Raise your hand if you have dabbled in the world of IKEA DIY. For some of us it can be a humbling, and in fact total meltdown experience. The instructions for IKEA products usually come as pictures without text and for someone like Temple Grandin who describes herself as a visual thinker, as opposed to a verbal thinker, it all makes perfect sense. She posits that IKEA actually bought Task Rabbit in order to help more verbal thinkers like English majors put together their bookshelves.
Grandin is known world-wide for her seminal work with the welfare of domestic animals and as a scientific researcher in the field of autism and the ways our brains process information. Grandin, who is autistic, describes herself as a photorealist object thinker, which allows her to intuitively design and problem solve.
In her most recent book, Visual Thinking, she discusses how visual thinkers comprise a much larger part of the population than we think. In a world heavily weighted towards verbal thinkers visual thinkers often find themselves sidelined. Not only does this cause real suffering in individuals, be they autistic or not, their contributions as innovators and problem solvers are lost to a world desperately in need of both. Interestingly, I have had a number of physician clients who have found that using vision boards, which may be totally pictorial or a combination of pictures and text, resonate with them in ways missing from simple text. They experienced a new kind of freedom in being able to reconnect to what was a more intuitive way of thinking, and discover more creative ways of addressing their issues.
Temple Grandin’s words could not be more timely, educational and inspirational in urging all of us to recognize that we need all kinds of thinkers to foster innovation and solve our twenty-first century challenges.