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Cool-Product-Names-BrainzooSome time back, Jorma Lehtinen (@Notium) reached out on Twitter about software he uses to visualize data, sharing a visualization of a Brainzooming blog list post as an example. We also tweeted about the importance of underlying information design when it comes to how to make an infographic.

Jorma’s outreach along with Woody Bendle’s article on visual thinking about calorie data prompted publishing this post on problems (and opportunities) associated with infographics.

Infographics are all the rage in social media.

So many of them, however, don’t deliver very much.

They are simply “pretty” pictures over-loaded with all the descriptive text that would be there even without the visual treatment. At the same time, they often obscure or eliminate details needed to make sound assessments on the validity of the underlying data and the conclusions the infographic suggests.

How to Make an Infographic Deliver Visual Thinking Value

Here are eight ways strong visualizations and infographics can deliver value by providing a richer data and analysis experience than the prose they are (or should be) replacing. Not all eight have to be in place, but at least a number of them should be.

Strong visualizations and infographics should:

1. Allow you to convey information more simply

The visual should deliver information at a minimum rate of 500 words per image. It would be great, however, if an infographic were legitimately worth a thousand words. If your image requires too many labels text for explanation, there is more work to do.

2. Make processing information quicker and more efficient

Any visuals should allow the audience to take in, understand, analyze, and draw conclusions with greater efficiency. There shouldn’t be so much detail that it becomes even more cumbersome for a reader to look at an infographic instead of reading prose.

3. Reveal new relationships

Visuals should really shine in highlighting relationships between data that would be lost with prose alone. As a shining example, consider the graphic of Napoleon’s army Edward Tufte has popularized. The visual depicts multiple time, geography, resource, and strategy relationships words alone could never convey.

4. Balance space efficiency and effectiveness

Having attended an Edward Tufte class, a big takeaway was paying attention to information density. Strong visualizations and infographics should pack a disproportionate amount of information into the space occupied. There is a balance though – with too much detail, key points are obscured; with too little detail, the audience doesn’t get the impact of text alone.

5. Offer greater clarity and accuracy

It can be difficult with only words to reveal subtle differences in data. A visual can work much harder to suggest patterns, similarities, and differences with a precision words can’t attain. But as the book How to Lie with Charts (affiliate link) screams out, it’s also easy to mislead your audience with visuals. Caveat audience AND the caveat designer.

6. Generate more possibilities

A rich visual triggers audience members to envision even more new ideas, solutions, or relationships to examine. If a viewer can look at a visual and quickly move on without new thinking taking place, there’s either a problem with the visual or the underlying information.

7. Lead to faster prototyping of ideas, concepts, strategies

Especially with abstract areas, strong visualization should convey a less than completely formed concept more rapidly than explaining it or taking time to physically construct the concept, if that’s even possible. Being able to quickly sketch an abstract concept allows it to move forward and develop with greater speed.

8. Do a better job of making information palatable to consume

Call this the “Spoonful of Sugar” phenomenon. If you hit a reader with a long, convoluted prose description of data or tabular information, you may never convey key insights, conclusions, or recommendations. A visual, especially with challenging information, should be an open door to initially bring a reader into the data, with a suggested path to explore even deeper levels.

What do you think is important when it comes to how to make an infographic ?

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these criteria for how to make an infographic deliver visual thinking value relate closely to the old maxim about a picture being worth a thousand words. So since this post is over 700 words, I’m looking for an infographic operating at about 75% to blow it out of the water. Any takers? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is back with his first post of this year. I was glad Woody tackled a visual thinking topic, because it’s something we’ve touched on, but haven’t spent enough time addressing. Depending on how tomorrow’s post shakes out, we’ll likely talk about what it takes to create a valuable infographic, such as Woody shares below. Here’s Woody!

Visual Thinking: Better Ways to Think about Calorie Data by Woody Bendle

Here we are in the New Year, and if you are like me, your selfies probably have more “self” in them now than prior to the holidays!

While many of us resolve to start each year with intentions of exercising and watching our diet more closely, have you ever stopped to consider what “watching our diet” really means?

For years, health and nutrition experts have recommended regular exercise and a balanced diet of 2,000 calories per day (pdf link). Two thousand calories is roughly what an adult human needs daily to function and maintain weight.

The exercise thing I readily understand, but I have absolutely no idea how many calories I consume in a meal, let alone a day. For all I know, I could be consuming 20,000 calories per day! If it were easier to know how many calories were in the different things I eat and drink, however, I would maybe pay more attention.  After all, I am sort of a numbers guy.

