How much information do you process in an average day?
We are bombarded with information these days; e-mail, texts, social networking sites, search engines, spreadsheets, reports, as well as phone calls, meetings and face to face conversations.
How much of the communication you are receiving is it possible to fully take in and completely understand? And how much of your communication to others is really getting through?
In an interview with Fiona Graham – Technology of Business reporter for BBC News, Dr Lynda Shaw – neuroscience and psychology lecturer at Brunel University says “I’ve been interviewing a lot of senior business people lately, and they’re actually hiding…because they’re frightened they’re going to be asked questions they can’t answer, so they’re delaying making quite important decisions”.
“We’ve seen this incredible amount of information flooding us constantly. The problem with information overload is really new to the human brain”
The implications for people in terms of making effective and informed decisions, working in ‘overload’ mode and experiencing the related stress are wide reaching, and the problem isn’t about to get any better.
The answer to ensuring that communication remains effective may lie in presenting our ideas, plans and documents rather differently…using images in addition to words.
Processing of visual information and verbal information actually takes place in different parts of the brain, and the visual processing element of the brain is very powerful. So using a mix of words and images not only spreads the communication load, it helps us process the information more effectively and increase understanding and retention.
For instance, describing a camel to someone who has never seen an image of one could take some time and be open to misunderstanding! An image, whether static or animated, can immediately convey far more in a very short time, and be more memorable than a description.
Just how effective could this be? Fiona’s article goes on to include some research carried out by Mindlab International, an independent research company that specialises in neurometrics (the science of measuring patterns of brain activity using EEG, eye tracking and skin conductivity).
Mindlab scanned the brain waves of a group of people completing a series of tasks to see if presenting them with visual information (in this case a series of mind maps) could help. The results were that:
What is Mind Mapping?
Wikipedia says mind mapping is ‘A diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.
Mindmaps can be drawn by hand, e.g. “rough notes” during a meeting, for example, or as higher quality pictures when more time is available.
Buzan suggested the following guidelines for creating mind maps:
So, a mix of text and image uses less brain power, it helps us retain more information and it’s more productive. Looks like fun too….