Using CCS Cards to achieve quality communication in groups, face-to-face or self-reflection

by Dr. Stephanie A. Burns



As a professional, have you ever come across a new technique, theory, idea or tool that immediately impacted the quality of your work? That is exactly what happened to me at the end of 1999. Since then I have been testing, applying and discovering new uses for the CCS vision packs. They are now used in all of my on-line courses and many of my consultations and trainings.

How it all started

While out watching the Mini-Marathon in Mosman last year I ran into a colleague, Maureen Moss, from BID Direction. She and her business partner Paul Kelly have both done Training To Train and the Goal Achievers Program and over the years I have met most of their employees in my courses. In that brief meeting Maureen suggested (with a little more oompf than merely 'suggested') that I meet a man named Craig Browne who had a communication tool that trainers at BID were applying in a wide variety of training and communication contexts. She told me she had planned to contact me to set up a meeting between Craig and I - so this unexpected encounter was purposeful. You would appreciate that in the context my work complying with requests of this nature can be difficult and sometimes delicate. I typically require much more information than I had. All I knew was that Craig had been (or still was) a designer of games - which had always intrigued me. I also have a strong respect for Maureen Moss knowing the quality of her work.

For all that I didn't know I can say now that this connection was meant to be. I made contact with Craig and we agreed to an hour meeting in a local coffee shop. A few minutes after saying hello Craig took what at the time I thought was a very big risk in a meeting of this type; he suggested we use the CCS cards to open our meeting and as a tool to facilitate our own communication. From experience, I can tell you that action could have all so easily brought down the gong. Our meeting might have not made the five minute mark!

Craig handed me a pack of cards, and he opened another for himself. He told me that any card could mean anything and then suggested I select 5 cards to describe myself. While I did that he did the same.

Now I must admit I am not the best person to do this types of activity without warning. I am shy by nature and prefer the role of observer (unless I've chosen to participate). I certainly do not like being put on the spot.

But as I sat back thumbing through the cards with stories and past events popping into my head, I found a description of myself being elegantly crafted around the images of the cards. Some I selected and others I rejected (but not before each suggested some story to my mind). In a few moments I had my final 5 cards and sat forward ready to tell my story. In another moment, Craig and I had shared what I observed to be the richest communication I had ever had with a person I had just met.


The CCS One-on-1 product



Teaching at Goal Achievers with a card from the Trainer's vision pack



You have to understand, I have spent most of my career creating contexts and processes to support rich and informative communication ... I had not ever seen a tool do better than what I was able to produce through all the words in the world.


Craig Brown in action
There was nothing deep, secret, revealing, sensitive or gooey. Just rich and articulate and very useful in the context of a potential connection in business. There was nothing wasted and every thought was purposeful. I felt I knew five good things to know about Craig and he knew five good things about me, told in a form that we could build upon.

For the remainder of the meeting Craig told me about how the CCS cards were being used by companies throughout Australia and showed me the artifacts from his work. I was very impressed with everything put in front of me. Of course, while all this is going on I am fiddling with the cards and imagining the uses I would have for them in my own business. At the end of the meeting I knew just three things: 1. I would use this tool in my own work to create greater quality communication and greater equality in the communication that occurs between participants; 2. I would tell other trainers, managers, coaches and human resource people about my experience with the CCS cards; and 3. I was did not want to leave the meeting without my own cards. I wasn't disappointed.


You can learn about and order a full range of CCS products from the special CCS site constructed by Craig for my use.

CCS website


CCS Vision Packs: What can be done and how do they work?

I asked Craig to choose five cards to describe the CCS Vision Packs to someone who wants to know more about them - what can be done, and how they work. Here's what he said ...

People enjoying themselves in a courtyard cafe - the CCS is a tool for improving the quality of face-to-face communication at almost any event or meeting. It makes communication deeper, clearer and more effective. And really interesting!



A seagull standing on the crest of rock, staring out to sea - the CCS gives participants an opportunity to truly consider their thoughts before responding. It gives them 'time-out' at even the most serious or jam-packed of events. Participants find it appealing to play in the field of their thoughts for a few moments.


