Three Horizons: A Strategic Visioning Tool

Three Horizons: A Strategic Visioning Tool

I went along to the Facilitators’ Network here in Edinburgh and learned about a strategic visioning tool called Three Horizons.

It’s a tool that allows us to imagine what an ideal future (H3) may look like.

The following diagram gives us an opportunity to reflect on three co-existing horizons and the interplay between them.

H1 represents the status quo. When we ask ourselves what H1 looks like we consider what’s happening right now and within that we consider what keeps things going and needs to stay. Conversely we also discuss what we need to let go of and what no longer serves us.

H2 represents innovation. It’s an entrepreneurial space. It’s about trying things out and prototyping.
H2- may look new and different but it’s really just a version of H1.
H2+ takes us into H3 (future) space and asks the question ‘What can we try?’

In H3 we explore further what this imagined future looks like.

By exploring the dynamic of the H1, H2 and H3 horizons we begin see possibilities and opportunities for change and we imagine what that change looks like within a safe space.

On the day we did a practice run of the tool under the topic ‘Future City’. We were tasked to break off into groups and go around the city taking photos of things we imagined may be H1, H2 and H3 Future Edinburgh. It was great fun and an interesting way to collaborate, discuss and imagine our ideal Future City.

Here’s a photo our group took that represents H3 – we were going for ‘playfulness’ ( whilst reflecting the future pedestrianised George Street of our imagination…)

Image courtesy of Sabina Strachan

I love learning about strategic visioning tools as it’s an area I work a lot in. I also love blending and weaving different tools to find the right fit for my client. If you would like to have a chat with me about planning for you or your team’s future, get in touch via email or give me a call on 0131 554 6551.

Thanks and all the best,

Case Study: Simple Graphics in the NHS

Case Study: Simple Graphics in the NHS

We’re speaking with Nicola Roy, Learning and Development Technologist at NHS National Services Scotland, who attended Secrets of Simple Graphics back in April 2019.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
I was motivated to attend after taking part in introductory sessions run by Emer. I’m always looking for ways to develop my facilitation skills and find new ways to engage participants.

How are you using what you’ve learned?
I recently ran a skills development event for facilitators in my organisation. I used this as an opportunity to try out what I’d learned. Instead of using slides, I created a series of hand drawn posters. By doing this I was able to practice using different layouts, icons and lettering. It was great to have a goal in mind and while testing out different ideas.

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?
I was most proud of the agenda roadmap I created for the event. I had always wanted to be able to create one but didn’t think I had the knowledge or skills to do it. I was delighted to receive so many positive responses.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
As a facilitator, it’s great to do something different and have the chance to be creative. And it’s worth the effort when you see the positive impact it has on participant engagement.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Go for it! You’ll learn lots on the day and the follow up activities and support will help build your confidence. It’s also really good fun!

Nicola has over 20 years’ experience designing and delivering a range learning of interventions within the private and public sectors. Her most recent experience has been redesigning the management development programme for her organisation. All artwork in this article has been created by Nicola.

Feel inspired by Nicola’s experience? Book your place now for the next Secrets of Simple Graphics course.

Case Study: Creating outstanding training

Case Study: Creating outstanding training

Today we’re speaking with Daryl Watson, Coach, Trainer and Facilitator, who attended Secrets of Simple Graphics back in September 2019.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
About 12 months ago, I attended an associate selection day, to work with a new company down in London. I was selected by the company to represent them, but there was one candidate’s trial workshop that stood out from the rest – he used simple graphics to bring his workshop to life. I knew my skills needed a bit of refreshing, so I hunted for a workshop in Scotland that could help me and after a bit of searching – found Emer.

How are you using what you’ve learned?
Since attending Emer’s workshop on graphics, I have run at least 30 workshops around Europe from a few hours to a few days, from 3 to 300 people. In each session, I endeavour to use simple visual graphics to enhance the learning. I create flipcharts with simple images and also encourage participants to draw too. I have learned lots of different simple graphics and images. Google is a great help! You’ve got to give it a go! Some of my images aren’t the best, but I am happy to keep trying and learning.

What kind of feedback are you getting?
Even though some days my images are really good and other days they could be better, feedback is positive, especially when I encourage participants to draw too!

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
It has definitely improved the learning for the participants. Taking someone on a visual journey enhances the overall learning – always!

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
It is a no brainer – just do it! You certainly won’t regret it, you’ll have fun and I’m keen to go on a refresher now just to enhance my skills even more.

Daryl specialises in management and executive coaching, leadership, talent and sales development, plus facilitation of workshops all around the globe, face to face and virtually. In addition, I design and deliver bespoke sessions working in the public, private and third sectors.

