Sunday, October 17, 2010

If it bleeds ...

In "Kill ideas carefully" I talked about not discarding ideas without thinking about them first. But working out whether an idea is good or not is difficult (at least, I find it difficult). Why is that?

When an idea pops into my head the first thing I see is a spectacular end result. A moment later a lot of "But How!?" questions come raining down and the idea gets lost. (But how do I raise the money?, but how do I market it?, but how do I design it?, etc) I think it's difficult to evaluate an idea because often it's difficult to see it clearly; the "but how" questions compete for precious brain cycles until there's no processing power left to evaluate anything.

What's needed is a "super computer" capable of handling all of these questions without losing sight of the goal. Fortunately we all have one, it's our brain, we just need to help it out with some Visual Thinking.

Recently I found out the most powerful information processing functions of the brain lie in its visual centers. This means we're more likely to understand something when we see a picture of it. The example below shows this idea in action. It compares some typical street directions against a visual equivalent (aka "A Map!") I know which one I prefer!

If we could learn to visualize "problems", we'd have a much better chance of solving them. A book I recently read that does a good job explaining this is "Unfolding The Napkin" by Dan Roam. Dan provides simple frameworks for visualizing problems and presenting solutions. Evaluating ideas is just one of many things you can do with his techniques.

From personal experience, once I can "see" the obstacles they're usually a lot less overwhelming. It's like Arnie said in Predator, "if it bleeds we can kill it", in our case "if we can see it there's a good chance we can understand it". An added bonus is that once problems have been visualized it's easier to engage friends to help with solutions :-)

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