Leveraging the Power of Visualization

How often are you talking with somebody and realize you need to express your ideas visually? You may feel the urge to stand up at a whiteboard where you can draw an image or a diagram to help get your point across. Sometimes those spontaneous images provide the communication breakthrough we need to reach a common understanding.

With so many working remotely, the ability to visualize ideas and concepts in a shareable environment is important to help people and organizations move forward. The power of visualization cannot be overstated. People process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. They are much more likely to remember the data they see, rather than what they read. Several studies found people only remember 20 percent of what they read, while visual aids boosted that retention by up to 400 percent. Estimates of the number of visual learners range from 37% to 67%, reinforcing the communicative importance of photos, videos, infographics, sketches, and diagrams.

The advantages of visualization when gathering and sharing information include:

  • Helping people learn more easily.  Forty percent of learners respond better to visual images than to text alone, according to studies cited by Shift eLearning ( People who followed directions with text and illustrations did more than 300 percent better than those using text-only instructions. Consider trying to resolve an issue with your car by looking at the owner’s manual, which are often heavy on text. Once you find the list of steps for diagnosing and resolving your problem, you encounter technical terms that probably only make sense to mechanics. However, if the manufacturer added pictures and/or diagrams alongside those instructions, you could more easily find a component under the hood that resembles the image. Pictures simply offer a better way to learn something new.
  • Overcoming complexity. Currently we are collaborating with an organization that is redesigning its international delivery model. Everyone involved has an idea of what the new model needs to be, but there are numerous details to consider. We are working together to understand the various intricacies and complexities of the organization. How can we find a solution that will work universally? The best approach to tackle complexity is by developing, sharing, and revising a visual image of the new model.
  • Aligning team members. Another organization is bringing three parts of the company together under one central leadership team to improve performance. Their concept is sound, but they still need to address how the new architecture will operate. The leaders have shared some vague ideas, but they are not offering an image of the new structure that can demonstrate to the rest of the team how things will work. We are currently working with them to develop some images that will allow everybody to get on the same page.
  • Demonstrating connectedness. Often organizations isolate individual problems and address them on a standalone basic. However, this approach often lacks an effective means of identifying touchpoints across the organization. They may not have a solid process to address the question, “Once we solve this problem, how will the solution connect with all the other things that are dependent on it?” Visually showing the relationships among and interfaces with other parts of the organization helps teams fully assess the impact of proposed changes to individual components or functions.

Providing organizations with a digital tool to enable learning, simplification, alignment, and making connections helps them achieve success. In fact, such tools will likely be an important part of how we work in the future.

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