A bright, happy clown - uncovering the fun and lighthearted humour at a meeting, training session or other learning activity is a terrific way to encourage openness and participation. The CCS helps you to find fun in anything - no matter how serious the discussion. I've always believed this leads to a positive outcome.



An abstract watercolour-like pattern - the CCS adds creativity and flow to communication. When people realise that there are no right or wrong answers and the playing field is level they respond openly, honestly and sometimes in ways they themselves find unexpected.


A hillside of dozens of different coloured terrace houses - so much of modern business is about finding ways to harness the ideas from ALL people in an organisation. The CCS is a unique way to identify common ground, celebrate diversity and unite the group or team around a common vision (while having fun!).



Teaching at Goal Achievers with a card from the Trainer's vision pack



What has happened since?

This connection with Craig and other members of his organisation has turned out to have true significance, in that I have invested a great deal of time both learning from Craig.

At first I sat in on numerous meetings as Craig used the Vision Cards to talk to the client about using the cards as a communication tool. There has not been one meeting which did not result in the company choosing to immediately employ the cards in some up and coming meeting, discussion, or event. On some occasions we would leave behind whatever cards Craig had on him so the individual could use them in a meeting or performance review or training later in the same day. If you depend on verbal communication the connection to the power of this simple and elegant tool is so apparent it is like being hit between the eyes. It just wakes up some part of you that sees an aid to all of the communication pitfalls that exist in your work.

I then began using the CCS vision packs in Training To Train and the Goal Achievers Program immediately. They have now become part of the materials issued to every student in the Goal Achievers Program. It was in that context that I began to explore using the cards for self-discovery and personal development. I have spent many, many hours developing this use.

Even 8 year old children used the CCS cards as part of the Goal Achievers for Children Program at Currambeena School in NSW. It was wonderful to watch the power of communication from children when they had the cards in their hands.


What's in the box?

Two CCS vision packs,
and 2 mini-manuals


You can order the One-on-1
package via the Kiosk on the shelf or use the Stephanie's books and products link in the right margin.


You can learn about and order a full range of CCS products from the special CCS site constructed by Craig for my use.

CCS website

Creating the One-on-1 product

One of the results of my efforts with the cards has been the creation of the One-on-1 product. Craig and his business partners had always wanted to find a meaningful way to make the cards available for people who only wanted 2 packs to use for face-to-face communication - for managers, coaches, personal trainers, counselors, and at home. I kept collecting stories from my students and friends that supported that function for the cards. For instance, one night at the track one athlete (who was given a pack of cards in a training with me) told me he had thought to use the cards to talk to his Dad. This had been problematic for them in the past. He told they really communicated for the first time in a long while. They just took turns with the cards. There were so many good stories I was hearing to support Craig's vision of a product with 2 sets of cards.

I, on the other hand, wanted Craig to find the means to allow individuals (not just companies and trainers) to have access to the CCS cards so I could teach people to use them for self-discovery and personal development. Our growth, decisions and motivation is so dependent upon how we communicate with ourselves. I was using this tool to facilitate depth and quality in the communication I have with myself. I use my CCS cards regularly. In 4 years I have found that every card holds a different meaning depending upon the day and the question. Unlike other communication aids, this one never loses its freshness. They might be 52 different images everyday for the effect that they have.

With those two desires in place, Craig and I came up with the One-on-1 product. Well, actually Craig came up with it, I just jumped on the train - what you see creatively in the product is all on the shoulders of Craig and his partners. But what I saw was that if a second mini-workbook were added to the box written by me then I could teach people how to use the CCS cards for self-discovery - the same way I was doing myself at home and the same way I was teaching my Goal Achievers students to use them. And, that is what happened.



So, now we have a product that contains 2 CCS vision packs and two mini-workbooks (Craig's mini-workbook focuses on activities that you can do when using the cards with another person). The product retails for $69.95 (plus GST in Australia). You can order CCS One-on-1 here on the website. If you are interested in using Vision cards in larger training situations visit the CCS website for descriptions of the various products and purchasing information.

I am very proud to have my name associated with this new tool and to have been included in Craig's design.



In closing ...

Thanks for letting me share this with you. I think it is important for those of you who know of, and follow, my work to know how the various facets of that work come into being.

And this, is the story of the CCS cards!





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