Presence and the Reciprocal Zone

The Reciprocal Zone of Scribing

When we scribe, on the best of days, we connect with a zone. I call it a reciprocal zone, because it’s not only about how we relate to a certain sense of flow that might come through the air, like fine magical mist to our senses, that we relate to as an individual – but it is also about a web of connection we find ourselves in, inescapably, with our minds, hearts, hands, our drawing surface, our markers, with the people behind us and around us, with the parameter of the room, with the system known to be represented by what’s inside the walls, sometimes with the system at large. All points of connection manifest into a series of positive reinforcing loops, where the insight of one touches the insight of another. While drawing, we know, we sense, this activation – on the best of days.

We are a micro-system that represents a macro-system, and the quality of being we bring to the moment when we face a blank page or wall – that quality ripples out into the mist, reinforcing the enchantment of the surround. This is not to say we are magicians that weave some sort of spell – absolutely not. We are bystanders, and then active participants, WITH the activity of the room and the system, that functions as a path for something ELSE to come into existence and light.

We are not channels or mediums. We are artists. We connect to an inner place of wonder, and thus we are open to recognizing the spirit of wonder in the world around us.

Our presence, our quality of being, allows us to show up for a group at any phase of their process, holding a space of possibility for what might emerge. Part of locating our presence has to do with suspending our thoughts and habits of judgment, letting go of the past and also of the projections of the future, so we can be completely in the moment and show up to join a group where they are and co-create.

To explore presence is to learn another language that is not literal, but IS internal and very much embodied, if initially faintly seen or heard. We might ask ourselves: What is the barrier, the frontier, between fear and fluency? How do we feel differently when we are fluent? When we are in a position to express, what language do we choose to let sing?

This piece of the practice is not about the aesthetics. This is the intangible dimension, where we are in touch with ourselves at the most true level and in a position to let that truth meet the truth in the room THROUGH what we draw.

It is an honorable and breathtaking thing to sense, the flow, the presence of many. To work in that place, to help shape it, to give form to the unexpressed – THAT is the magic. It is a magic of the reciprocal zone that our presence merely meets.

A Practice Model for Scribing


Haga clic aquí para ver este blog en español, gracias a Zulma Patarroyo!

The Practice Model for Scribing results from 20 years of collaborative efforts and framework integration, with many dear colleagues along the way. Here is a breakdown:

The Iceberg

The iceberg model, used in systems thinking, is the base note. We are familiar with seeing events, actions, and behaviors – like the exposed tip of an iceberg. But the domain we access internally as facilitators and aim to touch with our graphics is at the level of structure – that less seen, in the domain of patterns and mental models and vision. We seek to find relation between pockets of words and concepts and aspirations to intentionally reveal where there is open loop (linear, sequential, start-to-end) and closed loop (systems, integrated, interrelated) thinking.

In graphic facilitation, this requires venturing beyond the known – the tip of the iceberg – and moving into a realm of trust and sensing, listening internally and within the room to what is wanting to surface. With this in mind, the facilitator has an opportunity to recontextualize what is being said to shift levels of perception and comprehension.

References: Peter Senge, John Sterman, Leanne Grillo, indirectly Daniel Kim

The Diamond

As a scribe, the practices of listening, discerning, perceiving, and our stance of being ALL function together to ground and orient us in a decision-making process before and while we draw. This framework has tiers – i mean TIERS – of related thinking, including: dialogic principles, Jungian archetypes, ShadowWork, family systems therapy, and The Symbols Way. All speak to the nature of a whole systems approach to change, where the art of the facilitator is to dance between the domains – in ourselves and the way they outwardly manifest – to help an individual or group shift into a new life of possibility.

References: William Isaacs, Peter Garrett, The Ashland Institute, Cliff BarryDavid Kantor, indirectly David Bohm


This domain speaks to the inner stance we hold when showing up: with a person, in a room, at the board or wall. (Referring to Scharmer’s work) We seek to suspend judgment, quiet cynicism, move through fear, so that one can approach the work with an open mind, heart, and will – insuring space to receive what wants to come through into the room. This is the place where Presencing most intersects our practice, at the center of the scribe, at core, and thus as a centering device in the room and system. This relates to the container, and overall holding capacity of a scribe.

Reference: Otto Scharmer, Barbara Cecil


For me, listening is a language all in itself, a tap root of this entire visual practice. Without listening, we are isolated in our own ideas and limited in our potential to see. Forget about being able to draw anything! We listen to connect, experience the entire context in which we exist, feel, and activate the heart. It is our intake, all our sensory valves on “open”. We receive. This maps to 4 Levels of Scribing – where at Level 1 (tip of the iceberg) someone says bird and we draw a bird, and at Levels 2, 3 & 4 we process internally to sense into the essence of what is wanting to be seen and draw from that other-informed place (bottom of the iceberg.) Lover energy.

