Five years ago I had to convince people that drawing was not childish or just a fun tool to spice up a meeting. Now the market for drawing in business is booming.

An increasing number of visual start-ups and rapidly growing businesses offer to visualize a company strategy, animate organisational visions or draw live during a meeting (graphic recording or facilitation). Many also offer courses to help people rediscover their drawing skills and put them to use in their work. A renown Dutch financial newspaper featured an interview with David Sibbet and noted that more and more multinational companies started to work visually. What happened? How did drawing transform from something for kids into something cool? I like the way Dan Roam says it: ‘Today’s conversation is visual. If you want to join the conversation, you have to be (more) visual too.’

Of course the internet and social media are a big visual force. I think they are for the same reason as drawing is. Because it works. I am still amazed by the thinking and creative potential that is unlocked as soon as you start working visually. A potential that is also being revealed in neuroscience, another booming field. It shows that the biggest part of our brain activity is dedicated to vision:

And vision is fast — if we do not give our eyes something to do, our mind’s eye easily wanders of. What strikes me is that using your visual capacity does not seem to cost any effort. When you show a group 30 pictures in one minute at the beginning of a workshop and one next to each at the end — people immediately know which ones they have already seen. Without putting any conscious effort into memorizing them.

I think that is where its power lies. Because of the huge brain capacity that backs it up visual thinking feels effortless. Which makes working on complex questions lighter and more fun. Housatonic formulates it spot on in their design service proposition: ‘We make it easy’. Visual thinking power is like a force you only have to direct towards the problem or question you need it to address.

Many client questions are still focused on visual products to clarify a message. But both visual and client companies begin to recognize that the process to come to this visual message has an important intrinsic value. The iterations towards the end product unleash the visual thinking power of the people at the clients’ side. Showing them which elements of their story are still missing or conflicting and allowing them to develop it from a visual stepping stone.

From that perspective the business drawing boom has only just begun. It is an opening to a huge visual thinking potential. Drawing helps to organize peoples thoughts and ideas, reflect on them and supports individual and group learning and development.

As graphic facilitators advance in their work, many of them broaden their services to contribute to change. From the other side change-agents embrace visual thinking skills to be more effective. Drawing in business is here to stay. I look forward to see what happens when more of our visual thinking power will be put to use in our work, teams and organisations.