Why is it we say, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and not “A word is worth a thousand pictures”? Words are powerful, but an image has the power to move people in an instant. We are told that to get what we want in life, we should first produce an image, graph or chart of what we want that outcome to be. We consistently reinforce our words, thoughts, and actions through images. What would the image for your goal look like? Visuals can be very powerful, even in your mind.
Adam Famularo, a CA Technologies SVP and General Manager and friend, wrote a Time Management blog this year illustrating how he charts and maps out his work, family, and personal goals against time, including those spent giving back to the community. He recommends that others might benefit from this approach and get a “clear picture” of how much time they have available to achieve goals.
Visuals have increasingly been used to share ideas, content, and information in a bite-sized manner. Visual reports, common for decision makers, have expanded and are now more widely used to review and collaborate about information , data and applications, and to help support decisions with organizational direction,. I’ve noted four ways that visuals are being used (what I call the 4 Cs) as follows:
Have you recently had a conversation using visual aids? Often enough, while I’m at dinner, colleagues or friends will whip out their mobile device to show a visual – sometimes it’s a photo or video and other times a mobile app. As an evaluator and teacher, I used to sift through effective presentation styles and techniques. Imagine sitting through a 30-minute presentation filled with plain text! When I came across presentations like that, I said to myself, “OMG get me out of here!” Colors, images, fonts, design, and art used in presentations are so much more effective.
In your work environment, observe the interaction with your team and think about conversations around a new project. Would you agree as readily without visuals of the project schedule, resources, and financials?
Communication, Collaboration, Change Management
Looking further into projects, you’ll probably see that visual communication and collaboration around customer requirements have grown in popularity. Requirements can be for new applications, understanding of data flow, and/or improving the business performance. Think about some of the different visualizations that could be used to communicate and collaborate with employees, partners, and clients. For instance:
- New Applications > Visibility to Application Performance
- Data Flow > Data Mapping
- Business Performance > Strategy Mapping & Business Intelligence Reporting
If you were a major financial or healthcare institution with Big Data initiatives, how would you detail the flow of data? Where does the data collaborate with marketing and IT? Who does it engage and is the data secure and private for compliance measures? What data is key for reporting? There is a lot of information to document.
My guess is you will most likely have to use a visual flow type of diagram to track the way that data travels; where to make changes, assess the impact and identify the root cause. If there is a conflict that needs to be resolved, being able to address it visually is extremely helpful when communicating and collaborating. Visual interpretation is also a convenient way to communicate and translate across different users in a company (executive, technical, sales) and even with an international audience. Keep in mind that the visual flow is only as effective as the ability of the viewer to interpret the design of the image.
Design and Art
First impressions are important, and so are visual designs. Why are some gaming applications more successful than others? The design that engages gaming users can be powerful – so powerful that they create an addictive habit. Successful mobile designers also use cognitive psychology to assess the human behavior, adaptability and friendliness of the mobile application. Social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram have gained popularity by associating images, graphics, or videos as a method of capturing inspiration, initiating visual conversations, and building community of similar interests through design. They even use a vision board for desires. Companies producing videos on YouTube or other sources can communicate their message-- sometimes in 3 minutes or less --through visual contact.
Visual icons, color, and other uses of illustrative elements are becoming a more common practice in corporate communication. Multiple icons can be captured into a single image to create instant messaging for corporate use. For example, of the many systems that help desks manage, one mission- critical system, case management, is alerting issues. There are a high volume of online incidents being logged in and phone calls from business users are rapidly increasing due to system downtime. How would you display this information into a single image? Here are a few icons you might consider:
- Case Management System icon > displayed as a briefcase in red color showing alert status
- Help Desk icon > image of a red help desk support representing rising incident tickets logged
- Phone icon > demonstrated in red to represent volume of calls
Similar to textual metadata definition, visual representation needs to have common definition, language and interpretation within the organization. When your company knows what these images characterize, a single image icon gets the message across expeditiously, as shown below.
Brain’s Perception and Cognition of Visual Origins
How does your brain process visual representations? When you see something – be it text, static image, moving object, etc. – the light stimulates the retina giving you a visual perception that is controlled by the visual cortex of your brain, which happens very fast. However, the process of interpreting what you saw does not stop there. The visual perception of what you saw and – note here – “paid attention to” then sends signals to the cerebral cortex of your brain. This is where the signals are processed and cognitive, conscious thinking of what you saw kicks in; it is then interpreted and stored in your memory.
Even though text is visual and goes through the same process of interpretation as visual objects, the interpretation of the message takes longer. In the previous example, when the case management system is down, causing high volume of incidents and calls, it takes longer to read and then interpret versus the same message displayed and interpreted using visual cues.
To ease and accelerate the process for decision makers to interpret the data, don’t overcrowd with unnecessary visuals. Further, decision makers cannot achieve their goals just by visual perception and cognition. They need to put an actionable plan together based on their interpretation.
I will be covering more about collaboration at ERworld November 14, @ 12 PM EST – the day after my birthday! This is a virtual conference and it is FREE. Make sure to register now and join my colleagues and me for three days, Nov 12t – 14t online. Click here for the full agenda.
I am also excited to share that I have dedicated an entire chapter to my upcoming book ‘The 4 Intelligences of the Business Mind’ (Apress/Springer, 2014) on visualization. To stay up to date, receive more information and upcoming events about the book, please fill out the form here on my website’s homepage. Can’t wait to share more.
Valeh Nazemoff serves as Vice President of Acolyst where she works with executive clients, mapping and resolving their GRC & Legal matters through Business Performance Management. She helps them achieve their strategic initiatives such as cloud computing, mobility and business process improvement while bringing attention to organizational behavior. With a background in psychology and business management, she has taught several business courses for the University of Phoenix (UOPHX). Contact, ask your questions, and connect with her at email@example.com.