Here comes the calorie data!

Before too much longer, we’re all going to have A LOT more data on calories all around us! Did you know one new regulation under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a requirement for restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie information for menu items?

I’m not here to pick with the ACA, nor this new requirement to provide calorie information.

But if the regulation’s intent is to really get Americans to think differently about their food choices, there are several reasons posting more numbers next to a menu item will likely not accomplish much:

  1. Lack of context – Most Americans have absolutely no idea the current US Dietary Guideline is a daily diet of roughly 2,000 calories.
  2. Lack of meaning – Most Americans have no idea what a calorie actually is nor what it means, and
  3. Lack of usefulness – More data doesn’t necessarily mean better (more relevant or useful) information

Granted, most people will understand something with 500 calories has five times more calories than something else with 100 calories.  But so what!?  And that’s my point.

How about creating BETTER information?

If this new regulation’s goal is to help people better understand tradeoffs between menu choices (any get them to change their diets), we could be more creative in how we provide the information.  That is, help people understand what the data mean in a way that is more meaningful to them!

What if McDonald’s displayed menu items in the following manner?

Menu-Calories

NOTE 1: Based on an average male adult between the age of 31-50, weighing 195 lbs.
NOTE 2: Walking pace of 3 ½ miles per hour and jogging pace of 5 miles per hour.

When I see that a Big Mac, Large Fries and Large Coke is 1,330 calories I’m not entirely sure what that means.  However, when the calories are translated to how much exercise is required to burn off those calories, I now have some information I can run with effectively!

Understanding the average Joe on the street has to walk 3 ½ hours or jog 1 hour and 45 minutes to completely work off that Big Mac, Large Fries and Large Regular Coke tells me something!  And if he were to get the McChicken Sandwich, Kid’s Fries and Large Diet Coke (a total of 460 calories), he’d only need to do an hour and 10 minutes worth of walking or 40 minutes of jogging?

Walking 3 ½ hours vs. 1 hour and 10 minutes… hmmm.

By providing the calorie information in a way I can more easily envision and digest, I actually think about my particular meal choice differently. And that’s some food for though – even though thinking doesn’t apparently burn ANY caloriesWoody Bendle

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s the time of year where you have already presented your overall strategy for this year. For most companies, the focus is now on further developing, refining, and sharing more detailed business strategy plans.

If this is the case in your organization, your senior team is likely sitting through multiple business strategy presentations.

No matter how invested (financially or otherwise) the senior team members may be in the initiatives, it’s easy for PowerPoint overload  to make the business strategy presentations run together for them.

Applying Creative Thinking Skills to a Business Strategy Presentation

To enhance your deliver, here are nine ways to present a business strategy to your senior team with panache.

Mad-Consumer1. Make a video

Bring people who can’t be there into the presentation or add a touch of pre-developed drama or humor by incorporating a short original video to illustrate key themes in your business strategy.

2. Introduce costumed characters

Only go here if you have solid (albeit non-professional) acting talent on your team. If so, introducing a character into the meeting at a key point definitely adds memorability.

3. Perform a song

As with costumed characters, you need talent to make this work. Add lyrics to a popular song to convey the strategic messages you want your senior team to really remember.

4. Go somewhere spectacular for the presentation

“Spectacular” is relative. Perhaps presenting your business strategy at a museum or other creativity-inducing spot will make your ideas stand out. If you can arrange a truly spectacular option (either based on geography or setting), it could be a solid investment.

5. Write a magazine article from the future covering the plan’s success

With a longer-term business strategy, you can create a feature article from a future business magazine issue to report how much better and different things have been based on implementing your recommendations.

6. Wrap it in education

If your area of responsibility includes social media or other technical areas unfamiliar to your senior team, attach an educational segment to the business strategy presentation. A smarter audience will be better prepared to understand your business strategy.

7. Feature your customers – in person or virtually

To provide a better sense of the customer needs you are addressing, invite customers into your business strategy presentation in-person or through phone, online, or video channels.

8. Translate the strategy into stories and pictures

You cannot necessarily put elaborate stories and pictures together at the last minute. This approach does provide a little more time flexibility, however, than video or presenting in alternative locations. Poll those involved in your business strategy for both stories and images to illustrate how you are creating strategic impact.

9. Make it into a game

Create a Jeopardy grid with subjects and relevant answers, putting strategy categories at the top. Then use the “answer is a question” format from Jeopardy to create a menu of choices your senior team can use to focus where they want more information on your business strategy recommendation.

How much panache are you up for with your business strategy presentation?

