Visual Planning Tools for Transformative Learning, Change, and Innovation

Written by Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D. –


I recently had the privilege of working with a group of professionals who are focused on engaging members of an association. This group initially reached out for help with understanding their current strategic practices and determining how to build on their strengths.

When we began working together, we realized there were several themes we needed to address. In this article, I want to share these three ideas with you and provide an introduction to three visual frameworks that you can use in your classrooms, courses, teams, departments, and organizations.

Pillars of Growth

As an educator, I’m constantly exploring new ways of helping people. Sometimes this means directing people to information. Other times it means challenging them. Most of the time it means creating environments where they can be at their best. Creating environments for transformation is an emerging area of research that has major implications for planning, design, facilitation, and evaluation of learning.

This task of creating environments for transformation is not unlike what great leaders do to energize their teams and position their organizations for the future.

In the introduction story I shared, these association professionals were really focused on growing three activities needed to serve their members in transformative ways: learning, change, and innovation.


Vijay Govindaragan, author of The Three Box Solution states, “learning always precedes innovation.” This is an important statement for us to remember. In order for innovation or change to happen, we must create the conditions that help people learn.

In order for innovation or change to happen, we must create the conditions that help people learn.

The Learning Canvas is a tool that organizes essential elements for learning in a visual plan. The canvas is organized around the learning goal. This template uses a transformative learning perspective that aims to energize, prepare, and help learners perform. Each box provides a placeholder for creativity within a broader learning design framework.

This canvas can be used to quickly organize and implement learning initiatives and support alignment between outcomes and strategies.


Change is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how comfortable we are in our current state-of-mind, we will be faced with managing change. For many people, change comes with a negative tone. After all, change is probably so difficult because we don’t often know what the change will bring.

A key part of helping people manage change is helping them see and engage with the plan for change.

The Change Canvas is a tool for organizing a change process. This process can be used for individuals, teams, or even organizational initiatives. The real value in using this tool is it takes the invisible aspects of the change process, and makes them more relate-able and concrete. This helps people become owners of the change and manage the change to positive outcomes.

The Change Canvas provides a template for organizing ideas and framing groups of people around a common mental model for the change process.


Innovation is a transformative process. In order for innovation to happen, a strong capacity for learning and change must be present. This happens in teams and organizations, but it also happens individually.

Innovation is a term that sometimes has an identity crisis. Innovation is about creating value. True innovation is not just about creating something new, but rather how that new idea, object, or process creates value for people.

The Innovation Canvas provides a framework for managing a portfolio of innovations while helping to ensure innovation is connected to a mission. This 4-phase model of

  1. think it,
  2. try it,
  3. build it,
  4. scale it,

is a cycle that aligns innovations based on their innovation dynamics, risk, and alignment to a mission.

This canvas provides a visual way of “seeing” the innovation process and invites people to engage.

Concluding Thoughts

If we want transformation to happen, we need to first consider the environments for learning, change, and innovation. Then, we need to leverage tools for helping people engage with these environments. The three visual templates shared in this article are a foundation that educators, team leaders, executives, and others can lean on to move ideas into action.

If you would like to learn more about how to use these tools, sign up for the free course titled, Leading Up: Strategies for Accelerating Innovation. You’ll learn how to select, use, and apply these tools in your life.

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