A picture (of a process) is worth a thousand words

In the news, Luminate, a Mountain View, California-based company received $18M in funding from top investors including Google Ventures to expand their technology to tag pictures with information and functionality that can be accessed by a simple mouse over.

Why does this matter? Because people respond to pictures better than text. There are millions of pictures in our online world that could be a source of information or inspiration, and Luminate can change them into powerful gateway for commerce. A picture is a perfect gateway to hearts and minds.

Power in pictures

Some say they prefer text, but studies show that people even think in pictures. We immediately recognizes a sports team logo, a country’s flag, the McDonalds M, and the Mona Lisa. They are simple visual images that convey meaning, an experience, and passion. Many businesses ‘brand’ an important project with its own logo to help team members and stakeholders recognize the effort that brings value. Images convey meaning quickly. They are efficient.

Simplicity

UPS is the largest package delivery company (and likely soon to be the largest logistics company) on the planet and has access to some of the greatest process experts in the World. At 104 years old, they’ve had opportunity to bureaucratize process and create greater complexity than we can imagine. But they haven’t. They use a very simple notation to capture, improve and communicate business process to the masses. Their highly complex operation is only understood when expressed in simple visuals. No swim lanes, no BPMN…it is efficient.

Complexity

Not to pick on BPMN, but complex notation is just the opposite of simple when in the hands of the non-expert. It confuses and hides meaning behind its complexity. So why does it persist as a way for experts to communicate to end-users? Because experts are often in a hero role, and as someone commented on my recent post about heroics versus mastery, “Heroes generally tend to keep their skills to themselves.”

Masters, on the other hand, share their knowledge (think: Master Po of the Kung Fu television series in the early 70’s). If we want to build mastery in our organizations, we make communications clear and in a language readily understood by all like UPS does.

Picture-enabled search

Pictures also help us to quickly find what we’re looking for. Typing and reading text as a way of finding key information is quickly becoming old school, and for good reason. Images as a way to go directly to the information necessary to get work done is arguably the greatest time saver and thus the greatest return on investment available to industry.

Visual technology

The possibilities for combining technologies are endless…imagine being able to scan a QR Code, pull up a picture, gain access to information and be able to then perform a series of activities based on the simple visual cues that result. The proliferation of connected devices means that business process can be communicated and consumed in ways that don’t require keyboards, monitors and cables. It is simply the next step in information access that has moved from the cave wall, to green screens, to iPads.

How visual are your processes? Are you ready for the future?

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Chris Taylor joined Nimbus in 2009 as VP Consulting Americas, and leads a team of business process improvement consultants who serve major corporations across the world. Chris’s clients include Nestlé, Cisco, Northrop Grumman, ThyssenKrupp and many others, who use Business Process Management (BPM) tools and techniques to drive process standardisation, improvement, quality and compliance initiatives. His insight to what makes BPM a sustainable success for so many client organisations makes him a valuable industry commentator. Before joining Nimbus, Chris held senior consulting and leadership roles focused on business transformation with ILOG (now IBM), Perot Systems and Accenture. In his early career, Chris managed aircrew and flight operations while flying for the US Navy. He is an avid skier, hiker and sailor and spends most of his off time exploring the mountains and coasts near his home in Southern California and the rest of the world.