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Draw Toast

You can use the Draw Toast exercise to introduce people to the concepts of visual thinking, working memory, mental models and/or systems thinking. This workshop helps people engage with each other and think visually - it's a fantastic mapping exercise with focus on building a systems model of an important challenge, ie: clarifying your vision, improving cash flow, figuring out the next bold challenge. Bonus, it’s fun!

  1. Step 1:


    Get the ingredients: felt markers, thick paper stock, sticky notes or index cards, and masking tape.

    Stage your room with tables, chairs, and a clear wall where you can post your work. It's important to have enough room for all participants to see everyone's creations.

  2. Step 2:


    In your invitation, set expectations that your meeting will focus on building a systems model of an important challenge - ie: clarifying your vision, improving cash flow, figuring out the next bold challenge. And you will begin with a simple design exercise.

  3. Step 3:


    Run the meeting informally. Hand out markers and paper to everyone and ask people to draw a picture of how to make toast.

    Give them 2-3 minutes.

    You may want to play toast-making music...

  4. Step 4:


    Have each person hold up their drawing for all to see. (Let the laughter start) Have the group place their drawings on a large wall space and comment on the drawings; pointing out which are simple and complex, which have people and which don't.

  5. Step 5:


    Play the TED DrawToast video and let it explain the big ideas about systems thinking.

    After it plays, ask the group how many nodes they drew and what kind?

  6. Step 6:

    Draw Your Challenge

    Have people draw a picture how to improve what what they are working on as a group.

    This can include almost anything, strategic or tactical. See 'Draw Questions' for inspiration.


    Tactical -What is your essential offering? -How will you delight your customers? -How will you stand out and win? -Where will you invest to grow? -What do you stand for? -How will you track and measure success?

    Strategic -Where are you creating value in your current business process? -What is your approach to improving value? Why? -How will you attract more and better customers? -How will you respond to change more nimbly? -How will your team work better

    Make sure people draw individually and in silence.

  7. Step 7:


    Have people work at tables. showing and explaining their diagrams.

    Compare and contrast the diagrams and see what is similar and different between them.

    What links and nodes are common?

  8. Step 8:


    If you have the time, have the group develop a systems diagram of the challenges using sticky notes and drawn links.

    Building on the previous individual diagrams, have groups of 4-6 people create nodes and links to to solve the challenges.

  9. Step 9:


    Take time to reflect on what has emerged.

    Reflection ideas (and come up with your own): What do you see? What do you sense? What's emerging? What do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing? By when? What else?

    You could use the Who/What/When Matrix if you have identified actionable items.