Feel inspired by Daryl’s story? Want to stand out from the crowd? Itching to get creative? Remember to book your place for the next Secrets of Simple Graphics course.

Case Study: Emily Bryson, ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer

This week we’re speaking with Emily Bryson, Self-Employed ELT Materials Developer and Lecturer at City of Glasgow College, who has attended Secrets of Simple Graphics.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
Emer came to the college to deliver a short training session last year.  I was instantly hooked and wanted to learn more.  I teach English to non-native speakers, so I knew that the ability to illustrate language points and vocabulary quickly and visually would be really helpful.

I also deliver teacher training sessions and write educational materials.  I knew that using graphics would help these stand out from the crowd and be memorable and captivating. 

How are you using what you’ve learned?
I now use what I’ve learned in many ways.  In class, I illustrate vocabulary by quickly drawing a simple graphic on the whiteboard and I support my students to take sketch notes.

One of my main reasons for doing the course was to jazz up my presentations.   I’ve now updated my teacher training slides, taking out the stock photos and replacing them with much more interesting and relevant hand drawn graphics. 
At the last ESOL conference at the college, I drew some icons to create a space for people to leave their feedback in an interactive way. This went down really well.

It’s also been helpful in my writing work.  I can now confidently illustrate any artwork briefs with a quick sketch and when I sent my latest book off to the publisher, I included a couple of sketches to demonstrate an activity.  

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?

My publisher really appreciated the sketches I made for my latest book, 50 ways to Teach Life Skills.  It helped them to visualise exactly what should be included.  In the end we actually we decided to include my illustrations because they are authentic and simple for teachers to copy.

The slides I created using simple graphics went down really well at a recent conference.  I think the participants noticed that they were by no means perfect, but that they got the point across.  I got the feeling that this reassured them and that they’d try to recreate similar images by themselves in their classrooms.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work?
I think it has given me the confidence to communicate in a different way, and it’s inspired others to do the same.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Book it! Asap! It will change your life.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Emer is a very enthusiastic and supportive trainer.  Her training session was one of the best I’ve ever been on.  She gave us all lots of time to practise and the post-training online support was invaluable and very motivating.

Emily Bryson is an ELT materials writer, teacher trainer and ESOL Lecturer. She has written digital and print materials for a number of publishers including Macmillan Education, The British Council and Language Fuel.  She has been teaching ESOL at City of Glasgow College since 2007.  Her first book, the A-Z of ESOL, is out now and her second book 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills: Tips for ESL/EFL Teachers is coming soon from Wayzgoose Press. All artwork in this blog post has been created by Emily.

Feel inspired by Emily’s experience? Book now for Secrets of Simple Graphics, September 27th.

Case Study: Sharing your drawings in a professional context

This week we’re speaking with Gillian Christie, Senior Investment Writer at Baillie Gifford, who has attended Visual Thinking for Business.

What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address?
From a purely personal perspective, I was inspired by my autistic son. (Look our for a further piece from Gillian in 2019 on the topic of how she uses visual thinking with her son)

So, on the one hand, I hoped I would I would pick up something that would be useful for my personal life, but on the other, I was keen to see how visual thinking could be applied in a work context. Though to be honest, I was a little sceptical that it could, unless you were an artist! I am happy to have been proved wrong.

How are you using what you’ve learned? 
I am a writer, so my natural inclination is to think and communicate in words. Prior to taking this course, with little in the way of artistic ability, there was no way I would have even considered sharing anything I had drawn with anyone in a professional context.

That has changed! Not my artistic ability, per se, but my confidence in sharing hand-drawn graphics with my colleagues has. Within work, I have used visual thinking to brighten up agendas, to create visuals for meetings, for my own personal note taking in lectures and to create an outline of an article I was ghost writing.

One of the highlights so far was a follow up exercise for the course which challenged us to use visual thinking to problem solve. Each month, I compile a monthly summary, which I distribute widely by email. I knew I wasn’t happy with it, but I couldn’t articulate what the problem was and therefore I was struggling to see how I could make it better. The process of drawing it out really clarified what the issues were – too much information and no visual hierarchy to guide the reader – and so helped me come up with a solution as to how I could make the summary better.

What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting?
The feedback has been amazing. When I sent out my first agenda with visuals on it, I got an email back from one of the recipients which simply said “Gillian, you are awesome!” It also seemed to up the number of people who subsequently attended the meeting.

One of the first things I shared was a plan for an article I was ghostwriting. I was nervous as to how people would react, particularly given they were all senior people. I needn’t have worried. Someone emailed me back to say they loved my notes and another shared that she too used visual thinking and found it very helpful.

