Get to Know Kevin M. Dulle, Visual Translator 

In the realm of visual translation and facilitation, Kevin M. Dulle is a trailblazer, adept at helping individuals, small businesses, and large organizations ‘see’ their goals with clarity. Through his innovative approach, Kevin transforms abstract concepts into tangible visual artifacts, guiding clients towards understanding and action. In this exclusive ‘MG Meets’ interview, we explore Kevin’s journey, techniques, and the transformative impact of visual communication in today’s business landscape. Get ready to be inspired by Kevin’s unique approach to problem-solving and strategic planning!

Can you tell us about a particularly challenging project you’ve worked on as a Visual Facilitator, and how you navigated it?

One particularly challenging project was with organizations that their efforts to get refocused were failing. In this situation, I needed to align the thinking of both staff and volunteers with a single vision of who they were and why they existed. I used visual facilitation to help them rediscover and see collectively their true purpose as a non-profit organization. 

By seeing all their obstacles, challenges and goals that they identified on a single canvas, the collective group could visualise how their individual purpose aligned as the organization’s purpose and begin to articulate that idea to others. 

How do you approach translating abstract concepts or ideas into tangible visual artifacts?

When translating abstract concepts or ideas into a tangible artifact, it is necessary to rely on metaphors and visual elements that are relatable and quickly identifiable to everyone involved. In addition, the images need to be illustrated simply and clearly so that concepts are approachable. 

Abstract ideas are fundamentally intangible and intangibles can be easily misinterpreted by the listener or reader. Having relatable images can clarify and organize ideas so that others understand and can act appropriately.

Can you walk us through your journey of becoming a Visual Facilitator, founder of Wonder Mint and The thINKing Canvas?

Like most paths in life, the journey to become a visual translator and facilitator was as windy as any path can get. I believe my journey actually began back in 1979 while attending school. 

Having a slight reading disability caused information retention a challenge. I found myself drawing small doodles alongside key information that would become mental triggers for recalling the information. What I didn’t know then is that this technique would play throughout my life, even at the moment I am writing this reply. 

Setting that idea aside, I furthered my education in Art and Architecture. The discipline of architecture and drafting provided me the ability to create in a conformed space, the page. It also provided a sense of logical flow, a skill that would play out later in my career and calling. In addition, architecture is all about problem-solving and puzzles. Something I enjoy solving. 

Throughout the course of my career, many problems arose that needed solving, both on the client side and internally with business departments. Each time I approached the challenge with my pen in hand and went doodling so that I and others could ‘See’ the issues, the components, and gaps that were creating the problem. 

During the 2009 recession, I faced the challenge of generating income amidst the economic downturn. Collaborating with a private equity professional, we devised a single-page graphic summarising business plans, birthing the idea of the thINKing Canvas. This innovation aimed to provide quick reference aids for complex information.

In 2010, I was brought back to the company I worked for prior to the recession after the president of the company happened to see one of my visual translation illustrations on social media.  He asked if this is something the company could use in client ideation sessions and with that, my role changed from production to visual strategist. Over the years I would perform as visual co-facilitator for various departments and businesses. I am expanding my skill set to provide visual translation work for conferences and meetings by capturing attendee comments and ideas. This allowed me to hone my skills as a listener, creative thinker, and to build a visual dictionary of metaphors. 

In 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity to become certified as an Experience Economy Expert and experience designer. This knowledge provided me the ability to elevate my graphic recording skill into that of an experience which elevated my ability to engage others in this method of facilitation. 

In 2023, I was informed my career with the company was being dissolved by the end of the year. A new problem arose, and the birth of Wonder Mint, a renaming of the thINKing Canvas. I now help others to ‘see’ their aspirations, problems or processes to align all stakeholders with a single vision, void of misunderstanding or agendas. In essence, I help them see so they can believe and achieve their goals. As I stated in the beginning, my path was a windy and twisted journey, that is still twisting and evolving.

How do you believe visual translation can transform business interactions and outcomes?

I believe visual translations transform businesses in a way information impacts knowledge. When you can see, truly see all aspects of your business, goals, or aspirations on a single page, the unseen relationships and gaps become evident and visual. The artifact becomes the map forward and everyone involved sees the same journey path and expectations. 

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of visual facilitation for small businesses?

The most important aspect of visual facilitation for a small business is best conveyed by an old saying, ‘You can’t read the label from inside the jar.’ Most people are too close to their problems. They can’t see beyond them. Using visual facilitation, I have the ability to help them see a bigger picture and identify even the smallest of issues that may be holding them back or the path ahead.

Can you give an example of a successful project you’ve worked on recently?

This is a tough question to identify as every project that uses visual facilitation has been successful in one form or another. One of my favourite projects is ongoing with a consultant who has gone from needing to see his business to becoming part of his business. I now create his consulting and workshop content as blank worksheet maps that he can help guide his clients by having them fill in the spaces with their doodles or ideas. They create their own path to success.

