Monday, August 18, 2008

A picture paints a thousand words

I heard a rumour, some might call it an urban myth, that John MacFarlane - the turnaround CEO (some years back) of ANZ Bank, had a fabulous ability to translate complex messages into simple pictures.

The story goes, that he often would draw these messages on the back of coasters, paper napkins and scraps of paper. It’s also said that these ‘spontaneous illustrations’ were often carried around in the pockets of those who sat with him during the ‘conversation’.

This is literal evidence that a picture truly does paint a thousand words. There is an art to this illustrating, an art that you can learn.

Spend some time thinking through what you want to say to others and see if there is a simple diagram, illustration or model you could draw, that encapsulates what you are trying to say. In posh language, this is the art of communicating through context.

Here are some tips

  1. Keep it simple – the less words the better. It’s a picture you’re creating, not a shopping list.
  2. Think of a word picture (metaphor) that may support the diagram you are drawing.
  3. Create it in front of the audience, not in advance. They feel a part of the creation that way.
In my mind, this is the single most important communication skill you need when working in a world of too much information.

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