19 Feb FastCompany: How To Communicate Visually With Your Team
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Based on Medalogix’s successes as a visual office, our CEO shares his tips to create a visual workplace with FastCompany .
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Visuals are the most powerful form of communication. Take a look at the fastest growing social media platforms at the end of 2014: Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram: all image-focused. Add that to the fact that 65% of people are visual learners, and you have a compelling case for why your business needs to incorporate visuals throughout your office—especially if you’re a technology company.
I write from personal experience. In growing a technology startup, tools like white boards, planning maps, timelines, and even gifs have been instrumental in company planning, brainstorming, and employee recruitment and retainment. Here are a few ways we’ve successfully leveraged visuals to improve business.
In business, choosing your next steps can be challenging. Not only are there various paths to take, but everyone in the company has a varying perspective—and since different departments have different priorities, all of those insights are invaluable. If you don’t capture all vantage points, you’re missing pieces of the puzzle.
A visual planning map coupled with a straw poll is a great solution. Here’s how it works:
At the start of every quarter, create a map that includes all the paths you and your team could take. In creating the map, you’ll realize that for some paths to be accessed, there’s a connecting road that must be charted first. Drawing these relationships creates a clearer picture of what’s possible and what’s required to achieve each goal.
After your map is finalized, invite each department to join together, discuss the options, and place a department-wide sticker of support next to their chosen priorities. Then, bring all the maps together to see where there’s alignment. While the stickers aren’t the be all and end all (there is veto power), the exercise helps get it all on the table.
Hang the maps after the final decisions are made. You’ll have a visual record of the company’s growth plan that existing and new team members can look to for historic reference and future expectations.
If there’s one office supply we can’t live without, it’s a whiteboard. On the walls that aren’t painted with whiteboard paint, we have hanging whiteboards. We don’t stop there. We have standing whiteboards, too, just in case.
Why? Two primary reasons.
- Share concepts
I’m not ashamed to admit that I would not understand our analytics technology if our chief technology officer didn’t break it down for me with stick figures and arrows. On the flipside, though, our CTO may not understand equity positions, partnerships, or proformas without my corresponding charts and sketches. Drawing is a universal language that helps different departments communicate.
In addition to concept sharing, whiteboard drawings also provide a space to work through half-baked ideas. Sometimes the “artist” needs to draw through his thought process to reach a higher understanding. During this thinking time, he can invite team members to help him. It’s like a game of Pictionary, except you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be drawing.
When I founded my startup Medalogix, I wanted to catalog the different moments—both good and bad—of the company’s young history, mostly to look back on as the company grew into the next big technology company.
I’d enter something candid like, “Medalogix website launched. My friend Ian did it for free, in exchange for beer,” and then categorize the event as either a high or a low by attaching a red or green color block to it. The document is now a pretty lengthy timeline with equal parts red and green.
Not only can team members see the entry of their hiring in the timeline, but they can also take a peek into my commentary on our company, learn our company history, and revisit the company’s journey.
I’ve since hung the timeline outside my door. It’s become a resource for newer team members who want a casual overview of the company history. This brings all employees up to speed and provides a reference for why the business operates the way it does today.
Also, all team members take a DiSC personality assessment. We display the results by adding each team member to a diagram of the personality spectrum. This way we all have a quick reference point for our coworkers’ work and communication styles. This helps with management and communication.
Visuals don’t have to be stationary. These days gifs are used by all generations to explain ideas. What better way to show off your core values than to find gifs that display them and then present them in a rolling slideshow?
For instance, one of our core values is “Live 360,” which means live a balanced life. A gif of a skateboarder achieving an inverted loop illustrates this, and it’s cool to watch. Gif-ed core values help reinforce company values in a creative, fun way.
Transforming your business into a visual organization can take time, but the reward is worth the effort. With so many different communicator types in a business, visuals can help everyone understand the company’s products and goals while staying on the same page.
—Dan Hogan is founder, president, and CEO of Nashville-based Medalogix, a healthcare technology company that provides analytics and workflows to home health providers so they can improve care and reduce costs. Medalogix currently offers two solutions: Touch, which helps increase patient touchpoints, and Bridge, which helps identify and inform patients who would benefit from hospice care.