What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking in your work?
First, it has helped me get back in touch with my creativity. Even the most mundane tasks seem a little less mundane when you add a picture. I’ve found it a great way to take notes and formulate my thinking. You can’t draw a picture for every word or sentence, so you are trying to pick out the important points as you go along, which helps keep things concise and more memorable. It feels like there is a little bit more of me and my personality in my work.

As a result, it has raised my confidence levels enormously. It can feel quite vulnerable to share your drawings in a professional context. It’s a big unknown. Will they be appalled at my drawing skills? Will they think I have been wasting my time? Thankfully, everyone has been very positive. In a way, my lack of drawing skills has been a big plus, because it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and it makes you feel that if you can do this, you can do anything.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
The most important thing I would say to anyone like me who felt that they couldn’t draw is that you can. If you can write, then you are able to make marks and shapes on a piece of paper. That’s all you need. There are loads of resources freely available on the internet that show you how or what to draw and there are plenty of symbols that you can simply copy until you feel confident about coming up with your own.  

Gillian is a Senior Investment Writer at Baillie Gifford. She writes and sub-edits intellectual capital on a wide range of investment matters. All artwork in this article has been created by Gillian.

Case Study: Was Gillian simply missing the artistic gene?

This week we’re talking with Gillian Frame of Reframe Solutions. Gillian attended the Secrets of Simple Graphics open course back in March. 
(All images featured here are Gillian’s work.)

‘Gillian, what was happening before you went on the training? 

I am blessed with a very artistic sister and husband – both of them have what I considered to be a fantastic ability to draw & be creative. I assumed that I was just ‘missing’ that gene and never felt confident that I could ‘draw anything properly’ so I just didn’t bother. I sometimes tried to spice up flipcharts with a border or a smiley face, but I was so hesitant with attempting anything else that if I did try, it looked just like what it was – half-hearted.

I met Emer at one of Julie Drybrough’s Facilitation Shindigs and thought what she described was fascinating, but not for me, as I was beyond help. However, I saw the programme advertised on Eventbrite and after reading the description, thought I should give myself another try.

How did the training meet your needs? 
I arrived at the start of the day with an open mind, and a slight amount of scepticism that I would be able to make a significant improvement in my skills (that wasn’t a lack of confidence in the programme or Emer, more of a fixed mindset about my ability to improve). From the first moment, Emer put me at ease and made it easy for me to ‘just try’. I found that the more my confidence grew, the better my attempts became – my tentative pen strokes became more deliberate and I realised that even if I had to ‘fake’ it, just putting something on paper with confidence made it look better.

How are you using what you’ve learned? 
After the programme, with the encouragement of the online support, I started by building a habit of drawing something every day. Some weeks I picked something I tend to use regularly and just drew it repetitively until I felt that I had established some form of muscle memory (I have so many drawings of light bulbs!), other weeks I copied an image that meant something to me (I’m still trying to master being able to draw ‘The Little Prince’ from one of my favourite books). I’m on a separate mission to reduce the amount of paper I use so I’ve been doing a lot of drawing and sketching using my iPad and iPencil – I find it a great way to play with images.

At a learning programme last week, I found myself preparing flipcharts that included several images, all of which just seem to come naturally, and actually looked like the thing I was trying to represent. OK, the helicopter might have needed a little bit of a verbal description, but I thought it looked pretty good!

What kind of results are you getting?
I feel more confident in my abilities and finally feel like I can be more congruent when I encourage participants to use images rather than words when completing some of the learning activities.


What kind of feedback are you getting?
Having prepared a welcome flipchart for the programme last week, I was delighted when a participant looked at the board and exclaimed “wow that’s great – and I see you’ve drawn yourself and Heiner (my fellow faciliator).
I’ve also had feedback from other facilitators I work with, the other day, one of them commented – ‘I wish I was as artistic as you’ – believe me, I looked around to see who he was talking to!
What would you say has been the overall impact of using graphics in your work?
I’d say that I feel better able to put across points and make the work that I do more interesting. The quality of my doodles has significantly improved too.
Most though, I’d say it was a great reminder for me of a few things – you can always learn to do things you didn’t think you could, it’s always worth challenging your self-image and the messages you tell yourself, and that if you want to do something and get better at it, you need to practice it regularly.

What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training?
Just do it (obviously I’d add a green coloured ‘tick’)! Whatever your level (or believed level) of artistic ability, you’ll grow skills and confidence.

As a professional coach and facilitator, Gillian spends her time working with individuals and organisations to amplify their natural strengths, and to identify and eliminate barriers to achieve personal and professional success and fulfilment. Find out more about Gillian’s work by visiting

Bookings are now being taken for Secrets of Simple Graphics 2019. More info here >> To run this course inhouse as a one or two day programme please get in touch