You might be familiar with the idea of a Marketing Funnel, Business Model Canvas or the Ishikawa Diagram. These are all different concepts, from diverse domains, made more popular by the fact that they have a recognizable and consistent visual representation. They are, you’ve guessed it, visual frameworks.
In the modern lingo visual frameworks are like concepts packaged for virality. They take advantage of our powerful image-processing brains and translate abstract ideas into easy to remember pictures. They are the optical equivalent of acronyms. Where acronyms take a ride on our linguistic pattern matching (e.g. using alliteration, familiar words or sequences), visual frameworks hop on our visual memory and dig their way in.
The Golden Circle from Simon Synek, the Boston Consulting Group Growth Share Matrix, the McKinsey Pyramid Principle (bonus points for alliterated name), the Periodic Table, Crossing the Chasm from Geoffrey A. Moore, The Business Flywheel from Jim Collins. These are all concepts you’ve might come across that became part of technology and business culture in no small part due to their “cognitive ergonomics”.
They compress broader ideas and practices into portable pictures. A few of them have a more descriptive nature (Periodic Table or Crossing the Chasm) and others can prescribe some courses of action (The Business Flywheel or Business Model Canvas).
It’s not me, it’s you
Visual frameworks work not because they are stated by their authors (or sometimes, discoverers). They work because they make sense to the audience. This can be difficult to predict, as the popular culture shapes this and is always evolving. A good example of this is the Marketing Funnel (of which there are many variations). It has become so popularized it became almost part of modern culture. It is has a recognizable structure that can be used to communicate other processes (e.g. Corporate Venture Capital dealflow).
Just by taking your concept and forcing it into a visual shape is no guarantee it will be accepted by the culture and be spread far and wide. It is not about the author, it’s about the audience.
Why this matters to experts
If you are in the business of ideas, it’s powerful to consider how you can make your expertise easier to grasp, lighter to carry and nimbler to deploy. Transforming that concept you’ve been refining for a while into a visual framework can be extremely useful for reach and recognition.
Visual frameworks and workshops are if not brothers, cousins. And working with you to develop a Visual Framework to package a concept, a process or a description of your making is something I can help you with.
Dave Gray has been an inspiration to me for years. The way he understands both the business side of things and the wonders of making the complex simple is consistently impressive. If the topic of Visual Frameworks caught your interest, you need to check out his Visual Frameworks website, with catalog of many frameworks, what makes them work and where they make the most sense. Be ready to spend quite some time exploring it.