Picture This

making sense of things with circles

May 21st, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

After a walk in the sunshine and some reflections on the conversity model and life, I came up with this sketch of what I think are the most important things in life: love, knowledge and (to some extend) money.

the "life cycle"

the "life cycle"

Surprise, surprise.

I don’t want to bore you with long explanations of this [writing my bachelor report is enough for now].

Instead, just a bit of food for though:

1. amateur comes from the Latin word amore, love. So somebody who is an amateur does it because he loves it. Thanks, Alexandros.

2. a-more is the absence of more, death (more Latin). More on that at the School for Gods.

So what are you focusing life on today?

  • Relations to yourself or others?
  • Spending or getting money?
  • Acquiring or disseminating knowledge?

better than a book

March 20th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

Stop reading right now and watch the video. When you’re done, continue below. You will not regret it.

After finishing to watch this incredibly good talk of Jesse Schnell at DICE 2010, I was pleased to learn that he also has a book about the practice of game design, exploring the different strains and approaches of his profession.

What makes this special (apart from the content), is the way it’s organized. The book contains 100 “lenses”, which each cover one specific point and ask a couple of questions to self-explore it (this block technique is also quite common in books like the “for dummies” series of book). The are spread around the regular book chapters but also available as a separate deck of cards, containing concrete actions on the specific angle (example).

Why is this so incredibly clever? Because a book with 500 pages just collects dust and does not allow you to constantly review specific parts that easy.

When doing my review of the proven models in business education, I already though about the possibility to turn the graphics and a little description of them into a nice reference card. That way you can use them in group planning sessions, for theory review or as a learning guide (just like plain old flash cards). This guys proves it’s good, and the reviewers on Amazon agree.

Here’s another example for using cards in a teaching/consulting role.

But as with everything else, even flashcards and such are becoming digital. You print them if you need, or you track and repeat progress online.

Just like visual triage, the main advantage of print-out versions of the ideas is of course the flexibility: endless space, quick rearrangement and most importantly: easy to socialize around in a team session (compare that to a laptop screen or mobile phone).

proven models, printed on paper (no description yet)

proven models, printed on paper (no description yet)

So here’s the question: Would you like to have a set of cards containing the fundamentals of business management? From SWOT to PEST to SERVQUAL? If yes, how much would you pay for it? If no, would you prefer a mobile app?

models of the obvious

March 18th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

I like models. I really do. The more visual, the better.

One recent favorite was the so called “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives” by Benjamin Bloom, a quite well-established concept for helping teachers and learners better conduct their learning. Since it’s inception during the 50s, there has been one major update in 2001, but during the time in between, other people have come up with – you guessed it – other approaches and models.

Bloom's taxonomy (original version, fancy picture)

Bloom's taxonomy (original version, fancy picture, found on Wikipedia)

From Kolb to Marzano, the list of researchers and approaches seems quite endless, especially in a field as important and large as education research. Luckily, I came across a handy review of the major approaches in learning styles and thinking models. These two reports have been put together by a team of researchers in the UK for the LSRC, followed by a book on the same subject

While the group of authors was giving an excellent overview of existing approaches in both cases, the report on thinking skills went one step further by proposing a unified framework of thinking. By taking inspiration from their colleagues and synthesizing some of the approaches (mainly revised Bloom, Pintrich’s “strategic and reflective thinking” and Halpern’s “productive” thinking).

The end result is a fairly comprehensive model with 3 main areas (information gathering, building understanding and productive thinking) and “strategic and reflective thinking” as a separate panel (compare this to figure 5 in the report). Quite nice, but from my looking at all kinds of other proven models, I was not satisfied with it, so came up with the following instead:

how to think and do

gather, understand and produce and at the same time reflect on your actions and adapt your strategy

I believe that most processes are by definition cyclical. Furthermore, I wanted to improve the overlapping function of “strategic and reflective thinking”. Due to space constraints, i also replaced the long descriptions with simpler verbs.

