Why Communicate Visually?

Why Communicate Visually? Published  February 09| Aaron Stannard

If you were to ask every manager on Earth to list their five least favorite managerial activities, all of them would include “putting out fires” on their list. We all know what it’s like to have to put out a fire – a fire starts when somebody screws up and suddenly your project is in jeopardy. You, being the person in charge, inevitably have to swoop in and put the fire out, and putting it out requires a lot of last minute scrambling, long nights, weekends in the office, and plenty of stress.

Fires occur because of poor communication Perhaps someone doesn’t understand why what they’re doing is important or who is actually responsible for what. But somewhere along the way some part of a major project or assignment falls apart and you, the manager, are the lucky one who gets to put it back together. It gets worse: bad communication is endemic, so you’re going to be putting out lots of fires. You move from crisis to crisis, fixing care of one urgent, mission-critical screw-up after another. You’re stressed, you have too much to do, you can’t go home early, it becomes harder to schedule vacations, and on and on. But wait a minute – we identified the disease responsible for creating crises: bad communication. Rather than treat the symptoms of bad communication, the fires, why don’t you start treating the disease of bad communication?

How can you communicate in a manner that makes your specifications absolutely clear and easy for your co-workers to remember? A Better Way to Communicate How can we communicate both clearly and memorably? Do we simply repeat ourselves more? Communicate slower? No. Instead, we should communicate visually. We’ve all heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and it’s true – what takes one thousand words to explain correctly can be described much more easily using a simple picture. Not only is it easier to communicate something using a picture, but it’s also much easier for people to remember things that have been communicated to them visually. Psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University has studied the art of communication, and his studies have shown that:

People remember 10% of what they hear; 20% of what they read; and 80% of what they see and do. ImagePatrol is all about image.

Most people are visual learners; a recent study by the U.S. Federal Government suggested that up to 83% of human learning occurs visually. The study also indicated that information which is communicated visually is retained up to six times greater than information which is communicated by spoken word alone. Manager’s problems can’t resolve their miscommunication problems with their teams by merely speaking more or writing more – you can’t scale failure into success. Instead, we should augment what we’ve been trying to say with pictures. It’s that simple.