Friday, July 8, 2011

What We Can Learn from Temple Grandin

My name is Temple Grandin. I'm not like other people. I think in pictures and I connect them.
—Temple Grandin, HBO films, 2010




One of the things I stress during my training, in my book, on this site is that we are all visual thinkers. And one of the best ways to sell your idea to others, to train your audience in your process, or promote your business is to do it with visuals.

For Dr. Temple Grandin that is one of the best ways to communicate with her. She's autistic and she is a total visual thinker. Unlike most of us, who can process verbal commands and information, Dr. Grandin's brain translates words into pictures before it can process what is being requested. Then she sees an image of her response and her brain translates her response into words before she can speak.

Sounds overwhelming, right?

Well, for Dr. Grandin it was how she'd always thought and had assumed everyone else thought as well. In fact, if it wasn't for this unique way her brain processed the world, she probably wouldn't have gone on to revolutionize the farming industry by designing and implementing humane stockyards, corrals, loading ramps, and many other facilities for farm animals. Because of the perspective autism gave her, she could see obvious design flaws in farming equipment with the ability to "test-run" or visualize how the equipment will operate before it was even built. She'd even crawl in the mud to get on the same level of the animals and watch their behavior, picking up on clues for why certain coral methods upset the animals causing a stampede.

Coming of age in the 1960s, when autism was not clearly understood, Dr. Grandin had to overcome great adversity and prejudices to get through school and go on to earn her master's degree and then doctorate. Couple her unique personality with being a woman and Dr. Grandin had a further uphill battle to be accepted in the ranching and farming communities—primarily a man's field. In the HBO film, Temple Grandin, one of the owners of a slaughterhouse asks why she thinks her new configuration for his processing plant would work. He'd never seen a plan like hers and didn't think it could possibly do what she claimed.

She replied that she knew it would work, because she could see it in her mind. She could visualize it working and was convinced it would be successful.

Now imagine if you gave your audience this ability—the ability to see your process, idea, product successfully at work.

Do you think they'd be convinced?

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