Category Archives: XPLANE

Use Journals to Introduce Culture and Accelerate Onboarding

culture posterMaintaining our healthy company culture is a deeply held commitment for us at XPLANE, and we see onboarding as a critical part of that effort.  Onboarding is more than ensuring people have the physical tools they need to do their work.  They also need the social and emotional tools to feel empowered, supported and excited for their new chapter.

In support of this commitment, we are trying a new-to-us tool for welcoming new team members – an onboarding journal.  The journal is effectively a diary, kept by new team member’s for their first 60 days, that uses a simple but effective Plus / Delta framework.

  • Pluses are positive things which should be kept or continued in the future
  • Deltas are things that should be reconsidered or done differently in the future

“Things” here can be anything new team members observe or experience: behaviors, tools, practices, processes, and so on.  Here are some examples from a recent hire’s journal (shared with his permission).


  • Warm welcome, everyone willing to be helpful
  • The “Designer Confessionals” video was good to watch for perspective on the designer / consultant relationship
  • Description of company service offering history (1.0 to 2.0)
  • General background on how xTeams work on projects together and the overall process
  • Designer overview with tips/tricks for live drawing in client workshop sessions

  • Need a glossary of company jargon & acronyms
  • Wish I could do more self-onboarding by reading or watching videos while I’m still not busy
  • I get why we use Skype but recommend Hipchat
  • Wish there was a shared collection of brushes/core assets that other designers use
  • More client-work shadowing opportunities
  • Better roadmap of when/which client projects I will work on and a way to ramp up on them

You can see the list ranges from small to bigger things; some are well known, others are eye-opening.  But the point is information is flowing and engagement is happening.  Based on results so far our hope is the onboarding journals will bring short- and long-term benefits for both the company and new team members.

Benefits to the Company

  • Fresh perspective on our company with each new hire
  • An ongoing record and helps us identify trends and outliers in people’s experiences
  • Surfacing best practices from previous employers for us to consider
  • Rapid insights into new team members; how they think and how they are doing in their first 60 days

Benefits to the new team member

  • A general mindfulness during their onboarding experience
  • An opportunity to contribute to the company from day one and see and feel that their opinions are valued
  • An outlet for the negative or confusing experiences that can be common in joining a new company
  • Orientation to our plus / delta culture, which is solutions- vs. complaint-oriented – and sets an expectation and practice of positive contribution to company culture

Have you tried or experienced anything like it?  What onboarding practices have you found effective?

Business clichés visual find-it poster

In case you missed it, last month we sent out our 2009/2010 holiday greeting. Actually, it was more “greeting” than “holiday” — and maybe more “beating” than “greeting!” Why? because we went ahead and poked some fun at a lot of those empty business clichés that get thrown around in meetings, emails and corporate conversations.

So go ahead and download it, hang it up by the water cooler, leave it on someone’s desk… ;-)

Later this month we’ll be sending out an interactive PDF with all of the clichés identified and defined. Sign up for our email newsletter if you’d like to get a copy.

Happy new year, everyone!

New project: The Carbon Economy

For the second time in recent months XPLANE has partnered with The Economist to create a compelling video on a topic of global importance. After working together on “Did You Know? 4.0”, The Economist enlisted XPLANE\'s visual communication expertise to develop “The Carbon Economy” about the growing importance of climate change and green technologies and solutions.

“The Carbon Economy” will be shown at The Economist\'s upcoming Carbon Economy Summit on November 17 and 18, 2009 in Washington, D.C. The video is three minutes in length and includes simple visuals and a moving soundtrack to clearly convey the troubled state of global climate change and what steps must be taken to reach a positive outcome. The production was created using Apple\'s Keynote software.

For more information on The Carbon Economy Summit, visit

David Allen releases The Ultimate GTD Workflow Map, designed by XPLANE

The David Allen Company: “If you ever feel like you need to get more in control or regain your focus, here is the ultimate guide for getting and staying on your game. The set of productivity best practices which David Allen has researched and synthesized over the last three decades are brought all together into one stunning visual display — the GTD Workflow Map. It’s a rich compilation of the key steps for gathering, clarifying, organizing, and reviewing everything you need to track and manage, as well as an explanation of all of the factors that you must take into account in determining priorities.”

