Found In Translation: The Case for Pictures in Business

One of the most popular blogs on this site is the one on Rich Pictures. I think that pictures are fabulous, so I really liked Dan Roam’s article on ChangeThis called Found In Translation: The Case for Pictures in Business.

Tower Bridge - Freshly PaintedIn this article Dan tells a simple story about getting directions in Moscow and the four different ways in which he could have been given the directions.

  • The Narrative
  • The Checklist
  • The Map
  • The Landmark Sketch

and Dan describes each one of them:

All four of these sets of directions are correct. Following any one of them should in theory get us to the Gagarin Museum in the same amount of time. But here’s my question: I’d like you to look over the four options again, really think about it for a moment, and then ask yourself this: if we actually were in Moscow, which option would you prefer?

The powerful communication methods are the map and the landmark sketch – without a doubt. We all know it’s true, so why do we use so many words in business?

I believe that for practical, business-oriented problem solving—when you and your team need to address something right in front of you right now, the visual options—the map and the landmark sketch are without question the way to go. The fact that we so rarely see these kinds of pictures used in business is why I write my books.

Over the last two days I’ve filled sheet after sheet of flipchart paper with diagrams. We’ve been talking through a solution with a customer, a solution that takes thousands of words to document. The documents don’t communicate, they just document. I had presentation slides and charts, but I knew that they wouldn’t communicate either. Simple blocks and lines on a chart with a commentary – that’s what communicated.

There’s something very powerful about a conversation held over a piece of paper, and I think it’s something intrinsic in who we are, but something that we suppress as adults. My reason for saying this is the difference that I see in the way that children react to paper table-cloths and the reaction of adults. What do children do with paper table-cloths? They write and draw on them, they get creative. What do adults do? They protect them, even though we know that paper table-cloth is going straight in the bin as soon as we have left. Why is that? One of the reasons, I think, is that the children’s  need to be creative is fresh and unimpaired, as adults we’ve come to suppress it so much that we don’t even think about it.

If you haven’t come across ChangeThis before then you really are missing out on a treat. I really like their manifesto.

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