A Picture is Still Worth 1000 Words

Communicating ideas using workflow modeling has always allowed people to look at what they do, promote understanding, assess value and efficiency, and study such things as through-put, hand-offs and decision points. The reason modeling and diagramming is so attractive to the analyst or the manager is its ability to communicate and convey meaning using a largely visual medium. In an era of “global everything”, inter-connectivity and information overload, that kind of visually accelerated understanding and analysis is truly an advantage to business operations that harness it. As it happens, it’s also ushering in a new ear of “Napkin Business Modeling”.

Fast Company: Next

The April ’08 issue of Fast Company magazine has a wonderful little article by Kate Bonamici Flaim who covers the growing popularity of using white-boards (UPS), post-it notes and other doodles to render business process drawings – usually at a fairly high level. She shares how companies like Facebook, eBay, InfoSys, and Microsoft have used some simple form of visual communication to quickly and easily impart strategy, mission, goals and business models. What used to require thick binders or lengthy Powerpoint presentations can now be shared and reasonably well-understood with a single drawing.

It Works

I have long been a doodler, keeping pads handy and jumping up to the white-board to explain myself. My peers who preferred lengthy text, technical language and endless meetings would immediately cringe yet just as quickly loosen their resistance and proclaim they “get it.” This simple approach is rather Zen-like in its capacity for including and transcending complexity without caving into it and appealing to the innate wisdom of people to “see” flow in their environment and the truth of things without bogging down in and becoming attached to details. It is helpful in sales, new hire training, implementation and advertising. It works because it trusts that people are inherently intelligent and forces the communicator out of the role of educator. We have so many bad habits and chief among them is the tendency to want to prove how smart we are by piling heaps of academic and intellectual treatise atop our listener. People want to know that what you are pitching – a new process, product or solution – will work for them and the enterprise as a whole. Simply show people how it works and git into workflow.

Check out www.fastcompany.com


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