References: Beth Jandernoa, Peri Chickering, Otto Scharmer


It’s been challenging to articulate this part of the model, and I keep coming back to art, the making or art, the viewing and interpreting of art, the required multi-faceted approach to any refined process of seeing. It’s got something to do with the ability to turn in all directions and use a range of lenses for our filtering and framing capacity. It’s seeing with a suspended eye and open mind. Magician energy.

References: Eleanore Mikus, Matthew Bird, Rob LichtNorman Daly, and indirectly Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee


The domain of choice-making, clarity, and essence, where open will enters. I access a model from Dialogos here: Bypass-Name-Engage- Transform. Bypass: In the service tracking with the flow of conversation, you move over topics that might be confusing or might not yet seem to fit in the picture. Name: Bring attention to content by naming it, without judging or evaluating. You don’t have to elaborate at this point. It might feel like you should capture everything, but you don’t! Maybe the content is not yet all out in the air, and is still emerging, therefore only ready to be noted. Engage: Enter the dynamic to further surface patterns, to deepen the inquiry, and to expand the container. Transform: Make facilitative container-building moves to shift the dynamic, even if you are on the side of the room, silent. Warrior energy.

References: Glennifer Gillespie, Robert HanigDorian Baroni


Well, this is what it looks like. This is the visible, tip of the iceberg. This is the tangible result of everything we take in, process, interpret coming out through the hand. Sovereign energy.

  1. Lettering: The basic way of explaining or annotating an idea. Check out masters Alicia Bramlett and Sita Magnuson
  2. Illustration: Incredibly powerful to bring a metaphor or story or anecdote to life. Here is where simple bean people can go a long way. And here is where there is some serious talent out there. See Peter DurandChristopher Fuller, and Mike Fleisch
  3. Mind-mapping: Perhaps the most familiar part of the practice, depending on a strong ability to recognize patterns and organize threads.
  4. Modeling: Conveying spatial dynamics of parts of a whole through shapes and lines. Bryan Coffman was my mentor here. An old reference point, but a timelessly valuable one: MG Taylor Modeling Language where we can see examples of drawn and conceptual models, both – useful for ALL parts of the Practice Model.
  5. System mapping: Showing the interconnectedness of things – including system dynamics – visually, while attuning with this filter to reveal the system of the content coming into a room. It’s about drawing out the systems, literally and figuratively. (more specifically to come here, in a fresh post.)

Additional References: The Value Web, MG Taylor, and indirectly David Sibbet

4 Levels of Scribing

Follow links for: Chinese – Español

People often ask scribes how we do what we do. There is the short answer: “We draw while people talk…” And then there is another way of thinking about it, which i am just starting to unpack. This post will be brief (ish) – but want to get the wheels going and land the notion.

Considering Otto Scharmer‘s 4 Levels of Listening framework (see at end of post) i’ve come up with the following translation, applied to scribing:


At one level, let’s call it L1 (Level 1), we draw what we hear, and it’s literal. Someone says “bird” and we draw a bird. At another level, L2, we see what is being spoken from a broader vantage point, and still draw what we hear, but our lens might be expanded to make sense of what is being spoken within a context, which we can map. Someone describes bird in an expanded picture “while the bird is flying, it reaches the coast and joins a flock,” and we enter the domain of storytelling.

Then, in L3, we realize there is a connection between the way the bird, the flock, and the coastline form and the way the company – for whom we are scribing – is exploring what it takes to tend to new hires while unrolling new strategy (from an earlier part of the conversation.) Here is a chance to demonstrate a line between the parts of two shared bits of content: one metaphor, one literal, yet of a similar energy. Maybe these bits came out together – maybe they came out hours apart. But they RELATE, and we notice that, and we can choose to show a still larger view. We make meaning by adding a nest and an egg and maybe annotating what is starting to evolve.

And then there is something else that kicks in the more you do this work…. it really is a deeper kind of listening coupled with a letting go of the need to even draw. In L4 windows, my experience is that a scribe must embrace an intimate coupling with the ENERGY of what’s going on, an energy that has started to becomes tangible in L3, where time slows, the air quiets, and words come from hearts in between long pauses, with a tone of the whole swelling over the posturing of a few. (Ego has shed. No one voice dominates. Agendas have evaporated.) It’s a kind of creative rupture taking place, where something is being born, something is coming ALIVE, and we, as scribes, witness it; in a way we are midwives facilitating, through our being and our hands, an emergence of some collective shift and KNOWING.

Here, what is essential, is to be a channel. Only draw what must be drawn in the new life. Only draw what represents the absolute present moment.

(There is SO MUCH more to write on this, and i will.) As reference, Otto’s model – and yes, we scribe while listening, also in these levels…..

Levels of Listening


Chinese translation, from Jayce Lee (I am blown away!)


“It was such a honor and delightful experience to have a quick chat over email with Kelvy, when I found out she wrote an article about the 4 levels of scribing last week. It is truly a gift to all of us. For me, as a scribe, as a visual learner, it is a golden opportunity to reset myself from ground zero once again, to not only focus on the art of listening, but to deeply appreciate and practice the 4 levels of scribing.”


