An age of information overload

We live in age of information overload. Every day I hear my clients talking about the amount of emails they have to wade through before they can do their “real work”. This is particularly prevalent in larger organisations where everyone is surrounded by information on noticeboards and intranets and in newsletters and minutes generated by colleagues vying for attention. Cutting through this noise is a continual challenge for managers and leaders with important messages to share.

For employees, dealing with information in a large organisation is a bit like having a box full of jigsaw pieces but no lid.  They know all of the pieces should join up but are overloaded and confused and don’t know how to put them all together as a coherent whole. So if making sense of all of this information is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, maybe we should show them the lid of the box?

An age of visualisation

In a recent article in the BA Business Life Magazine titled “The Age of Visualisation” , it is claimed that half of the human brain is dedicated to the task of attaching meaning to visual messages but that organisations typically fail to capitalise on this. Simple text is just not enough as employees struggle to interpret the huge amounts of data they are hit with daily and fail to see the bigger picture.

However, consider when information is presented in a well-designed, visual format; something where complex information uses images and metaphor, is brightly coloured, widely communicated and instantly understood, even by people who don’t speak your language. Better still where the images tell a compelling story.

A practical demonstration of this is the time we spend online and how we absorb information rapidly, using visual scanning, following connections. This appeals to the way our brain’s hard wiring is set up to receive it.   According to research, this familiarity is causing a shift in the way we take in and assimilate information and we are adapting to a more visual world. With over 50% of the human brain dedicated to the task of attaching meaning to visual cues and signals, it’s an opportunity that has gone largely missed within organisational communications.

How to visualise your messages

Visualisation (or the visual representation of ideas and messages) is now gaining traction though. It is an effective approach for communicating complex messages, articulating strategy, connecting employees with organisational purpose and fostering innovation. However, a colourful PowerPoint presentation or some clip art in a newsletter is usually as far as organisations take this but is not enough.

So, what specific tools exist for organisations to utilise and what are they doing to tap into this opportunity?

The three most popular approaches that we have the most experience with include the following:

  1. Graphic facilitation: Graphic Facilitation is the use of large-scale imagery, recorded live on paper or on tablets, to help guide groups and individuals towards a shared goal. The method is typically used in processes such as meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences. The outputs of this can be used to create a visual record of discussions and agreements and can be a powerful way to disseminate the information to others.
  2. Learning maps: Learning Maps convey huge amounts of information and enable your people to understand complex and interrelated issues affecting your organisation. Learning Maps can be rolled out to thousands of people in a way that doesn’t require experienced trainers. Designed collaboratively with key people within the organisation, Learning Maps use images, icons, metaphors, and business data to tell your organisational story in a visual way. Learning maps are delivered through conversations to create common understanding within teams.
  3. Videos and animations: Videos and animations are being used more and more to communicate complex messages and engage your audience in a way no other medium can. We all know that ’a picture paints a thousand words’ and by adding the extra impact of video the outcome can be immense. Keeping videos short (around 90 seconds as a rule of thumb) ensures they are impactful and concise. Videos can be integrated into presentations and intranets too.

If you would like some support getting started with creating visual messages for your organisation, get in touch with us at