the CCS in a leadership training session in Japan, while working for State Street. To quote Stephen, “The story illustrates the power of images to provoke thought, to break down barriers between people and to promote communication”. I thought it was so good, that I asked Stephen’s permission to reproduce it for you here:

“A picture paints a thousand words”   [Vicky Karatasas]

The workshops and presentations that I gave in Japan were very important, from a business perspective. So, I developed a backup plan before I went to Japan, in case my initial questions about personal and group performance did not work. In the first workshop, when my questions were met with awkward silence, I realised I had been right to prepare a more creative ice-breaker.

I introduced my creative ice-breaker by distributing CCS cards to all the participants. I asked everyone to go through their pack and select a card that depicted something unique about themselves. After several minutes, I asked each participant to put their cards on the table and stand up and walk around the room, viewing everyone else’s cards. I then asked each person to pick a card that had been selected by one of their peers and share with the group what they interpreted it to mean.

One employee had selected a card with an image of an empty baseball diamond. His peer, who was asked to share his interpretation of the card, said the card probably represented the person’s love of baseball. As it turned out, the card represented something completely different. The employee who had selected the card explained the image represented his inability to get his colleagues to work together, like a team. Sometimes it felt like they were not even on the same field! As the employee talked about this, he referred to the image, extending the metaphor to include reference to himself as the coach and his boss as the referee. Other employees commented that customers are actually referees, because the customer has the final say on the success of the team. This provoked discussion about the different pressures and systems of accountability faced by the employees.

As I watched, I realised the metaphor inspired by the image allowed the employee to talk about his work indirectly. it also captured the attention of his colleagues and prompted them to draw comparisons with their own experience.

When I asked this individual to then share with the group what his biggest challenge was with his team, he quickly reached for a different card. It was an image of a marching band. He laughed and said he wanted to have all his team members marching to the same tune. Another colleague laughed and said, “I don’t! I am tone deaf, so it would be a disaster.” Everyone laughed. One by one, the participants shared their interpretations of the various images in a nonthreatening, constructive atmosphere.

Since then, I have used the cards many times with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. I think the creative use of images can break down barriers more effectively than most other methods.”

If you want to find out more about the book:

Posted in

Craig Browne

Craig is co-founder of CCS Corporation, co-developer of the CCS, a designer, educator, product developer and award-winning game maker.