How do you make Rich Picture Soup?

The truth is you make "Rich Picture Soup" to your own recipe, using your own ingredients and it isn't ready until you like everything about it.

How do you make Rich Picture Soup?

The great thing about a Rich Picture is that it’s all on one page. Nothing is hidden over on the next page or on the next PowerPoint slide. The “where we came from”, “where we are” and “where we need to be” can all be clearly mapped out. Not only that but the “why?” and the “how?” can be shown too. Benefits and hazards, waymarkers and hurdles, inputs and outcomes can go into the pot. Hard data, actual targets and mission statements add substance to the mix. “What we need to do” is a common ingredient but so is “what we will no longer do”. Humour, anecdote and real-life events can spice up the picture with the human element. It’s not just about top-down communication. Hearing the voices from the C-suite to the shop-floor and including them in the recipe can only aid buy-in across the whole enterprise. “At last, somebody is listening to us” is a phrase I have heard more than once. “That was fun!” is one I hear a lot. The conversations had along the way are often punctuated by laughter, even if the subject is as serious as Cancer, or the nuclear deterrent, or the price of tinned goods. I am frequently asked to include “in-jokes” and if they are in good taste and add to the story then into then pot they go. On one occasion the client team were sure they wanted to include a joke at their Boss’s expense. I insisted on a vote and the show of hands carried the motion even after I pointed out that they could be fired, whereas I would just be not hired again. The joke survived into the next pencil iteration, but to my relief never made it to the final artwork. Nobody was fired and I was hired again. Sometimes leaving out the spice* helps the recipe!

Death by Powerpoint

Avoid “Death by PowerPoint”

Some Rich Pictures include the results of huge fact-finding exercises, staff questionnaires, one-to-one interviews with stakeholders, customer surveys. Half-cooked Rich Pictures (in the form of coloured-in pencil roughs) can be shared with hundreds of team members in order to engage the client organisation’s “hive mind”. The time-cost of collating the feedback needs to be measured against the benefits (team-building, buy-in, new ideas) but it’s the right recipe for some organisations. The pot is big enough and the recipe is flexible enough to contain all that and more. Other times I have made a Rich Picture with input with a single person. If that person has a clear vision to communicate it works perfectly well. The iterative nature of the Rich Picture process means that the picture matures over time. The advantage of this method (and perhaps where the soup metaphor is a bit thin) is that it’s easy to take out any elements of the picture that aren’t required. “Too much garlic? no problem, it’s gone!”.

Occasionally I am told “it’s all looking a bit complicated! Can we leave something out?”. This is an important moment in the process, a sign that the soup has come to the boil. Very rarely something is found that is surplus to the picture (great, a bit less for me to draw!) but often as not more content is added. It has become a truism that a Rich picture starts complicated and gets more complicated. I’m fine with that, it’s a complex World. A global digital transformation project is never going to be encapsulated in a haiku. It should be remembered that a Rich Picture is not a puzzle for the unprepared viewer to decipher, but an aid to a facilitator/storyteller to get their messages into the brains of the audience/participants and to get those messages to stick. Viewing other people’s Rich Pictures with no facilitation is only going to be partially succesful. To have one bespoke-made for you is a different kettle of fish, like having a Saville Row suit made and tweaked until it fits perfectly! I can’t speak from experience about Saville Row suit unfortunately; it’s the pictures that are Rich, not me!

A bespoke fit

It’s a fact that combining words and pictures is much more effective than either on their own for teaching any subject. Today’s generation are much more receptive to visual learning but any age group will understand an idea more quickly if they can see it. Better still if the participants roll up their sleeves and get involved in the preparation. A Rich Picture Broth can never have “too many cooks”!

No drawing skill required.

So if you are feeling a touch hypothermic in this new Winter of discontent why not reinvigorate yourself, your colleagues and your organisation by cooking up some Rich Picture soup with me?

(All images taken from my “Rich Picture of Rich Pictures” created with and for JA Consulting in 2017. One of very few pictures I can show in its entirety.)

Rich Pictures frame the conversation space.




(* The “spice” was Ginger!)