Todd Cherches, The Power of Visual Thinking – InnovaBuzz 352

Todd Cherches

Todd Cherches, BigBlueGumball

In this episode, I’m really excited to have as my guest, Todd Cherches, the CEO and Co-founder of BigBlueGumball, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development, public speaking, and executive coaching. Todd is also a three-time award-winning Adjunct Professor of leadership in the Human Capital Management master’s program at NYU, and a Lecturer on leadership at Columbia University as well as a TEDx speaker and the author of “VisuaLeadership: Leveraging the Power of Visual Thinking in Leadership and in Life”.

In our discussion, Todd talked to me about:

  • Why visual thinking and language is so important in communication and making ourselves understood
  • The components of a good story
  • What we can learn from Pictionary

Todd and I connected through Maxine Cunningham’s Pick My Brain platform. Maxine was our guest on episode 306 of this podcast.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

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If you take the complexities and messiness of life and put it into a framework, it allows you to see things more clearly, and you start to see solutions that you couldn't see beforehand.  @ToddCherches on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

Show Notes from this episode with Todd Cherches of BigBlueGumball

Key points and takeaways from this episode include:

  • We are all visual thinkers. We are all wired to take information visually.
  • You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t get people to see it, it is just going to die on the table.
  • The lens through which you see the world influences how you lead and who you are as a leader.
  • Visual leaders see the world with fresh eyes. They see possibilities and ideas that other people may never have dreamed of. 
  • A big part of leadership is making your vision a reality. 
  • 4 Ways to Communicate Visually:
    1. Using visual imagery and drawings
    2. Using mental models and frameworks
    3. Using metaphors and analogies
    4. Using stories
  • Think inside the box first before thinking outside of the box.
  • If you take the complexities and messiness of life and put it into a framework, it allows you to see things more clearly, and you start to see solutions that you couldn’t see beforehand. 
  • Metaphors and analogies need to be relevant to your audience.
  • People think in stories. Stories are human. They are emotional and memorable. Storytelling makes us human. When you take someone on a journey through your story, they can visualise it. 
  • Thinking of the world as being a stage is a great way to frame who you are and how you show up in the world with other people.
  • Think in terms of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. 
  • The world is like a big blue gumball. It is hard, crunchy, and blue on the outside, but you have to crack the exterior to get to its interior that is soft, chewy, and more fun.
  • When using metaphors and analogies to communicate with your audience, you need to always be thinking about what they know because not everything translates.
  • When you overuse cliches and metaphors that are too familiar, they lose their impact.
  • Storytelling is just sharing an experience. When you say you are not an amazing storyteller, you are doing yourself a disservice.
  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.
  • Putting these problems and complexities of life into compartments allows you to see in a second what you wouldn’t have seen because of the messiness and complexities.
  • Drawing is not about how great and honest you are. It is about how effective you are in getting your ideas across.
  • Drawings help people see what other people are saying. Drawings clarify the message.
  • Everyone has two thought bubbles hanging over their head all the time – why they should care and what’s in it for me. People want to know why something is interesting and how it will benefit them. If you’re not thinking about that, then, your messaging is all over the place.
  • Speak in the language of your audience. When people are bored or disengaged, it is usually because they either don’t care or don’t see any benefit. Any metaphor or story you tell needs to hit both of those targets.
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The best marketers are really good at simplifying complexity without losing the nuance and without stripping off its essence. 
  • Avoid giving people too many choices. When you give people too many choices, they get paralyzed by indecision and don’t make any choice at all.
  • You can stir your customer’s choices to a purchase decision just by how you place things. You have to know your customers. You have to know what they want and what they need, and what will help them make a decision.
  • Part of audience science is figuring out how many choices you could give and how to frame those choices in a way that you can help guide your customers in the right decision that is best for them.
  • Attention, Comprehension, and Retention – when you use visual language or imagery, it gets people to focus. It increases their understanding and as they’ve seen it, they will remember it.
  • Using imagery and stories makes you more authentic, natural, and impactful.
The best marketers are really good at simplifying complexity without losing the nuance and without stripping off its essence.   @ToddCherches on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Todd’s answers to the questions of our innovation round. Listen to the conversation to get the full scoop.

  1. #1 thing to be more innovative – Think inside the box. Create your own models. Get that information out of your head and put it into a framework so you can see it more clearly, and you’ll start to see solutions that you may not have thought of before. 
  2. Best thing for new ideas – Ideas come from everywhere. Do other things and don’t think about it. Let that idea percolate. “Our wonderful harmony arises together when we join together things that are seemingly unconnected.” – Heraclitus
  3. Favourite tool for innovation – Aquanotes (waterproof notepads)
  4. Keep project/client on track – Have a vision. Keep your eyes on the prize. Have a visible or tangible representation of what the goal is. Use your senses to visualise the past and visualise what the future might bring, and take steps towards making that vision a reality.
  5. Differentiate – Share your story. Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t, and that includes you. Your story is unique, and everything that has happened to you can be turned into a story that will teach someone else a lesson. Be genuine and authentic. Be honest and credible. Be generous. Share your wisdom and share your knowledge.

To Be a Leader

Flipping the eye has two meanings. One is looking internally at yourself and the other is looking at the world through the lens of other people who are different from you with empathy and compassion. Leadership is not about you, it is about other people. It’s about helping others turn their vision into a reality. 

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Todd through his website and on LinkedIn.

Suggested Guest

Todd suggested we have a conversation with Rob Salafia, MIT Master Executive Coach and author of “Leading from Your Best Self.” So Rob, keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from us to the InnovaBuzz podcast, courtesy of Todd Cherches.


Get access to Todd’s 52 Book Recommendations to Become a Better VisuaLeader


Cool Things About Todd

  • He received the prestigious NYU “Excellence in Teaching” award twice (2016 and 2020), as well as an NYU Center for Academic Excellent & Support (CAES) “Impact Award” (2018).
  • He’s a certified Vistage speaker and a member of the National Speakers Association. 
  • He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational and Interpersonal Communication and a Bachelor’s Degree (magna cum laude) in English Literature from the State University of New York. He’s a passionate Shakespeare fan.
Leadership is not about you, it is about other people. It's about helping others turn their vision into a reality.  @ToddCherches on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

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Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

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