Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of professionals at Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor located in the Chicago suburbs. A friend of mine is the leader of their “Women’s Initiatives for Networking and Success” group, one of many organizations for Northrop employees. This friend had heard about my book, Being Visual, and thought there might be some valuable insights I could share that would align with their mission as a professional development group. I happily agreed and focused the presentation on a foundational aspect of Being Visual; the nuances of left and right-brain thinking and the way it influences learning and performance.
While I understood the impact of visual-spatial thinking on science, technology, engineering and math students, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into a group of professional engineers, project managers and software engineers. Though I should have known better, I went in expecting to see a serious left-brain bias, but instead was delighted to see the level of visuals used in their software and training tools. My friend, a project manager, translates complex processes into manageable action steps. She explained that the technology tool she uses reflects the intricate series of steps, visually. My sister, who has worked at Northrop for years, creates training materials for her department and to onboard new employees. She always includes screen shots and plenty of visuals because as she shared, “people have to see it to learn it.” Another trainer shared that no matter what she’s been told, experience has shown her things have to include visuals to be successful.
I enjoyed sharing more about the nuances and value of being visual-spatial and ways it impacts our learning and thinking abilities. And it was impressive to see the way visuals are being used in the workplace to make communication more successful. Being visual and creative is not exclusive to the arts. As will be the focus of Wednesday’s blog, it’s a way of thinking that is critical to science, technology, engineering and math around the world.