I'm grateful to a LinkedIn conversation in the 'Structured Visual Thinking' group for pointing me towards Tom Wujec and this TED video which describes why visual art, graphics and illustration develop meaning.
Tom says that the brain doesn't see the world 'as it actually is' but makes meaning through mental models and a series of 'Aha' moments.
He goes on to demonstrate both low-tech and impressively high tech methods of developing a shared picture of organisational strategy. For me however, one of the key advantages of this type of process is:
"The act of collectively and collaboratively building the image transforms the collaboration.... the entire team creates a shared mental model that they can agree on and move ahead on."
Over the years, my own visual practice has grown from saying to clients, "...and I want you to DRAW it..." (cue sharp intakes of breath and lots of 'but I can't draw' excuses) to my current use of the digital technology we can all enjoy. One thing is certain though, whatever the technology (and it could literally be lines in sand...), collective visualisation is an immensely powerful process.
And, in a world of constantly shifting goal-posts and ever more complex processes, the ability to collaborate well is almost reward enough...