The Value of Visuals

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I had an interesting chat with one of my co-workers the other day and learned something new.  She visualizes in words.  The way she explained it to me was that when she hears the word “apple,” she sees words that describe an apple like “red” or “green” and “round.” This was fascinating to me, because I had never considered that possibility. I am the opposite type of thinker; I hear words and my mind immediately tries to find pictures for them. Perhaps that is why I am a visual learner.

I have relied on visuals for as long as I can remember. Children’s books use pictures to help the kids piece together what the words mean. There is something inherently easy about using visuals to help people understand, which is why it makes perfect sense that we create models to understand the requirements for developing new software.

So far, my favorite model is the ecosystem, even though the first ecosystem I created was and is still a disaster. Are you familiar with Miller’s magic number? Well the concept is that people can only effectively remember 7-11 things. My first ecosystem attempt had about 40 items and looked like a bad spider web.

The model is pretty much useless as a visual aid. But it did open my eyes to how much I had underestimated the complexity of the system in my head. This is a common problem, and it reveals an additional reason we should make models. They help others understand the requirements process and provide insight for us as business analysts as well. The human mind naturally takes short cuts, so creating visual representations draws attention to the gaps left by our mental short cuts.

Have models helped you see shortcuts your mind has made in projects? Comment below!

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