...help you solve problems and sell ideas. It's a pretty bold claim. Some people think visualization is just a gimmick. Others just accept that visualization works, and there's plenty of annecdotes out there. In fact, there's a lot of great research too. Many thanks to the great researchers out there (some affiliated with Visualization Network and others not yet) who are moving the cause of visualization forward. Here are just some of the findings:
Are visuals really all that useful or powerful? Are all visuals really that good? What qualities make a useful visual?
||Findings: Visuals can help groups focus attention, surface areas of agreement and disagreement, make implicit knowledge and experience explicit, discover new perspectives, document decisions, and revise decisions. However, certain qualities of the visualization depending on the situation may impact the results such as:
- fluid vs. fixed status
- indvidual vs. collective use
- individual vs. collective ownership
- clear vs. ambiguous notations
- physical vs. computer-based
- stylistic simplicity vs. sophistication
- abstract/conceptual vs. concrete/spacial
- one-time/ad-hoc vs. repated/cumulative
|Authors: Martin Eppler|
|Location: University of Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland|
|Title: Toward a Visual Turn in Collaboration Analysis|
If all visuals aren't created equal, how do you choose the right approach? Audience? Delviery? Topic? Resources?
||Findings: Choosing the right visual should be based on the various levels of need for visual impact, clarity, perceived finishedness, directed focus, facilitated insight, modifiability, and group interaction support
|Date: February 2008|
|Authors: Martin Eppler, Alan Blackwell, and Sabrina Bresciani|
|Location: Cambridge University, England, United Kingdom|
|Title: Choosing Visualisations for Collaborative Work and Meetings: A Guide to Usability Dimensions|
Isn't it really people influencing people? Can visuals influence poeple? Will people draw conclusions and inferrences from visuals?
||Findings: Visuals are a powerful tool that create meaning through associational logic and create intertextual references. In addition, captions help make sense of an image and, for better or worse, influence it's interpretation.
|Date: December 2007|
|Authors: Neal Feigenson and Richard Sherwin|
|Location: Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, United States and New York Law School, New York, United States|
|Title: Thinking Beyond the Shown: Implicit Inferences in Evidence and Argument|
We've always done meetings this way and the business seems to work. So, they're frequent, long, and boring, but it's work. Can meetings be more efficient and effective?
||Findings: Using visualization and visualization software during meetings fosters knowledge sharing, improves productivity, creates more ideas, creates better ideas, and increases recall
|Date: September 2009|
|Authors: Martin Eppler and Sabrina Bresciani|
|Location: University of St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland and University of Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland|
|Title: Improving Knowledge Sharing through Visualization: Experimental Evidence|
Creating visuals, object, and artifacts takes time and money. Bringing people together or distributing the visuals can take a lot of time, money, and coordination. Is it really worth it? Couldn't a phone call or discussion serve the same purpose?
||Findings: Shared visual information improves performance and efficiency by compacting expressions, increasing awarness of other team members, grounding conversations, explain what was said, reducing errors, and reducing ambiguities
|Date: May 2007|
|Authors: Darren Gergle|
|Location: Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Title: The Value of Shared Visual Information for Task-oriented Collaboration|
Many of the methods used in visualization employ collaboration. Is collaboration really necessary? Does it provide any value? Can't I get as much value if I just do it myself?
||Findings: Collaboration increases memory, even when the others in your group are remembering incorrectly. Even more impressive is that collaboration increases recall after both 48 hours and a full week.
|Date: February 2007|
|Authors: Suparna Rajaram and Luciane P Pereira-Pasarin|
|Location: Stony Brook University, New York, United States|
|Title: Collaboration can improve individual recognition memory: Evidence from immediate and delayed tests|
The end is all that matters. Just do it together. Just reuse the visual from before. Just give me a pretty picture. We hear this all the time, but is it the visual artifact that creates the value or is it really the process that brings the value? Or is it both?
