Have you ever been introduced to someone only to realise that you had met them before but cannot remember their name? Our brains are great at remembering images, like faces, which is why we often recognize people even if we had only met them briefly. Names, however, are not so easy to recall. Our brains are wired for images. Some research has shown that about 70% of the information that we take in from the world is through sight. A sizable part of our grey matter is allocated to storing and recalling images, which is why it makes sense to use a picture when explaining concepts.
If I chose a random employee from your company and asked them to explain the company’s strategy, how confident are you that they would be able to do that? It’s difficult to communicate complex messages, and even more difficult to make them stick. Now, imagine using the power of images to help your employees retain your strategy. And if they retain it, they will make better decisions, which will move the strategy forward.
As a graphic facilitator I use images when helping my clients create a strategy. A simple picture can be an effective way to create understanding and buy-in from employees. Imagine your strategy as a picture of a tree – the roots could be new products and services in your portfolio, the trunk could be the manufacturing process, the branches are market segments and leaves the customers you’re focusing on. With a visual metaphor you can keep adding elements e.g. fruit and flowers could be new markets, other trees could be competition and bugs in the tree could either be legislation or symbiotic relationships with stakeholders. The possibilities are endless.
You might already have some idea of an image for your strategy, and that’s great. What is really going to make a difference is to co-create it with your staff. A company in the financial sector used a picture to explain the strategy for their Human Capital department. After discussions where a lot of ideas were raised (a human body with many different parts and functions, or a castle with towers and dungeons) the group settled upon the image of a day at the beach. We had great fun including concepts such as sandcastles (interventions which were not sustainable), surfers trying to catch waves and failing (being behind the business curve) and new lifeguards who could not swim (a lack of technical training). Not only was the group completely engaged in the process of creating the graphic, but they used the picture for months afterwards to talk to others in the business about the strategy and the challenges.
An information technology company used the image of a bridge being built between two cliffs as the metaphor for their strategy. They focused on the raw materials at their disposal (the new tech and innovation), the employees that needed to follow the strategy (the pedestrians, buses and trucks crossing the bridge) and the destination on the other side – their company vision. However, using the picture created an opportunity to talk about obstacles that they found difficult to raise otherwise; the group identified a troll living under the bridge, which turned out to be a particular department resisting change.
Not only does a picture help people to create and understand strategy, it also allows for greater retention of the message. Months later people can still talk to the picture and recall the particulars behind specific aspects of the drawing. That’s what you’d like your strategy to be – alive in your employees’ minds so that they can apply that insight to daily decisions.
Contact us to create a visual strategy for your organisation or department. We can do this in-person or online.