The result is a lot simpler, but necessarily, a lot of the depth of 50 years of research gets lost on the way.  Daniel T. Willingham in his book “Why Don’t Students like School?” called this “bubbe psychology” (grandma psychology) – the kind of stuff you could have just as well learned from your grandmother, because it’s basically common sense. Unfortunately, I don’t have any grandmothers to learn from and still enjoyed the steps that took me to this “discovery”. More gathering, more understanding and this as a product.

Reflection: I might update this picture with more onion layers to introduce more complexity (alike to the Bloom rose at the beginning of this post), but for today I’m quite satisfied with the exposure to about 10 new models of thinking and learning.

Strategy: If you find this picture as useful as me, feel free to use it. My thinking is: If you create something with just a bunch of words on it, there should be the least amount of restrictions on it as possible.

There’s quite a pile of theories spread around my floor I’m still eager to go through (like Guilford’s structure of intellect), so stay tuned for more.

visual triage of David Armano’s visual thinking archive

March 12th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

Ok, I already had a print-out set of 60 of the gorgeous images from David’s set here, so this was the next step in my trial of visual triage.

These got printed out in a bigger size, because they are generally a bit more complex than the proven models. Again, black and white, so a lot of the richness in this step got lost.

But then again, that helps to not be distracted by minor details.

So there are the usual suspects: one-dimensionals like Conventional + Unconventional Marketing, Life Streams or Experience Distribution, centres and cycles like Influence Ripples, Digital Mindsets or the Marketing Spiral.

And finally, something new: One of the recurring themes in David’s pictures is the amount of comparisons going on. They come in 3 flavors: 1 on 1 like tipping the media scales, threesomes like post-consumer era and spectrums like the one below.

the OMG-WFT spectrum (by David Armano)

the OMG-WFT spectrum (by David Armano)

But wait, there’s one more interesting approach: “the house”

building blocks: social experience (by David Armano)

building blocks: social experience (by David Armano)

I was somewhat reminded of the way ARIS is sometimes displayed. But instead of the roof, this one takes the foundation for content.

If you want another house, try this one (warning, visual complexity [not of this type]). I’m a bit surprised not to find the “house” on the periodic table of visualization methods, though.

So here’s the big question: Why are his pictures so much more appealing? Is it his background as a design thinker, the use of better tools or the fact that he is actively engaged in talking about these experiences and not just crunching theory?

If we think about David as a teacher (let’s call him “Professor of Social Media Strategy at the School of Hard Knocks”) and not the consultant role he usually has, what can we learn?

His classroom: the internet (through blogs, twitter, etc.) , his peer group (media strategists), old school media (Harvard Business Review) and most importantly (from a monetary perspective, at least): conferences, the employer and its paying clients.

Result: flexible size of audience, independence of physical location and multiple streams of revenue. And best of all: most of the stuff is free, and an active crowd is constantly providing feedback to his work so everybody benefits. Everybody teaches everybody.

And the only thing the teacher get’s payed for is when there is one of the 8 generatives better than free at play.

Ok, I got a bit carried away, but up next will be main selection of the important models concerning my Bachelor’s report.

Stay tuned or hit the comments to provide your perspective on next-generation learning and the art of visual storytelling.

turning theories around

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

In round 2 of my visual triage of proven models (evaluating usefulness for my thesis), I was able to narrow down the total from 70 to 34.

Of these, a couple of observations emerged:

  1. there should be a way to graph the logical relationship between the theories presented on ProvenModels.com, for example, that the seven S framework and the five star model both are based on “structure follows strategy”
  2. there should be a timeline view to make this way of connecting theories even easier.
  3. some things are even more closely connected:
AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT, SIER - models of communication

AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT, SIER - models of communication (taken from provenmodels.com)

I don’t know about you, but when I put the pictures of AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT and SIER (turned on its head) next to one another, they all say the same thing, just with different words and a different point of view. AIDA shows the overall aim of the step, SPIN and ADAPT what to focus on and SIER reminds us to listen.

