Dave Gray’s new book, Marks and Meaning, delves quite deeply into the business uses of visual information. In the process, he describes some common problems that many of us face. A case in point: The paralysis that is often caused by information overload, and the detrimental effect this can have on decision-making:
“Information anxiety… causes people to put off decisions so they have more time to think. Time drags out as they try to process information. It takes so long for them to find, understand and prioritize their options that business processes slow to a crawl. By the time anyone takes action, situations have turned into crises and stress levels are high – the worst possible environment for good decision-making.”
As Steve Rothwell points out in a recent post in his Peace of Mind blog, the same thing often happens when a team is struggling to define a new project, and no one wants to commit themselves to it until it is defined. Perfection becomes the enemy of the good, and paralysis once again results.
Both of these challenges can be tackled by visualizing them, Gray explains:
“A visual explanation clears away this fog of confusion by depicting complex information visually, in order to make it more clear, concise and concrete. This allows people to quickly grasp key issues and make faster, better decisions.”
“A picture can connect to the strategic with the tactical in a way that no other communication possibly can. It can clearly articulates who does what, with whom, and when. And that is surely worth at least a thousand words.”
Visual mapping gives you a flexible, open “canvas” where you can capture key questions, gaps in your existing information, key contacts you need to approach to find that information, and track tasks, assignments and deadlines. It can also help you to evaluate the information that you have gathered, separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff and enabling you to overcome information overload. And it can become a potent tool for collaboration among team members and for tracking team and individual progress, capturing lessons learned and other key information. In short, it’s the perfect antidote to project paralysis.
If you haven’t tried to employ mind mapping software to bring structure, definition – and, most importantly, desirable action – from a new, ambiguously scoped project, why not do so today? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!