A Picture Paints 1,000 Words

A Picture Paints 1,000 Words

75% of the general population think, learn and respond most effectively through visuals, so why do we insist on burdening our people with text-heavy, jargon-rich documentation? 

Dr. Paul Cummins (MSc, MBA – MD SeaChange, Ltd.)

Recent research by learning and development theorists suggests that approximately 75% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, and 25% thinks predominantly in words. This means that the majority of people prefer to understand information through images, pictures, diagrams, graphics, shapes, colours, demonstrations and performances. The majority of people respond to critical information that is presented clearly, practically and visually.

An important point to consider when thinking about the modern workplace is that best practice is based on ‘knowing your target market’. Not only do 75% of the workplace prefer visual communication of information, but research also shows that this trend is on the rise, with Generation Y (millenials: people born between 1977 and 1994) typically dominating the workplace. Gen Y members are much more racially and ethnically diverse and more segmented as an audience aided by the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, YouTube, e-zines, etc. Some important Gen Y traits to note regarding the workplace are:

  • They are sceptical of authority
  • They are influenced by their peers
  • They skim text and information quickly
  • They get easily bored
  • They are expressive and digitally creative
  • They like to be involved/engaged

Despite this information, organisations still aim to communicate important messages in traditional ways. Gen X, who are naturally more compliant, detail oriented and fixed in their ways may have responded to text-heavy documentation, but Gen Y do not. This is very apparent in the Health & Safety world, where traditional methods of communication (ie: thick safety statements, wordy risk assessments, SSWs and SOPs) are based on ticking the box and prove to be ineffective in engaging people on safety best practice in reality.

In addition, with the business world becoming more and more global, foreign staff are also on the rise and this means that the communication of best practice must be user-friendly and easy to understand, not isolating and confusing.

But visual communication is not enough, and this has been proven when organisations divert to generic posters/images of best practice and expect behaviour to change in a positive way, but end up disappointed. People must also be involved, and the communications must reflect their reality in the workplace. A visual communication system that engages staff and empowers best practice behaviours in a practical and simple way is world-class best practice. When we own our local behaviours, a culture of best practice will grow.

SeaChange has designed proprietary software that allows organisations to quickly and easily create bespoke ‘Job Safety Awareness’ Posters that assess and reflect local risks, required controls and best practice behaviours in an engaging way (the visuals are of staff in their areas of operation and act as a localised training tool).

The ever-increasing workplace trends show that

  • 75% of people learn best through visual means
  • Gen Y are particularly susceptible to visual learning, and make-up the majority of the workplace
  • People need to be involved and engaged in best practice
  • Foreign and local staff need any message communicated in easy to understand, practical and user-friendly ways
  • Best practice must reflect the bespoke nature of any operation

Given these facts, organisations that refuse to make a SeaChange in their communications will fall behind and are exposed to behavioural risks and cultural stagnation.