The Power of a Picture

The other day, I had an interesting experience. I was working with a client in my information security company, and we had been struggling for about an hour to discuss a group of technology sites that needed to be tested. The group was getting all caught up in tripping over the names which all contained .com, .net, built with .NET, java, etc. Some members of the group were getting more confused as we went. The meeting was going way over time and we were so stuck on misnomers that we couldn’t get anything done.

Then it dawned on me. Make a picture and abstract the components to objects so we could talk about them more easily!

We called a recess and that evening I threw together a diagram, replacing each of the sites with an easy name, apple, banana, pineapple, kiwi, etc. I put a legend at the top that linked to the real specific site and the technical details. I then diagrammed the relationships between the objects and published it out to the group.

Today, we did another meeting. We used the map of the objects and everyone easily got the discussion done. We all clearly understood what each fruit really was and the discussions flowed easily and without issue. In 30 minutes, we got done what would have taken hours without abstraction.

Diagrams, abstraction, simplification and common language – these are the keys to team understanding when the topic is too complex and causing collisions in the brains of your team mates. Keep this in mind the next time you hear “So, the .com is written in .NET or was that the .net? Which one is Java again?”

It might seem simple and almost child-like, but in this case, abstraction and a picture being worth a 1000 words saved the day, again. 🙂

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