What: Value of post-its and sticky notes when problem solving
- Collaborative visualization exercise helps understand and solve complex problems.
- Sticky note systems allow for fluid iteration and richer models.
- Group collaboration produces unified models integrating diverse perspectives.
- Visualizing difficult problems can lead to remarkable outcomes for organizations.
Collaborative visualization has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding and solving complex problems.
A simple exercise involving drawings of how to make toast has unveiled valuable insights into the way we collaborate and make sense of the world around us. The exercise begins with participants drawing how to make toast without using any words.
Interestingly, these drawings can be seen as systems models, with nodes representing tangible objects and links symbolizing the connections between them. By counting the number of nodes, we find that the sweet spot lies between 5-13 – striking a balance between simplicity and comprehensiveness.
Moving from static drawings to sticky notes or cards allows for more clarity and detail in the systems models. This fluidity enables rapid iteration and refinement of ideas, a vital aspect of the design process. Sticky note systems tend to produce more nodes and richer models, making them superior to static drawings.
When the exercise is performed in a group setting, the process may start messily, but it ultimately leads to a unified systems model. Participants actively contribute and build upon each other’s ideas, resulting in a comprehensive model that integrates diverse perspectives. This collaborative effort sets it apart from conventional meetings and individual models. Interestingly, teams are able to collaborate more efficiently when they do it in silence (rather than speaking to advocate for their perspectives).
The significance of collaborative visualization extends beyond making toast. Many organizations are adopting this approach to tackle complex issues, such as their organizational vision, customer experience, or long-term sustainability. Visualizing and refining models through collaboration can lead to remarkable outcomes, as demonstrated by the example of Rodale, a publishing company that reclaimed $50 million of revenue and achieved an A rating from customers after visualizing their entire business.
Collaborative visualization is a simple yet powerful idea that enhances clarity, engagement, and alignment in problem-solving. By making ideas visible, tangible, and consequential, organizations can better tackle difficult problems and achieve exceptional results.