Interesting, don’t you think? Well, this is certainly not a unique example, but my question is this: Do the same things happen today as well (in the days of the internet, where everybody is connected to everything)? Are the internet’s serendipity mechanisms (like twitter users or the facebook stream) good enough already to prevent this?

Do you know examples of current research, where clever academics just reword the obvious because they didn’t look hard enough? Or any project in the research sphere that explicitly encourages serendipity? Where is it in Zotero, Mendeley and the like?

Or better: Do you think this is a problem based on the effects of a scarcity-mentality, not-invented-here syndrome and limited access to research sources?

a review of proven models using visual triage

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

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.

Back to the Blog

March 9th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

It’s about time. I have not been blogging (on a regular basis) for quite a while, most of my activity here in Finland is captured by other people through Facebook pictures (pancakes and parties, but no evidence of studies).

At the same time, I made a quick visit to Bremen, Germany to follow up on the idea of starting a company around or previous university project Mobea. That didn’t work out so well (yet), so instead of waiting around I focused on the immidiate things: finishing my bachelor studies, i.e. writing my bachelor report.
Through my research for potential competitors I came across A LOT of web startups in the educational space, some of which I will be mentioning in coming posts as they relate to my current work for the report.
At the same time, with the report I want to keep a focus on my current context – local to Finland, specific to IBS, my current studies program.
To get a grip on all the info flowing through my head and browser, I’m applying 3 main approaches:
  1. visual collection (think mind mapping, mood board, pictured below)
  2. content collection (in a wiki and through social bookmarking)
  3. regular synthesis (in this blog as well as in the final report, which is meant to be about 40 pages of text)
this is not a total mess -  it's fairly structured and way healthier than the monkey-style laptop and chair combo

my stand-up work station

making sense of a slide deck

making sense of a slide deck

almost like a kanban board, but more messy

almost like a kanban board, but more messy

So what are the current issues I have to deal with:

  • narrowing it down (all things are connected, I come across some interesting perspective hourly)
  • creating something concrete (immediate, practical)
  • making it useful (reading and writing is fun, but I want to provide real value to Reijo, Jeff and the IBS crew)

My starting points on this adventure are these:

Why does everybody use Facebook but everybody I ask has issues with Moodle?

When is a teacher’s physical presence in a classroom really necessary?

I want to be done with my report until the end of April so I can get as much feedback from the people here in IBS, but also to be able to focus on the next step after that: Teach First (application is pending).

If you would like to encourage or comment on any of these ideas and endeavours, please go ahead.

Lots of things will follow.

Happy blogging!

Let’s get visual – people, places, things.

May 21st, 2009  |  Published in Picture This

Since reading “The Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam, I’ve been regularly doing little napkin sketches on the thoughts roaming around my head.

To keep this visual memory for a longer period of time, I’m taking one of 2 steps.

a) do the sketch on my tablet pc in OneNote

b) do it on a small paper slip

But how does it end up here?

a) I can turn it into a blog post via OneNote and publish it through the Word Blog Interface.

b) I scan all sketches, edit them in paint (crap, i know) and upload them in a regular post or through a).

To start of this irregular series, here’s a sketch from this morning, based around the notion of the dawn of Linked Data and the possible ways of connecting each bit with one another.

people, places, things

people, places, things

I won’t go into detail about each of the items, but here’s the gist:

- most importantly, there’s people, places and things

- if you (person) are at a place you are experiencing some kind of event

- if you are on vacation or travelling, that’s a series of events, each tying you to a particular place

On any of these nodes (p,p,t) you might of course create any kind of media: pictures, videos, text or combinations of those (a story).

An if you are browsing the info already there, you can of course go from person to person (social graph) or place to place (map).

If you go from thing to thing (shopping), you might end up owning/buying something that you like (or don’t own yet). That’s called Amazon.

If you like these kinds of posts, watch out for more to come in the coming month on “Picture This”.

Leave your comments with links to your sketches, people, places or things.