“I spent more than two years crafting and fine-tuning the map, ensuring that it would thoroughly and accurately describe the essential elements of time- and self-management,” says David, “It’s as simple as I could get it, while still embodying the subtleties and complexities that have to be factored in, to make it real and useful. And the visual representation we’ve come up with I think is a highly effective way to make something this meaningful really clear.”

The poster was created by XPLANE, the visual thinking company. Visit to learn more about how XPLANE clarifies complex business issues through visual collaboration.

Did You Know 4.0

XPLANE is happy to present Did You Know 4.0 — another official update to the original “Shift Happens” video. This completely new Fall 2009 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology, and was developed in partnership with The Economist.

As Garr Reynolds mentions over at Presentation Zen this morning, yes, this project was created with “off-the-shelf slideware” (Keynote and GarageBand, actually, along with Photoshop and Illustrator). Content by XPLANE, The Economist, Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Laura Bestler. Design and development by XPLANE.

For more information, or to join the conversation, please visit The Economist’s Media Convergence conference site at, or stop by for all things Did You Know.

5 live sketching tips every designer should know

The Designer’s Desk
By Drew Crowley, XPLANE designer

This is the first in a series of tips, tricks and recipes for designers, artists and other visual thinkers working in meetings and other sessions where large amounts of complex information need to be collected and visualized. It’s a peek into how XPLANE approaches discovery and uses visual thinking to communicate key ideas.

Why we do it:
Live sketching gets people engaged in the discovery process and leads to ideas that may not have presented themselves via normal note-taking. The response to visuals being created before a clients’ or colleagues’ eyes is energetic, and that leads to a natural desire to fill in the picture, completely. The result: Understanding and alignment, quickly.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Whiteboard or giant stickies
  • Variety of small, colorful stickies
  • Markers
  • Digital camera

How to do it:

  1. GET STARTED | Start drawing as soon as you can. The earlier you start drawing in a session the better. It will get the momentum going in the room, the energy level will jump and you’ll start getting real content.
  2. VISUAL NOTES | The key to live sketching is understanding that it isn’t “drawing” in the traditional sense. It’s visual note-taking. Instead of writing “there was a room with a couch and a lamp,” you draw a couch and a lamp and label it with the word “room.” This simple distinction between drawing and note-taking helps alleviate the fear of drawing in front of people.
  3. MESSY IS OK | Yes, sloppy is good. The sketches don’t have to be pristine. The sketchier they are the better. By keeping things fast and loose you’re subconsciously telling the audience that these are just notes and not final images. What’s drawn in session isn’t necessarily going to show up in a final XPLANATiON or another visual communication piece. Keeping things sketchy will help drive that point home, and allow everyone to feel like they can add to the pictures themselves.
  4. ASK | Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or detail. If things are moving too fast, and you aren’t catching everything, let your partner — or the group — know. If the description doesn’t make sense, ask more questions. If you’re not sure whether you’ve captured something correctly, ask your client or colleague. It’s better to ask and be sure, than to assume you’ve got it and have to fix things later.
  5. LABEL | Remember that you’re the one that will have to make sense of these notes after the fact, so annotate/sketch/label in a way that makes sense to you. Label people, label scenes, label arrows, label labels! Live sketching can be fast and sloppy, as mentioned above, and the squiggle you draw in a session might make complete sense to you at the time — but two days later it will just be a squiggle. Labels make the difference between a “centralized supply chain database that everyone has access to” and a bunch of mysterious boxes, lines and stick figures.

When you’re done, document everything with a digital camera being careful to avoid window and flash glare on the whiteboards. It’s a good idea to organize and annotate all of the relevant captured info soon after the session.

Live sketching can be done remotely too, using software like Webex or Adobe Acrobat Connect — but that’s a whole other article.

New video: ‘Imagine Leadership,’ by XPLANE & HBS’s Nitin Nohria

We released this video last week:

XPLANE, in collaboration with Nitin Nohria, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration, and Co-Chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, has created “Imagine Leadership,” an inspiring and thought-provoking video on the theme of global leadership. Nohria, working with Amanda Pepper, also a member of the Leadership Initiative, sought the support of XPLANE to create a visually appealing, provocative piece that would inspire viewers to take action, get involved and be motivated to lead.