The last few days I have been thinking of the value of visual tools in strategy quite intensly. When I was standing in front of our business strategy library I realized how few of these books use visual techniques to make things clearer. Often there is not much more than charts and quite a number of strategy books are text only. The topic of visual techniques and communication has been on my mind because we are currently in close contact with XPLANE, a company whose tagline is "the visual thinking company". They help businesses communicate complex business issues with simple images. One thing I realized was how XPLANE and Arvetica each create value through visual techniques in different areas with different tools.
Arvetica: Our main strength is to synthesise the essence of business issues, such as strategies and business models in simple diagrams. These are based on concepts (e.g. strategy maps) and are mainly composed of boxes and arrows. The value lies in creating a rapid understanding and the highlighting of how issues are related to each other. Images communicate relationships between objects than text documents. How can you quickly and clearly describe an interdependant multi-channel market approach with words?
XPLANE: Their main strength is their ability to illustrate complex business issues (e.g. change management) with drawn scenarios. They create a quick understanding with their comic-like pictures, because humans easily relate to stories. In many cases it is not sufficient to illustrate business issues through boxes and arrows only. Human scenarios that describe business issues in an illustrative manner help people relate to a the topic much easier. For example, the above image illustrates how to deal with difficult clients.
I'm quite exited that I will be able to learn more about visual techniques in business from XPLANE. I firmly believe that this will be one of the hot topics in strategic management in the coming years. In business strategy we still poorly communicate when it comes to visuals...