How do you tailor your approach when working with individuals versus small businesses or larger organizations?

Every client is unique and every problem or idea is unique, so the approach always begins at the end, the desired outcome no matter the scale of organization. 

By identifying the end goal or desired outcome, I am able to organize their ideas, and conversations within the framework of the visual translation canvas. The only things I modify are the various thinking activities I use to elicit key ideas and identify issues. 

What techniques do you use to help clients identify overlooked opportunities within their businesses?

Techniques to identify overlooked opportunities can get tricky depending on how misaligned the stakeholders are about the business. To be honest, there is always misalignment in stakeholders because everyone has a different perspective and perception of the business. 

The key is to have a library of methods and activities that act as tools to uncover these issues and begin the realignment process. Many people have referred to these activities as Dulle’s games. Games and activities that are designed to engage people and to reduce tensions and titles. 

My goal is to put everyone involved on an open and level field which allows the process of building trust to begin with both for me and for each other. This is an essential process in my technique of engaging the person and the mind.

Can you walk us through your process of guiding clients to ‘see’ a path to their goals?

One of my favourite techniques beyond the use of the big picture visual in guiding clients to ‘see’ their path, not just a path, is what I’ve come to call the ‘Future History’ exercise. 

I combine the visual mapping with a reverse process by starting at the goal or outcome and creating strategic milestones backwards along the way with each milestone as the trigger to the next milestone until the client is back at the present. 

Then I move them forward along the same timeline path that they just created to challenge them to consider the ‘Hurdles’ and ‘Turtles’ along the journey and create contingency plans accordingly. By breaking the path down into small elements, the ability to achieve smaller goals is approachable and measuring the progress is much easier.

How do you stay current with trends and developments in graphic design, experience design, and visual strategic planning?

Staying current is critical for me. With experience design, I am both certified experience expert and I educate others as a cofounder of the World Experience Organization with a core mission of making better experiences and experiences better. I am also currently the illustrator and collaborator with one of the co-authors of the Experience Economy book, B. Joseph Pine II for the past 6 years. 

As for visual strategic planning, keeping up with trends and developments, I am connected through various channels that provide me up-to-date information, and processes that are both failures and successes. You must be aware of both if you intend to guide and avoid pitfalls and disasters along the way. 

To keep up with graphic design, there are news outlets and groups that provide me with enough insight, but my style is very unique and I avoid making trendy changes and only focus on improvements.

As someone with extensive experience in guiding others towards their goals, what advice would you give for maintaining resilience and perseverance in the face of setbacks or obstacles?

Knowing this, change is constant. Outcomes can shift. External forces are always in effect, no matter how focused you may become. Be adaptable when needed and be resistant to others who would tell you differently when they have no skin in the game. Your aspirations are yours, find a path to them and always be you!

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when embarking on a visual strategy or redesign initiative?

The largest and most dangerous pitfall I have witnessed is mimicry. Every business, venture, or intention is different. Wanting to do something that others are doing without clearly knowing why, can be worse than doing nothing at all. When Starbucks began becoming newsworthy, people wanted to emulate their success or design for themselves, without understanding the whole picture of their journey and the purpose of the company. Align your process by your intentions and purpose, not others.

How do you measure the success of your visual strategy interventions

I measure success by a very simple statement I hear on occasions, “Now I can see it.” As I like to share, my motto is ‘Dream it. See it so that others can believe it and help you achieve it.’ Success is seeing when a client completes their map and all agree that this is the journey they decide to take.

Can you share a memorable experience where your visual facilitation significantly impacted a client’s understanding or decision-making process?

The most memorable experience was with a non-profit organization that was challenged with having a clear vision of who they were and why they existed. 

After the session was completed the group were full of smiles and the area was filled with energy. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was dropping off the digital copy of the visual translation, that the CEO asked me to walk around and see something incredible. 

The ‘Why’ statement that the group had generated was posted at every workstation and cubicle throughout the building. 

The Real impact was that everyone had hand-written the statement and placed it in their space the next day without any request from management. The staff and volunteers embraced the collective purpose and made it their own.

What advice would you give to someone looking to incorporate more visual thinking into their approach to problem-solving or strategic planning?

What you can’t see, you can’t measure or fix! No house is built without a plan and no journey begins without a map. Utilising visual thinking and visual recording as a strategic tool makes the idea tangible and real. Visuals help reveal unseen connections and relationships that normally are overlooked in text or verbal communication. There is power in seeing!

What excites you most about the potential impact of visual facilitation on businesses and organizations in the years to come?

Acceptance! More and more of our world is returning to the use of visuals in our daily lives to enhance the spoken or written word. Visuals are a language that crosses barriers faster than any other. It is why we use visuals in learning, storytelling, and information sharing. 

