Not Just Data, Visualization

Look at the image at the left.  What does it make you think?  More importantly, what does it make you FEEL?   What product or service do you think it is selling?  If you answered slideware (pretty pics for your PPT’s)  you’d be right.

The Xavier Leadership Center has a number of experts in the field of communications skills.  When I talk to them. . .  Laurie Brown, Rocco Dal Vera, Karen Holtkamp, and Dr. Tom Clark, for example, they continually share that the key to reaching the human mind is through the use of graphics, imagery and stories.   These are the things that connect with us, and aid in our communications effectiveness.

Another problem for many of us is that in the digital age, we have more data than ever before, but assembling it and presenting it in ways that aid understanding is an art form that, for most of us, needs cultivation.

We also think that such visualization skills are central to unleashing innovation.  Before we can effectively engage in effective group problem solving – it helps to get everyone to understand and appreciate the problem (or situation) clearly at the outset.  Communicating to get everyone on the same page really helps.

Here are a few of these visualization pioneers I have been watching and reading about lately, and I thought many of our readers would benefit from the references.  (There are several links for you to follow when you get time – if you want to delve more deeply).

David McCandless (David is an award-winning writer, designer and author based in London whose work has appeared in over 40 publications worldwide including Wired and The Guardian.   His new book Information Is Beautiful explores the potential of data visualization as a new direction for journalism and story-telling. )  Watch this TED talk.

Dr. Hans Rosling  is  a professor os global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.  His current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world.  The way he presents animated data is pretty stirring. (see his interactive Gapminder web site, and don’t miss the TALKS section.

Garr Reynolds (his book Presentation Zen was a recent gift to me from Laurie Brown which) shares new ways of thinking about constructing presentations with compelling graphics and simple structures.  Garr is a branding consultant by trade, but gravitated toward the topic of presentation skills.  This is a key leadership skill and the ability to engage and connect with an audience is one that can set you apart from the crowd.

David Sibbet (who will be presenting at this year’s Systems Thinking In Action Conference)  David argues that our communications toolkit should include at least all 7 of the communication tools listed below:

  1. Causal Loop Diagrams (which show assumed interconnections between decisions events and actions)
  2. Posters – used to focus attention
  3. Lists – move that attention in a linear fashion
  4. Clusters (like sets of post-it notes) – grouping the attention or information to “activate comparison”, though not by “linking, which does the work for you, but juxtaposing, which lets you do the work of making connections”
  5. Grids – use of a matrix to create a “series of categories crossed against another series of categories” which “forces you to analyze the information by cross-checking”
  6. Diagrams – information is linked through branching (think Mind Mapping)
  7. Drawings – “merge with what is known” to think “about complexity through metaphor”
  8. Circle Diagrams – present a unified, centralized, integrated view of the ideas

Finally,  I would reference RSA.  They call themselves a 21st century enlightenment organization committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research innovation communications.

Watch the preceding TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson – that went through a process they call RSA Animate – See if you think it enhances your understanding.



Filed under Innovation, Leading, Managing Teams, Systems Thinking

2 responses to “Not Just Data, Visualization

  1. Pingback: Information Graphics/Data Visualizations: What is involved in making those things? – Kitlas

  2. IN the case of Rosling’s work he has created some specific software tools (which he sold to Google). Presentation Zen is just a way of thinking about construction. Same with McCandless.

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