As the world gets more complex, a new space is opening up.

You still need a hook. The critical few seconds that catch someone’s attention and make them ask for more (That’s an Advert). But then what?

You still need the detail – sometimes. The hours of detail that makes up the reality (Case Studies, Product Literature, Training Manuals, Reports etc) needs to be available and understood by the few that need it – but not by everyone. These are the times when you ask a simple question and get far more back as an answer than you ever needed. You want the Doctor to know the intricate details of how your body works – but you probably don’t want them to tell you all of it when you ask a simple question.

So as the World gets more complex, a new gap is opening up. The “minutes” that sit between the first few seconds of marketing and the hours of detail. Those minutes are what happen after you give someone the perfect elevator pitch about a great product or new change programme – and they say “I’m intrigued, how does it work? How does it affect me? Help me understand it“.

Traditionally this gap was filled by the “one pager” – a single page of text. Many times that is still perfect – but making it visual allows us to communicate ever more complex things.

Einstein famously said:

“Everything in life should be as simple as possible – but no simpler”.

The hours of detail in Politics is more than most of us have time for. Politics in seconds gives us glib sound bites and scandals. Politics in ten minutes would allow us to understand what parties stand for concisely, and with visuals that could be understand even more widely and clearly.

Change programmes in a few seconds give generic benefits (“Reduced costs and increased competitive advantage” etc). The hours of detail in change programmes are the long, detailed reports which project managers use to manage the project. The ten minutes allows everyone to have a common understanding – and discuss relevant, detailed questions where necessary, and pictures would allow further clarity still.

Why visual communication is growing

This need for simplicity helps explain the current growth in visual thinking. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ so much as a ‘need to survive’. Visual thinking – and the parallel trend of simplicity – are growing in popularity right now. Entire companies are starting and growing based purely on simplicity.

In the UK there are banks, phone companies and software companies all competing on simplicity rather than price, quality or features. People are so overwhelmed that they would rather have less in return for being able to keep up.

The visual communication trend is helped by image libraries, computer design software and colour printers becoming common and powerful enough that anyone can easily be more visual than before. But the Romans used maps, plans, designs. There’s nothing new in being able to communicate visually. So why now?

The real driver though seems to be need. A need to understand. A need to explain. A need to see what people mean.

So why do people not bother?

Well, brevity takes time:

“Sorry it’s such a long letter, I did not have time to write a short one” Blaise Pascal

Far easier for us to just waffle on about it out in an hour than spend the time to communicate it clearly and visually. We’re all busy, don’t you know! But even if you get your message across, the hours you saved are taken many times over from your audience listening to you, confused. If you failed to communicate then you have wasted your time.

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now” Woodrow Wilson

Good communication is not enough. Nor is it an instant panacea.

Good communication sets clear expectations (Even if those are “We have no idea, it’s up to you”). Effectively, making promises. It goes without saying that keeping those promises is critical to long-term reputation. Very occasionally we come across cynical, negative interviewees who attack everything from the brief to the questions to the process. So far all of these have related back to bigger issues and a damaged relationship with the client company.

If you are interested in closing the communication gap in your organisation, then speak to a Klarifi consultant today by arranging a 30 minute online consultation here:

*This article is an extract from the book, “The Visual Advantage”, written collaboratively by Rick O’Neill, Tom Ball and Ellen Coomber.