People ‘see’ and understand information faster when expressed or combined in visuals. Just look at your phone or computer. Visuals inform us faster about which apps do what, where we need to go, and warn us about what not to do.  

Associating information visually has fallen out of the boardrooms of business, maybe, because executives thought it too childish or simple, but, in fact, visuals have always been the greatest tool to communicate and convey information so others can understand and act upon that information. It’s time for businesses to see what they can’t.

Besides your work, what are some hobbies or interests that you’re truly passionate about?

I have always been passionate about art and creating art. Art is a great release of creativity and a powerful way to deal with the challenges of the day. My art has manifested itself as illustrations, woodworking, costume design, prototype design, sculptures and even game design. Art is expression and storytelling all in one. Art can teach us about ourselves, it can guide us through traumatic situations, it can help heal us in our darkest days, and it can guide us along a journey.

What I am most passionate about is helping others grow and become successful in their endeavours. Maybe it’s the idea of serving others for a greater good, but there is fulfilment in serving others.

What’s one travel destination on your bucket list that’s not typically found in travel guides, and what intrigues you about it?

There is a small town or village in southern Japan where the old arts and craftsman had created that a younger generation are beginning to embrace. They are revitalising traditional crafts of their ancestors and embracing that a business and passion can be the same and that chasing money may not be the best measure of personal wealth. The spirit of the place to be a craftsman and embrace the craftsman life is something that speaks to me. 

The village is not fancy or even comfortable, but it’s not about the place, it’s about the purpose of and the desire to be a craftsman of your trade. Something we have forgotten in this modern age of instant gratification.

Let’s explore your creative side. Do you have any hidden talents or artistic pursuits that you enjoy, and how might they intersect with your work on endings?

I love board games, treasure hunts, and puzzles. I have even recently designed a board game that is not part of any workshop that challenges players on logic, strategy, and tactics. I think the reason I love games is because they reflect everyday life. 

Each day we are faced with challenges that we need to solve. This is true of business and facilitation. I see business as a game that can be won or lost with different strategies and tactics. A great game is designed to make you think, not just react. You must calculate your moves as well as your opponents.

That’s life. We all are game players, we just play different games at different times.

What’s a surprising or unusual fact about you that people might not expect, something that doesn’t typically come up in your professional bio or interviews?

I love Halloween. The holiday has so many facets about it and appears in so many cultures across the world in one form or another. The idea of becoming something else by simply wearing a mask or facing your darkest fears and embracing them.

I enjoy donning a costume and celebrating the night. Watching children fearlessly become ghosts and ghouls and run about laughing and being silly. Halloween is both a time of horror and enjoyment all wrapped up in black and orange. It’s the celebration of Autumn and the changing of the season.

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Be yourself, because everyone else is taken! 

We often hear about your professional achievements, but can you share a personal achievement or moment in your life that you’re particularly proud of?

The day a fellow specialist came up to me and told me that the business book he has read multiple times he thought he understood fairly well until he saw one of my illustrations of a key principle in the book and shared that he now understood the principle like never before. 

The ability to provide greater insight about an idea, even to someone who was a pioneer, was a great honour and reward.

Outside of your professional roles, what’s something you’ve always wanted to learn or try but haven’t had the opportunity to explore yet?

Learn to play the saxophone. Don’t ask me why, the idea has always been there as long as I can remember. I have challenged myself to learn many things, some things that seemed almost impossible, but learning to play the saxophone has eluded me. As they say, someday maybe.

If you could have a one-hour conversation with any fictional character, who would it be, and what burning question would you ask them.

Willy Wonka. How do you make something magical and wondrous that it brings out the child in all of us?

What is your life motto?

Dream it. See it. Believe it. Achieve it.

If you were to create a playlist that represents your life journey so far, what are the top three songs that would be on it?

1. Stand by Me 

2. Lean on me

3. Dream the impossible dream  

What’s a memorable visual from your childhood or past that continues to hold significance in your life today?

A mantle clock sitting on a shelf.  

If you had to sum up your life philosophy or a guiding principle in just one sentence, what would it be?

Be unique and know your purpose!

If you were to write a personal letter to your younger self, what advice or words of wisdom would you offer?

Kevin, your life will be rough. The challenges you face as a creative will come with hardships, confusion, and ridicule of others who feel they are better than you. You will be perceived as being different, strange, not fitting in, and even be called a freak at times in your life, but know this, embrace those words as they will come to drive you to become who you were meant to be and to learn the things you need to learn without fear. 

You have a unique set of gifts so be yourself at all times and others will seek your insights, talents, and skills when they become lost or can’t be different, strange, or even when they need to embrace their inner freak to be brave enough to do what they can’t do on their own. 

Remember, the history books are only filled with the freaks, and never the mundane. So be you for them, despite the words they will use.

Connect with Kevin below! 

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