Before You Start | Pre-Training Lessons
9-Field Structure | Complete Lessons

C.O.RE. Method | Student Examples and Common Challenges

Let’s go over some additional information and common challenges, before you’ll get send out into the world to apply this C.O.RE. Method.

Let’s start of with a inspiring example. One of my student, Christa, shared this photo below.¬†
She used her new visual skills to go from linear notes to C.O.RE. method overview. Well done!

Jefta's Notes from Visual Interview

Below are the visuals from a visual interview between me and student Marieke van der Velden. See how I used the highlighter to order my notes.

I used my perspective to decide what should be in the centre, the core. My decision surprised Marieke, it was very insightful to her!
There is no right or wrong, it’s just my opinion. Yet, seeing it on paper makes all the difference.

That’s visual thinking!

Step 1 – Collect Everything

Step 2 РOrder 

Step 3 РREstructure 

Common Challenges

Let’s check out some of the most common challenges when using the C.O.RE. method.¬†

  1. You forget to actually start using this method and you discover this while the conversation is ongoing
  2. You freeze up while using the method – then what do you do?
  3. It’s hard to listen/take notes/ask questions¬†at the same time. Yes, it’s a thing. But there is hope.

1) You Forgot to Start

You know how it goes at work. You come together for a meeting and John starts blabbing away about his weekend trip and a few minutes later you all of sudden jump up and realize “I should have been taking notes a long time ago!” Yup. Been there, done that. This is what you can do.

Check the Type of Conversation | Is it Right?

What type of conversation are you having? Is it sharing of information or trying to come to a decision together? 

The C.O.RE. method is most useful in¬†exploratory conversations, where you try to “figure stuff out”.
ūüĎČ When nobody understands the essence anyway.
ūüĎČ When it’s so complex, nobody has an overview anyway.

Use this method during initial project discussions. Like a discovery session with a client team or Project Start Up (POS) with the whole team.

Jump in | Let People Know What You Are Doing

It’s amazing how much support you can get when you just tell people that you’re making a drawing of the conversation ‘so that we all have the same overview’.
That’s right: people will help you in your work when they understand what it is that you’re doing and¬†they get that it’s in their benefit.

I’ve heard horror stories of people forgetting to let the room know they’re making visual notes as a benefit to all. It looks like you’re distracted and just doodling away. ūüėā

Stay Connected | Summarize 

There is a real risk of the conversation running away from you. You’re taking notes and speech is always faster, so naturally you’re always behind. Speak up, stay connected with the conversation and simply state “let me summarize”. That way you can check if you’ve got the information written down.

Check the lesson on Apply the CORE Method for detailed instructions on the different steps. You should be alright!

2) You freeze up while using the C.O.RE. method

It’s March 2011 and the office send to my first ever solo gig with a large corporate. A creative workshop and I needed to make visual summary of what was discussed. If that wasn’t nerve racking enough – they send the intern with me – PAID. Meaning he needed to add commercial value too.
There we were, our backs to the conversation, and listening and drawing notes on a big wall of paper. Intern next to me, he’s a nervous wreck. Sweating. Wet armpits. The whole deal.¬†
Pen in hand he whimpers, soft enough only I can hear: “I don’t know what to do. What should I do!?”
I said: “Just shut up and draw.”¬†

Turned out to be decent advice. The visuals weren’t terribly bad and the intern walked away with an achievement unlocked. He managed to get himself¬†unstuck.

How does this apply to you? In a meeting where you freeze up, your mind will go in circles. You think “I don’t know what to write down” and “I¬†should write this down” at the same time.¬†

How to get past this? Just drop it. Forget that part that you wanted to write down. Skip it. Move on. 

A friend explained it like this: It’s like you are at the conveyor belt packing donuts in a box. Your were to slow and a few donut’s passed you and fell on the ground. If you stop to picked those up, more will fall.¬†

Forget about the donuts on the ground and focus on the new ones coming your way. 
It’s more important to stay in flow and connected to the conversation, then to get that one detail that tripped you up.

Quick! In less than 1 minute draw out you standing at that donut conveyor belt!

3) Listen | Draw | Ask Questions – The Drawing Triangle

The number one thing¬†everybody says when applying the C.O.RE. method for the very first time is: “It’s hard to listen to the conversation and at the same time decide what to draw and what question to ask next.”¬†

Yup. It is. Like I can’t play the piano and hold a conversation at the same time. But my hero Hans Liberg can. Effortlessly. (Don’t click that link, you’ll get sucked into Youtube limbo for hours. Also, sadly I can’t play the piano at all.)

Then again, I can seemingly write down a sentence, ask a question and listen to the answer at the same time. How do I do that? And how can you?

I say seemingly because it’s bullsh*t. I can hardly walk and talk at the same time. I’m a man. My brain is from Mars and I can’t multitask for chips. I’ll let you in on this secret. I¬†listen,¬†draw and ask questions in serie. Not at the same time. It’s called the drawing¬†triangle.¬†I switch so fast between those 3 activities that it seems one fluid thing. But it’s actually staccato.¬†

Imagine you’re in a meeting and you’ve asked “What’s the purpose of our project?” Colleagues tumble over one another to answer the question from their perspective.

How to capture those valuable answers and stem the flow of words at the same time? The trick is to create micro pauses. Little gaps you use to your advantage. Let’s go over a few tactics.¬†

Slow Down the Conversation

In 99% of all conversations at work people don’t listen to one another but pause for the other person to finish, so they get to talk some more. F*$# that.

You’re gonna do your team a¬†huge¬†favor by simply saying “woah, slow down,” or “hold on, let me get this straight,” or “Did I understand you correctly when I say…”¬†
With these simple prompts you slow down the conversation and force everybody to listen and summarize.  