And yes, I’ve used all of these previously, so they’re road tested in varying shapes and sizes, including creating a movie of our company’s new vision, presenting the new plan at Arrowhead Stadium, and publishing a faux Business Week article covering our industry from five years into the future.

How are you thinking about presenting your business strategies this year? -  Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Social-Media-SummitPrepping for a social media content marketing workshop I am delivering at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Las Vegas in February, I was going back through questions raised at recent workshops.

Three Great Social Media Strategy Tips

These three social media strategy questions stood out because they were not only raised by workshop attendees, but other attendees provided wonderful answers for them.

Challenge 1. Should a sub-brand in your organization get its own social media presence?

This question came up in a social media strategy workshop with the Nebraska Healthcare Marketers. Our answer is to take an outside-in look at the organization to determine if a social media audience cares to affiliate with a sub-brand independent of its affiliation to an overall brand. No matter how much a brand or product manager thinks a sub-brand needs its own social media presence, whether the audience wants to “like” or “follow” it is the critical question.

One attendee went further to suggest agreeing to an expected content update frequency with the sub-brand’s leadership. If they can deliver the expected content to the brand’s main page consistently, they then get a shot at having a sub-brand social media presence.

Challenge 2. How can you get a compliance group on board with a social media strategy?

A marketing communications director at the Frost and Sullivan Marketing World social media strategy workshop in Boston asked about getting a compliance group on board with social media in a risk-averse environment.

Another participant let us know her company put the compliance person in charge of social media. She reported that in this rather unusual role, the compliance person suddenly started “getting” social media strategy. She did a fantastic job balancing the firm’s risk aversion with a new understanding of the need to participate actively on social networks.

Challenge 3. How do you respond more quickly to customer service questions on social media when you cannot be at it full time?

One social media strategy challenge for risk-averse organizations (and even ones that are not THAT risk averse) is the timely handling of customer service issues on social media channels. While the preference may be to check and double-check responses coming from customer service, that means the response won’t happen with the speed customers expect.

An attendee at the Frost and Sullivan session shared that her company drafted responses to typical customer service questions to enable faster responses. Instead of running the risk of someone getting the same answer on multiple occasions, however, they drafted multiple variations of answers to their typical questions. In this way, they paired up speedy response and a sense of message variation consistent with a more personal response.

What are your social media challenges with multiple brand presences, compliance, and customer service?

These are familiar social media challenges for organizations. What questions do you have in these areas? Or alternatively, what answers have you found for them? - Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Grand-Canyon-SkywalkSuppose you have brand strategy responsibility to showcase an industrial brand’s identity.

What can you do to create stronger identity and a cool factor for a brand that may be a component of another product or brand?

Showcase Industrial Brand Identity and Coolness in B2B Brand Strategy

Here are three paths any industrial, business-to-business, or ingredient brand marketer should consider. All were highlighted at the Content Marketing World Manufacturing Summit where I spoke on creativity and content marketing in September.

1. Bringing the Consumer Feel to Industrial Brand Strategy

One theme throughout the Manufacturing Summit was “people” are making decisions in B2B markets. That means there is no reason to automatically walk away from brand strategy tools consumer marketers use, including (as spelled out by Kathy Button Bell, CMO at Emerson Electric):

  • Bright colors
  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Fresh faces
  • Smiles
  • Vibrant culture

These all make industrial companies more interesting to the PEOPLE. And as a tweet during the conference noted, there are no regulations within any industry mandating boring, self-centered, overly-formal, or stuffy content.

One idea this created for me was plotting industrial brands based on how ubiquitous they are vs. how “sexy” they are. Would any brands be in the upper right quadrant? And if not, how could and would an industrial brand benefit from moving there?

2. Finding the Cool in an Industrial Brand Identity

If you’re directing social media strategy for an industrial brand, how do you get to the “cool” factor in your brand?

At Lincoln Electric, Craig Coffey, U.S. Marketing Communications Manager at the welding equipment brand found the brand’s cool in realizing it “joins metal with fire. That’s cool!”

It’s easy, however, in an experienced B2B company to lose a sense of coolness and simply think about what the brand does to perform daily as devoid of any “cool” factor. Yet finding the “cool” in a B2B brand is the primary hope for generating audience interest. In discussing content successes at Lincoln Electric, Coffey pointed to several success factors helping to tell a cool story:

  • A rich brand history
  • Ambitious goals to reach audiences in new, meaningful ways
  • Open-minded leadership
  • A willingness to invest in marketing

An exercise The Brainzooming Group developed based on this conversation is a set of strategic thinking questions to help experienced people reimagine the “coolness” in a B2B brand they long ago stopped seeing as intriguing.

