How Visual Thinking Skills can Make You a Better Manager

Sketch notes and visual thinking as part of your management training

Case studies, sample calculations, business plans – these are standard elements of any Master’s or MBA course at a business school. At WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, managers of the future can also benefit from a training course with a difference: they can learn how to make sketch notes and how to think visually. A creative approach to business processes and management issues can generate many advantages: to visualize your thoughts, you first need to structure them clearly. Ultimately, this will help you to improve your communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

Professor Dr. Christoph Hienerth, Chairholder of Entrepreneurship and New Business Development at WHU, offers visual thinking courses as part of the Master of Science, MBA, and General Management Plus programs within the Executive Education portfolio. These courses are very popular and have been well rated by students. “I can’t remember having as much fun in class as I did on this two-day course with Professor Hienerth,” said MBA student Marina Ferreira. “Now I know how to formulate ideas and arguments in a clear and engaging manner, and how to inspire my audience with them. And I discovered a somewhat hidden talent.”

Students learn many new techniques and approaches. For example, they combine texts and sketches to summarize various content and messages in what are called sketch notes. They practice the technique by using online lectures such as the TED Talk by blogger Tim Urban, who focuses on a problem familiar to many student s: procrastination. Students are asked to make sketch notes outlining what goes on in their heads as they consistently put off starting work on a paper despite an impending deadline. Professor Hienerth also offers online courses at Iversity for non-WHU members interested in such visualization courses.

Hienerth himself discovered his joy of painting and drawing only a few years ago at a one-day watercolor course, which he received as a birthday present. He says that painting used to help him to get through the dark winter months in Denmark, where he worked for several years. Drawing and painting are now integral parts of his life – not just of his profession. “Drawing and painting are known to be tried-and-tested methods for clearing your mind and finding peace,” says Hienerth. “I can only confirm this.” In his spare time, Hienerth has also been keeping sketchbooks for his children since 2013. They capture many amusing details of their life together, and the family loves to browse through them as an alternative to their photo albums.

One of Professor Hienerth’s paintings can currently be admired as part of the seventh annual exhibition of the German Watercolor Society (Deutsche Aquarellgesellschaft). The exhibition opened its doors at the Niederrheinisches Museum Kevelaer in North Rhine-Westphalia on October 18, 2020.


Sketchnote von Marina Ferreira
Christoph Hienerth: "Romawiese"

The painting entitled “Romawiese” transports the viewer to an old tributary of the Danube river in Vienna. The artist visited this place several times together with his small children and his father. The work reminds Hienerth of the last wonderful days with his father, who died unexpectedly shortly afterwards. “The artistic examination of a theme sometimes has a therapeutic effect,” says Hienerth. “Drawing and painting enable you to capture beautiful moments in your life and work through personal experiences.”


Further information:

Flyer for the annual exhibition of the German Watercolour Society (download PDF)

Website of the Lower Rhine Museum Kevelaer: https://www.niederrheinisches-museum-kevelaer.de/