The demands of running any organization are undeniably arduous and at times seemingly (or actually) insurmountable. Even if you are taking consistent steps forward, the ground beneath your feet is ever pushing you back. Your task list is not unlike Greek mythology’s Hydra; every task you complete is replaced by two more. So, with the landscape being as such why add yet another thing to your to do list? Because add the right thing and it can become a helpful tool that enables you to skip a step forward. And what is this tool? What is this enigmatic means by which one can propel themselves forward? It’s a picture. A simple picture. A visual representation of an idea. That might sound silly, but which of these two presentations of the same data do you think is more effective?
Now you might be thinking, “Not only do I not have time for that, but I don’t have an artistic bone in my body!” But, neither of those statements are actually true. And, here’s why:
(1.) I don’t have time!
At this point I was hoping to regale you with all sorts of amazing facts supporting my hypothesis that people are visual learners and that visual information is more quickly and easily digested, therefore it actually saves you time. But, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find consistent, clean and well sited data on the subject of learning preferences. And though many sites I visited started their assertions with the label “FACT:”, I won’t use those statistics here being that I cannot say with certainty how precise they are or how exactly they were determined. But, I can tell you what I believe and what I’ve noticed by means of observation throughout my life and I think you’ll agree. Visuals can convey your message more quickly and more memorably than words alone. So, if you need to make a point, drive change, garner support or just plain communicate, investing the time to visualize what you are communicating upfront can save you exponential time down the road because it takes less time to explain, it is easier for people to grasp, they are more likely to remember it, and it is more easy and more interesting to share. And, because of all that you are more likely to get people behind you, which means the time you spent preparing your proposal, initiative, etc. was less likely a wasted effort.
(2.) I don’t have an artistic bone in my body!
In my life I have almost never found this to be true of anyone I have met. Creativity comes in many forms and just because you can’t draw a picture doesn’t mean you can’t come up with or contribute to a fascinating visual. Unless you’re an art major or somewhat of an art hobbyist you should be outsourcing the actual art part of it anyway (which will also save you time). Most organizations have creative people at their disposal, if not you should hire one, and if a full-time person is not in the cards there are other temporary resources that can be found. If the idea is important and you want it to be well communicated, it’s worth the investment.
Visuals may not be prudent for every single little thing you do, but when used correctly they pack a powerful punch. No matter what level of the organization you find yourself at, being able to think and communicate visually is an invaluable tool for you to master. Because, maybe a picture isn’t worth exactly one thousand hours of time, but depending on how you look at it, it’s pretty damn close.