3. Showcase an Industrial Brand through Its Customers

To generalize one of Craig Coffey’s comments, “No one will ever care more about what your product does than you do.” The goal then becomes getting people to care about what your product enables them to do. But how do you build brand identity and awareness for an industrial brand that is better known based on the customers who use it than for what it does?

These situations create an opportunity to put customers front and center in brand stories, letting happy customers talk about what the brand enables them to do.

For Lincoln Electric, this thinking led to telling customers’ stories that are positioned not as “by” Lincoln Electric, but where the brand is instead “with” customers.

For a great story where the product is in the background yet its importance is unquestioned, check out this Lincoln Electric video. As I tweeted during Crag’s presentation, when you’re 4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon walking on a glass bridge, you want your welds to be DAMN good!

Ultimately brands can find it challenging to downplay their own products in the interests of playing up other engaging elements, but Lincoln Electric shows it can be a smart brand strategy to do so. Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2014-crazy-busyHere is a prediction for 2014: bosses and client will want even shorter reports and presentations than last year because everyone will be busier and have even shorter attention spans. (In fact, I also predicted on Twitter last night that 2014 will be the global year of even “crazier and busier.”)

But what if the report you are writing is destined to be way longer than your audience’s short attention span will tolerate?

How are you going to make the right decisions about cutting content to experience report shrinkage?

The first step, if it is at all possible, is printing the report you are developing. By printing the report, you can easily change the order of the content and compare alternative versions with and without specific content. This preference for printing and working with hard copy may reflect my age and thinking biases, but I find it much more efficient (and personally satisfying) to turn cutting content into a physical experience.

7 Questions to Experience Report Shrinkage

Beyond readying a physical or virtual version of your report, these seven questions will help you make decisions to achieve report shrinkage:

  1. Based on your previous history of positive and negative reactions to content with this audience, what can you get away with removing?
  2. If you don’t have previous experience with this audience, are there other comparable situations you can reference to identify what to eliminate?
  3. Can you create a reference or link to content you’re not including so if there’s interest in it, you can reference it on the fly?
  4. Does each piece of content you’re planning to keep disproportionately contribute to the short list of information the client needs to know, understand, or believe to take the desired actions?
  5. Can you combine content that’s similar but not exactly the same to create higher impact in the presentation?
  6. Have you duplicated content as the deck has moved through multiple authors and iterations?
  7. Are you to the point of cutting things that make you wince when you cut them? If not, you definitely have more content to cut.

We used these questions recently to get a forty-page report down to fourteen pages, just under the fifteen pages the client could reportedly handle!

Are you predicting more report shrinkage in 2014?

Do you buy our report shrinkage prediction for 2014? And if you do, what strategic thinking and actions are you going to do about it?  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Merry-Christmas-FamilyAmid all the advertisements pummeling people to shop right up to Christmas Eve for holiday gifts and to resume shopping as early as possible the day after Christmas, some of the most memorable holiday gifts aren’t found in retail stores.

These holiday gifts do not cost anything and will never be directly measured in an economic recap of the holiday buying season.

12 Free Holiday Gifts

Thinking back on some of the incredible things people have done for me this year or I’ve witnessed people do for others, here are twelve ideas for holiday gifts you can still make happen in time for Christmas that cost only the commitment and effort to do something special for someone.

This holiday, how about . . . ?

  1. Cheering another person toward greater aspirations than they have imagined themselves pursuing.
  2. Dependably reaching out to someone when you suspect he or she might most need it.
  3. Leaving a voice mail message for someone you have not talked to in some time saying you are going through withdrawals because of it.
  4. Extending empathy to another person and then devoting yourself to listening to what is bothering them.
  5. Praying for a miracle for someone who can really use a miracle.
  6. Being a beacon of positivity when your own situation looks to others to be anything but positive.
  7. Letting someone who is struggling know that even though they feel messed up, they are really on the right track.
  8. Telling a friend, “I love you,” even if it is in that beer commercial kind of way.
  9. Being giddy when you see an old friend you haven’t seen in ages (other than on Facebook).
  10. Putting yourself squarely in the middle of a life situation to help someone who can’t help themselves right now.
  11. Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.
  12. Showing up when hardly anyone has made an effort to do so.

That’s a list full of true blessings!

Life Lessons

As much as I love “commerce,” these free holiday gifts are what will really make a lasting impact in someone else’s life more than anything you’ll ever lug home from a store.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Brainzooming Group!  Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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