Visual explanations are a powerful tool for quickly building buy-in and understanding. At ThoughtForm, our visual explanations—or Foglifters®, as we call them—are the backbone of our proven process to develop new ideas for our clients and shepherd them to completion. Foglifters help to create a shared vision by giving everyone a tangible model they can see and interact with. This shared vision facilitates productive conversation, and provides concrete and referenceable documentation as the project moves forward.
Here are five ways you can use Foglifters to accelerate your next project:
1. Identify missing pieces early
If you’re helping your teams refine their ideas, it’s good to get everything out on the table. The best way to give form to the ideas floating around in everyone’s heads is by mapping them out using a visual model. This also helps to bring specificity to more imprecise language, and provide consensus on the definition of necessary terms.
An experienced business storyteller can help your team use these visual models to identify common gaps and sharpen the story. It’s easy to overlook some critical pieces in the early planning stages of a new initiative. Things such as inventory returns in a supply chain, governance in a new business process, or employee training in a business transformation can easily slip through the cracks, even though they may be crucial to the initiative’s success. Creating a visual picture helps your team to zoom out and easily identify these missing pieces.
2. Exercise the devil’s advocate
Implementing a new idea often takes serious investment, including resource commitments, prototyping, training, and other costs. Foglifters can act as an economical “paper prototype,” modeling how the idea would work. They make it possible to collect meaningful feedback from others that may reveal gaps or flaws that would be much more expensive to fix later. Gathering critical feedback can be painful, but it hurts less when there’s no massive investment at stake.
3. Get buy-in without the back-flips
Leaders can’t approve what they don’t understand. You may have a great idea, but if you bury it in a complicated, 100-slide presentation, your project might get passed over. Foglifters package your idea into a format that enables leaders to grasp the core ideas fully, and quickly. Once you’ve shared your Foglifter, make sure to update it with any solid feedback you received. Not only will that show your stakeholders you’re listening, it will make it into a stronger model for your idea.
4. Keep the end goal front and center
Often as we go to implement our ideas, things get a little off course. Some of that is natural and necessary. We’re learning as we build, and it’s important to respond to that. But sometimes that drift is unintentional, due to large teams and long timeframes. Like a giant game of telephone, things can get lost in translation. Foglifters can help to constantly remind your team of what the end goal is. Team members can use it for quick reference at their desks. And review sessions can begin and end with the Foglifter, keeping everyone on track from start to finish.
5. Soothe the change management process
Foglifters are a great way to quickly and easily share information with a wide group of people. Whether you need to tell your partners about changes to the supply chain, train employees on a new process, or provide instruction to users of a new device, using a Foglifter as a presentation and takeaway can be a big help. Begin by walking the audience through the Foglifter, reading the captions, and pointing out changes or possible problem points. Then, have them take the Foglifter with them for further study and reference throughout the change.
Foglifters are often beautiful, polished pieces of communication. Because of this, a lot of people want to “save” them just for leadership or end-users. But they are often just as valuable—if not more valuable—in the beginning of a project. No matter where you are in the process, Foglifters can improve internal and external communication, and ensure your initiative’s success.