TED Talk Thursday: Tom Wujec on Toast and System Models
TED Talk Thursday: Tom Wujec on Toast and System Models

When co-workers come together to visualize their systems, collaboration solves vexing problems.

Is there a stumbling block in your job? Tom Wujec would like you to draw how you make toast.

Wujec, a pioneer in the emerging practice of business visualization, said in a 2013 TED Talk that the drawing process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. The exercise results in various methods of making toast, of course, but it also reveals a commonality: nodes and links. The combination creates a systems model, he said. The point is that we know how to break down complex things into simple things, he noted.

This simple exercise also works well when businesses decide to draw “something more relevant or pressing, like your organizational vision, or customer experience, or long-term sustainability.”

When people work in a group on the exercise, it starts messy and gets messier, but with each iteration, things get clearer. A unified system model emerges. People work together. The key lesson: Drawing helps us understand the system. “Group models are much better than individual models,” he said.

He calls it a “visual revolution.” Organizations collaboratively work things out and refine until the patterns emerge and the group gets clarity.

“Design has something to teach us,” he said. It’s also fun.

Click here to see the video: TED TALK