4 Levels of Scribing 視覺記錄的四個層次



在一個層次,我們姑且稱之為第一層次,我們聽到什麼就畫什麼,就是字面上的表述。有人說 “鳥”我們就畫隻鳥。在另一個層次,第二層次,雖然還是畫出我們所聽見的,但是我們從一個更寬廣的觀點來看見被說出來的是什麼意思.我們可以更廣角的鏡頭來觀察、傾聽、覺察,我們可以讓被說出來的內容以有意義的佈局方式呈現出其情境.例如:有人形容在展開圖中的鳥兒:“一隻正在翱翔的鳥,飛近海岸線並且飛入群鳥之中”,此時我們就進入故事敘述範疇當中.

接著在第三層次,我們所進行圖像記錄的這家公司,在探索實施新策略時,僱用新人需要付出什麼代價。我們領悟到在鳥,鳥群,海岸線的樣貌,與這家公司的狀態之間的連結- 這是一個展示字面上意義與隱喻兩部分關聯的機會,而這兩部分有著類似性質的能量.也許這兩部分的連結會被及時顯現出來–也許過幾個小時後才會被顯現出來。然而兩者間卻都彼此息息相關,我們(視覺記錄師)注意到了這一部分,因此我們能夠選擇用一個更廣闊的觀點來呈現。我們藉由加上一個鳥巢和鳥蛋來勾勒出情境,也許也可以加入一些文字來表達正在轉變的意義。




Translated by Jayce Lee @jaycelee, Proofread by Ripley Lin


4 niveles de la documentación gráfica, traducción al español por Zulma-Pataleta (Gracias!!!) 


Con frecuencia la gente pregunta cómo hacemos lo que hacemos. Hay una respuesta corta: “Dibujamos mientras la gente habla…” Y también hay otra forma de pensar en nuestra labor que hasta ahora estoy empezando a descubrir. Este artículo será corto, pero quisiera poner a andar las ruedas y aterrizar las ideas.

Considerando el marco de 4 niveles de escucha de Otto Scharmer‘s (ver al final del artículo) propongo la siguiente traducción aplicada a la documentación gráfica:

En el primer nivel, llamémoslo N1 (Nivel 1) dibujamos lo que oímos de manera literal, alguien dice “AVE” y nosotros dibujamos un ave. A otro nivel, N2, vemos lo que se está diciendo desde un punto más amplio, todavía dibujamos lo que oímos, pero nuestra lente puede ser expandida para entender lo que se está diciendo dentro de un contexto que podemos mapear. Alguén describe un ave en una imagen expandida “mientras que el ave va volando, llega a la costa y se une a una bandada de aves,” y entramos entonces al dominio del storytelling (contar historias).

Luego en N3, nos damos cuenta de que hay una conexión entre el ave, la bandada y la forma de la linea costera y la forma en la que la compañía – para la cual estamos haciendo documentación gráfica – está explorando lo que se requiere para atender a los nuevos empleados mientras se desarrolla una nueva estrategia (de una parte anterior de la conversación.) Aquí tenemos una oportunidad para demostrar la linea entre las partes de dos elementos de contenido que han sido compartidos: uno metafórico y otro literal pero de similar energía. Tal vez estos elementos fueron mencionados al mismo tiempo, tal vez fueron mencionados con horas de diferencia, pero ellos están RELACIONADOS, y nosotros lo notamos y tal vez podamos decidir mostrar aún una visión más amplia. Generamos sentido a través de añadir un nido, un huevo y tal vez anotando lo que está empezando a evolucionar.

Y luego hay algo más que es cada vez más evidente entre más hagas este trabajo… realmente es una manera profunda de escuchar combinada con soltar incluso la necesidad de dibujar. En ventanas de N4, mi experiencia es que el documentador debe asumir una unión íntima con la ENERGÍA de lo que está sucediendo, una energía que comienza a ser tangible en N3, en la que el tiempo se hace más lento, el aire reposa y las palabras salen del corazón en medio de largas pausas, con un tono de sintiéndose representados por la postura de unos pocos. (El ego se ha replegado. Ninguna voz domina. Las agendas se han evaporado. ) Se trata de una ruptura creativa en la que algo está naciendo, algo esta llegando a la VIDA y nosotros, como documentadores gráficos lo presenciamos; de alguna manera somos parteras facilitando a través de nuestro ser y nuestras manos el surgimiento de un cambio y CONOCIMIENTO colectivo.

Aquí lo que es importante es ser un canal. Solamente dibuja lo que debe ser dibujado en la nueva realidad. Solamente representa el momento absolutamente presente.

(Hay MUCHO MÁS que escribir sobre esto, y lo haré) Como referencia el modelo de Otto – y si, nosotros documentamos mientras escuchamos también en estos niveles…