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Use the power of images to broaden the discussion



Draw on the power of images to encourage your group to come up with lots of new ideas in a limited time frame.

This exercise is based on quickly alternating between the use of visual and verbal skills. Speed and spontaneity are key, as they enable our imagination to overtake our rational thoughts.

It’s about encouraging the broadest possible reflection on a given topic and going beyond what we already know, with the help of images.


Time needed: 15 minutes to an hour


Before the session, gather together a selection of images and photographs (no words allowed!). You can download them from online image banks or cut them out of magazines or catalogues. Don’t bother searching for particularly nice photos, but prioritise collecting a wide variety.

Key steps

  1. Set up
    Prepare several areas that can each accommodate 3 to 4 people. Position a flip chart in the centre of each area with the topic written out clearly and briefly (prepare this in advance). Finally, spread twenty or so images face down around the flip chart, along with Post-it notes and something to write with.

Example topics:

  1. Ask the participants to split into sub-groups of 3 or 4 people in the designated areas.
  2. Give them a few minutes to work on the following instruction individually in silence: “Turn over an image and take note of all the related ideas that spring to mind. When you’re out of ideas, go to the next image and so on until the time is up.” During this phase, each participant keeps their Post-it notes to themselves.

For example, if the topic is “Improving the reputation of a tool amongst its target audience” and you turn over an image of a lemon, several ideas may spring to mind, such as: revitalise the project, inject some “freshness”, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. And those are your 3 Post-it notes.
On to the next image!

  1. Sharing of ideas within each sub-group
    Invite the participants of each sub-group to come together and organise their ideas into groups, sticking similar ideas in clusters on the flip chart around the central subject

    To help them, you could suggest that they take it in turns to present a Post-it note and if another member of the group has had a similar idea, these ideas are grouped together. Once there are no more similar ideas, they can then move onto a new one.

The participants must then give each group of ideas a title. Depending on how much time you have, you could also suggest they choose one image to illustrate each group of ideas.

  1. Sharing of ideas with the whole group
    Bring all the sub-groups together and ask each of them to share their titles (and images if applicable).
  2. Lessons learnt
    Ask the participants about how they view the topic now they’ve completed the task. For example:

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