You can summarize yourself or let others do that. When I do it myself I look up in the air, with a look of contemplation and say something wrong. So the speaker can correct me and feel better about themselves. 
Or you can give yourself a break and ask “How would you summarize that in one sentence?” which forces the other to pause and think, giving you some more time to do what you need to do.

Draw Less and Listen for Emotion

One thing you can do to help yourself be more effective is to turn on more sensors than just listening for factual words. So instead of trying to write down ad verbatim everything that is being said, do this: check in with yourself what you feel is important to the speaker.

A logical indicator would be when people start to repeat themselves or when someone echoes back the same words or says basically the same thing but in their own words.

You can¬†also¬†check in on an¬†energy level. What seems to really¬†resonate¬†with the speaker? I can trust my goose bumps. When I ask people about how the project is important to them, they’ll start talking about how it connects to¬†their purpose. And I always get goosebumps when someone speaks an authentic truth.¬†
I’ll then stop, look them in the eye and say ‘that’s it’. While they pause to reflect I go and write down what I heard.

That first draft nobody wanted, because my first page with verbal vomit was better!? Sigh. 

Cluster | by Topic or Theme

Another great way to avoid overwhelm is to listen with only half an ear to the conversation. Kinda like the auditory version of looking at something through almost closed eyes. You might see the contours of an object and in the audio version you might hear the topic of conversation. 

One time I had the kick-off meeting of a big complex project. 10 people in the room. Tons of activities, responsibilities and overlapping¬† objectives. At the and of the day the manager asked if he could have my very first sheet of notes. I held up the massive brown paper sheet full of text. I was puzzled because I’d¬† ended the workshop with an amazing sketch. Why on earth did he want my first page with verbal vomit? ūü§ģ
He: “I wanna take that page with me because it’s the first time I have a single overview of the entire project.” Woah.¬†That’s¬†the value, right there.¬†

So be kind to yourself and skip the details. Zoom out and listen for the¬†clusters¬†of information. What theme or topic can you identify? When you feel you’re getting stuck, stop the conversation to summarize what you have so far.

Trick Question “What Is the Real Challenge Here?”

I used to have a colleague who was a heavy smoker. Every 45 to 50 minutes he would walk away from his drawing work and go outside to have smoke. He told me “it’s great way to literally and figuratively get some distance from my work.” He would come back and than look at what he was doing with fresh eyes.

You can get that same¬†fresh perspective, without smoking. Smoking is bad Mkay. I love doing this in a physcial sort of way too. I’ll stand up from the table (or my desk when I’m working remote) and tell the group to do the same and ask: “What is the¬†real¬†challenge here?” Or purpose, or problem or objective, or whatever. Just put heavy emphasis on the¬†real¬†part and that will make people look up and think really hard with their eyes out of focus.

That’s when you look, with sharp focus, to your papers and think as well “what question haven’t I asked yet!?” Also check with yourself “do I really understand what’s going on here?”

Useful Tips & Shortcuts

Don’t reinvent the wheel all by yourself. Use these handy tips & shortcuts.

When People Say ‘For Example’ – Do This…

When you’re listening to someone’s story and they start using an example they are just¬†illustrating¬†a point. No need to write down that entire story, do this instead: jot down the essence in 3 to 5 words and create a¬†drawing¬†of the example itself.

On a casual Tuesday I’m with a client. I asked him an innocent question “what do you mean with value based management?” and while he explained I wrote down his answers. Then he launched into a side story on a brewery they were helping out. He kicked off this story with a ‘take for example’. Classic words. Remember them well.
Not knowing what his point would be I just started drawing the brewery. I can’t recall now what I ended up doodling but it was something with humor. I then summarized his story and we agreed on the sentence that I wrote under the little drawing.¬†

Just remember: when people start to illustrate a point Рyou make an illustration. Easy enough!


I Started with the 9-Field Structure but My Page Got Full – Now What?

You might not have gotten to the 9-Field Structure Lesson. No problem. Let me just explain the difference:

The 9-Field Structure is a filter – it matters where you put info down on paper.
The C.O.RE. method is a sort of dump & sort later thing. ūüėú

What does this practically mean? When you’re taking notes and your page gets to about 2/3 full? Grab a fresh page. Let the 9-Field Structure go and just keep taking notes.¬†

I usually have about 7 pages of notes per 2 hours of client meeting. Watch this 15 second short of my workspace after 1 meeting. This is typical stuff for me! ūüėÖ


They Give You a Rpaid Fire List? Do this…

In some cases you hear people quickly give a summation. Like a list of all their educations, or all the problems a project has. It goes so fast, it’s hard to keep pace. No worries, you don’t have to. 

The shortcut is to just write down the central theme and throw the list of items around it. Later you’ll connect those words to the the theme with lines. 

I once helped my wife with figuring out what she wanted to do as an entrepreneur. In this explorative session I took notes (naturally).
One of the things that motives her now as a 30 year old, was being a bit plus-sized in her youth. “What did you do with it?” I asked. She gave me a rapid fire summary. Like a maniac I had to follow her and write things down. Later I connected it with lines. Easy.

Another benefit of people giving you list or summation is that they can often reproduce it. So If you capture the first, second and the fifth element. Fine, write those down and leave some spaces for the number three and four. Ask them afterwards. You’re conversation partner will remember them for you. ūüėČ

The C.O.RE. method relies heavily on you writing with pen & paper.
But… maybe your handwriting is so awful you have trouble reading it yourself.
Or you don’t want to show it to others because it might hurts their eyes?

Then this is a good moment to improve your handwriting. Check out the next lesson for some useful pro tips. ‚úćÔłŹ