||Findings: The creative process and specifically sketches externalizes ideas, makes ideas more permanent, conveys abstract ideas, makes comprehension and inference easier, promotes memory, creates an artifact, aids working memory, allows community participation, checks for completeness & consistency, discovers new ideas and relationships, facilitates inference, and can reveal thinking.
|Authors: Barbara Tversky|
|Location: Stanford University, California, United States|
|Title: What Do Sketches Say About Thinking?|
Strategy is serious business. So maybe visuals can support the communication in someways, but can it really help with the planning and implementation?
||Findings: Visualization can reduce cognitive, social, and emotional challenges in creating business strategy. Here are some of the ways:
|Challenges of Strategy Creation||vs.||Visualizaiton Benefits|
|information overload||vs.||increased capacity and synthesis|
|stuck in old view points||vs.||enabling new perspectives|
|biased evaluations||vs.||more exhaustive comparisons|
|analysis paralysis||vs.||easier recall & sequencing|
|diverging views & assumptions||vs.||integrating different perspectives|
|incomplete communication||vs.||mutual understanding|
|uncoordinated action||vs.||tracking & showing interdependencies|
|not my process||vs.||involvement & engagement|
|not my strategy||vs.||motivation & inspiration|
|i'm not bought in||vs.||it's mine|
Not only can visuals help with communication, they can help at all stages of the strategy process:
- analysis - helps with the elicitation & synthesis of data
- development - helps with generation & comparison of options
- planning - helps sequence and see interdependencies
- implementation - helps with tracking
Visualization is not without it's risks though. Using visualization can lead to superficial analysis, over generalization, illusion of deeper understanding, ambiguous communication, alter inputs, lead to premature closure, become too complex, may not be scalable, may hide disagreement, and may lead to suboptimal decisions.
- use individual and collective visualizations to reduce group think
- continually refine & revise the visual
- reduce representational complexity & highlight key patterns
- surface under-represented elements or unarticulated opinions (reading between the lines)
- use different (but linked) visualization methods where appropriate
|Authors: Martin Eppler and Ken Platts|
|Location: University of Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland and Cambridge University, England, United Kingdom|
|Title: Visual Strategizing: The Systematic Use of Visualization in the Strategic-Planning Process|
Textbooks, research reports, and other materials are all text based and have worked just fine. Visuals are frivolous and text holds the real content. Shouldn't the text be dominent? Are visualls really that effective? Can visuals really have an impact on a constructivist approach?
||Findings: When used appropriately and combined with text, visuals can improve learning, communication, and retention. They are more effective than text for communicating complex content, and including graphics with text makes long-term memory more effective. Also, constructing your own visuals involve different cognitive processes than learning from preconstructed ones.
|Date: September 2002|
|Authors: Ioanna Vekiri|
|Location: University of Michigan, Michigan, United States|
|Title: What Is the Value of Graphical Displays in Learning?|
Presentation design takes a lot of time. The default templates and bullets are easier and faster. Are bullets really harmful? Does presentation design really matter? Is it really worth the extra time and expense?
||Findings: Traditional bullet point slides have dramatically lower immediate recall than slides with imagery and/or sparse text either due to lower cognitive demand or better encoding of information.
|Date: October 2009|
|Authors: Chris Atherton|
|Location: University of Central Lancashire, England, United Kingdom|
|Title: Visual Attention: A Psychologist's Perspective|
That's just chart junk. Metaphors are a distraction from the real point. Why not just use a diagram, chart or table?
||Findings: Visual metaphors can give voice to emotions and create a common framework for discussions which are both critical element of organizational change. Metaphors are compact, become a selective lens to see through, leave room for interpretation, provide a method of expressing emotions (conciously and unconciously), and can help interpret and make sense of change (sensemaking).
|Date: June 2007|
|Authors: Robert Barner|
|Location: Southern Methodist University, Texas, United States|
|Title: The Dark Tower: Using Visual Metaphors to Facilitate Emotional Expression During Organizational Change|