a review of proven models using visual triage

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This  |  6 Comments

While attending the IBS program here in Finland, I have been exposed to models for thinking and problem solving such as 5-force-analysis, value chains, marketing mixes, etc. The regular business school material.

Always on the lookout for good references and based on my preference for visual thinking, i came across provenmodels.com, a collection of some of the classics in model-driven management thinking.

As I just sat in a session of 7 presentations with a lot of overlap in the practices used (SWOT, gaps model of service quality, etc.) I wanted to have a broader look at the other available options.

ProvenModels offers a nicely organized collection of uniformly designed diagrams and solid reviews of each of the methods, the only problem I had from a visual thinkers perspective was navigating this wealth of information in a simple way (not by filling out one of six clever dropdowns).

So I took to the tech tools and downloaded all the used graphics, to then print them out on paper. Now I have 70 small pieces of paper which I am able to sort according to multiple dimensions.

getting a quick overview of 70 management models from provenmodels.com

visual triage

I call this method “visual triage”, meaning getting a view of the big picture before diving in deeply.

This is the same as drawing a mind map, collecting for a mood board or looking at a list of thumbnails in your favorite photo browser.

Crazier approaches of this (in digital media) are speed dail for Firefox (copied by Chrome), Cooliris or Microsoft Labs Pivot. Pivot is most notable, as you can change the X- and Y-dimensions of your view (unlike most of the others).

all the classics - 7 Ps, 5 forces, SWOT, PEST, etc.

visual triage - closeup

My first attempt at grasping the use cases for these models was lining them up according to their visual appearance. Result: there are only 8 basic methods use, which can be narrowed down further.

  1. outliers: purely illustrative images for concepts such as cybernetics, the Hawthorne effect or z-scoring of financial investments.
  2. one-dimensionals: lists of words, sometimes top-to-bottom (Y-axis) according to time or as a hierarchy (like Maslow’s pyramid, six roles of selling, etc.) or along the vertical (X-axis), like innovation indicators, diffusion of innovation or seven lateral relationships)
  3. two-dimensionals: either a 2-by-2-matrix or a plain old x-y-coordinate system, like product-market matrix, Thompson’s technology ontology (cool name) or disruptive innovation). In some cases, a plain list meant to look like a 2-by-2, but it’s still just a list, e.g. McLuhan’s four laws of media).
  4. cycles: instead of being a linear process (e.g. over time), these things repeat like a dog chasing its tail, e.g. management by objectives, six facets of effective listening)
  5. hierarchy: things spread out from top to bottom, breaking down into smaller pieces (like bounded rationality, scientific management)
  6. circles, centers, networks: everything is quite round, mostly combining multiple factors into one major objective, like Kotler’s product levelsPorter’s diamond, strategy diamond, PEST analysis, seven S model, Hofstede and Trompenaars models of culture, etc.)

So where are the Venn diagramms, 3-dimensional models and so on?

They are out there, somewhere behind the rainbow of the internet.

Like this model of learning, based on thermodynamics.

I don’t know about you, but I think I learned something today.

If you know of other sites that have such great collections, please do let me know.

Thus far, I have found David Armano‘s visual thinking archive on flickr. But there’s got to be more.

Final tip: In case you want to start thinking visually yourself, Dan Roam‘s book “the back of the napkin” is as good as it gets. Here’s a talk he gave on the subject at Google HQ. And if you want to skip the book, the main ideas are also available as a free template download on the site.

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