IAF Methods


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This process is used to define and solve complex or wicked problems.
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The goal of this process is to build a sophisticated systematic understanding of complex problems and opportunities, to develop a broad strategic insight, and to design more creative solutions. Furthermore, it is used to make more effective decisions and more realistic plans, to build shared vision, ownership, and enthusiasm, communicate effectively with others, and at last, follow through on the vision.


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    Setting: The facilitator needs a computer, and a special program for creating idiagrams is advisable.

    Number of participants: any

    Types of participants: Any types of participants can be involved in this process as long as they are actively thinking about the problem and a solution.

    Time needed: The amount of time needed depends on the number of participants and the problem ad hoc.

    Pre-Work Required: The facilitator can prepare a basic structure of the idiagram, or note down possible solutions to procede the different processes.

    Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: The facilitator should have insight in the client's problem.

    Facilitator personality fit: The facilitator should have experience in creating these kind of graphics.


    The creation of an idiagram can be subdivided into four main steps.

    1. Think clearly.
    The participants need to individually think clearly and intensely about the different complex problems that are hampering the client's progress. Once the issue has been defined by the individual, a mental model can be created. This again can be turned into a visual model which helps to generate a broader, clearer and deeper understanding. Mapping out the elements of the problem will help to reveal the dimensions of the problem and to give the facilitator and the client a tangible model to work with, which anon can lead to more creative and effective solutions.

    2. Think together.
    With all the different individual maps, the facilitator and the client can now forge a clear and coherent picture as a group, taking the varied knowledge and diverse perspectives into consideration. At this stage, the facilitator needs to catalyze the conversation and supply a common map of the relevant problem. Such a common model can help the team to realize the synergy of their collective knowledge, and will inspire them to move forward in terms of a shared sense of understanding, ownership and purpose.

    3. Communicate Effectively
    In order to communicate the different ideas effectively, a visual story can help to deliver the ideas in a clear and compelling way. Again, the ideas should be integrated in meaningful graphics that grab attention and capture the essence. Then, the solutions can be communicated to those that are concerned by it.

    4. Generate Shared Vision & Coherent Action
    The created graphic is not the end in itself, but can be regarded as a tool for creating understanding and action. The facilitator should inspire a coherent action and motivate people to self-organize and work in concert towards the set common goal. The shared vision that is required is a common understanding of the problem, the goal or solution and the means to achieve them.


    Follow-Up Required: For the facilitator, there is no follow-up required, the group however, has to put the plan into action in order to solve the problem.

    Usual or Expected Outcomes: The outcome will be an idiagram, a graphic of the problem and possible solutions.

    Potential pitfalls: If people are not willing / not able to find (creative) solutions, the process will not precede.

    How success is evaluated: The process is successful when an idiagram with one or more solution to the stated problem has been found.


    Source: Marshall Clemens

    Alternative names: Visual Modeling

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