Recently Chuck Frey from the Mind Mapping Software Blog interviewed me on my thoughts around visual clarity. Head over to his blog to read the full interview.
And follow Chuck on Twitter!
I just wanted to add my favorite questions here for you to read directly. :)
Chuck: Why is clarity so rare in business today? What's changed?
Holger: As we progress into a more and more developed world – meaning technology, management theories, methodologies, and tools – live gets complex and so does business. The burden of knowing everything, seeing everything and being able to find every information that's available adds complexity to every company. Especially technologies, may they be for communications or production or whatever, are making it worse. Of course, they help us progress, but they make it more complicated to speak about things. Technology hinders us from understanding everything in detail. And that way clarity gets rare. A second argument could be, that things are speeding up. Managers feel like they have less time in their days. They need to accomplish more than in the past. The next quarter of business growth is just around the corner. That leads to something I like to call “stupidification.” Senior managers today get their information in such a condensed way, so simple that they can read the annual report as a tweet between one of their daily 15 meetings. They lose sight of the big picture, and all the information is lacking the detail that would enable them to connect the single pieces together. We can’t blame anybody for this. It just happened that the evolution of business took the wrong way.
How do distractions and irrelevant information get in the way of clarity?
The problem is that we can’t see clear distinctions between distractions, irrelevant information and essential pieces of information anymore. The sheer amount of data is too much for our human brain to process. Everything seems to be interesting. There are chances and possibilities hidden behind all those pieces of information. How to filter them? Nowadays we lack the possibility to filter the information correctly. I mean accurately for you, which might be a different filter than I use. And the problem is that there is only one way to develop a good filter: Stop and take your time to clarify your personal goals, objectives, and purpose for whatever you do. That is the only reliable compass you will ever have.
Does collaboration benefit from visual thinking as well? How can it help teams arrive at a common understanding of the challenges they face?
When you put something on the wall, it will create a surface for understanding. The problem in collaboration is not that we are not smart enough. The problem is that we all listen through the filter of our own experiences and our own focus. And an even bigger problem is that our thoughts are intangible. You can’t see my thoughts (yet), and I can’t see yours. But if we put a visual on the wall both of us have something to see. If you combine the spoken words with something tangible and visible to speak about and to discuss, that elevates a conversation to unknown highs. And I would go so far that you can only create a shared understanding if you make things explicit and visual.
What would you say to those people who are on the fence - who are intrigued by the idea of visual thinking, but aren't sure if it's right for them?
Start small but be consistent. Don’t expect overnight success. In my blog post “A surprisingly simple way to unlock your most difficult problem (in just 5 minutes!)” I’ve described in the second half how you can create a visual design brief for yourself. You will see it’s more words than drawings. Start playing around with that concept for yourself. Nobody has to see it! Once you feel like it, perhaps try to clarify a thought with a good friend or colleague in that way. And after you feel more confident, perhaps start testing with more elaborate visual tools. But please don’t think that you need to able to draw. You just need to be able to get a pen down on paper. The rest will come. I hope you find this useful. What are your thoughts on this?
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