Why Infographics are an Important Leadership Tool

By | Features, Managerial Competence, Political Competence, Social Media | One Comment

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You can’t look at a magazine, a newspaper, a Web site, or a TV channel without coming across infographics. USA Today is acknowledged as a pioneer of the widespread use of infographics – in the lower left-hand corner of each of their sections. Today, infographics have become an art form, of sorts. They’re also becoming a valuable tool for leaders.

To put infographics in context, think about the road/highway metaphors we routinely use to communicate our goals and describe our progress. We develop strategy “road maps.” We hope to “drive results.” We try our hardest to avoid “blind spots.” And we either “step on the gas” or “put the brakes” on our projects.

But the most useful tool on the road, road signs, have not been part of a leader’s vocabulary—but that may be changing. Infographics may well become the leader’s road signs en route to success.

Infographics can help you quickly get your point across with visuals. It’s an engaging medium of communication and helps focus large, abstract, and complicated ideas and concepts.

Here are four reasons why infographics are efficient, helpful, and quick tools to help you engage and communicate with not only those you employ, but also clients.

1. Learning styles are different – words and numbers alone do not reach everyone

Some people like reading dense pages of text. They like details and don’t mind thumbing through binders of notes and numbers. But most don’t have the time for concentrated study. An increasing majority prefer to scan infographics because they communicate an idea with speed.

Infographics help you communicate with a wide audience that doesn’t have the time to root through long texts. Better yet, infographics are an important tool for reaching out to visual learners.

2. You need to simplify your key points to engage

With social media, mobile devices, and online distractions it’s harder than ever to engage people with your ideas. Even your own people.

A good infographic captures attention because it’s easily digestible, arresting, and informative. Like a great road sign, a great infographic can instantly communicate a point. By grabbing your colleague’s attention it can buy you enough time to discuss your idea further.

3. Great infographics have a depth of information behind them…and force you to think deeply

Just because an infographic usually only contains a few words, inhabits a small space, and doesn’t illustrate a lot of data, it doesn’t mean that it is intellectually light. On the contrary, a good infographic often tells a rich, deep story that’s been painstakingly distilled into a compelling image, words, and numbers.

Infographics, though appearing simple, often require more thought and work to compose than a long memo, plan, or report. Condensing, isolating, and conveying key data points in an attractive, concise way is an intellectual and creative challenge.

But there’s a big payoff. You are forced to simplify your story and your peers will understand your idea with minimal effort. Sounds like a win-win, right?

4. The best info-graphics tell stories

Your initiative, indeed, any organizational effort, is a story. A story that needs to be told and retold. A great infographic tells a story with clarity and precision. It is not simply a smattering of images, words, and numbers that look good when you add some design elements. A great info-graphic is a highly integrated collection of content that tells an important narrative. Done well, it can be an effective storytelling tool highlighting progress, change, development, and thought.

Conclusion

As you plan your next initiative consider creating an infographic to build awareness and a wide degree of support. Infographics may take extra effort to create, but they will take little effort to be understood by many people. By creating infographics you are creating road signs for your team and organization that will drive people toward common goals and projects.

Zuckerberg on Jobs (and a lot more!)

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Social Media | One Comment

This past week Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg sat down with Charlie Rose for a wide-ranging interview about everything from their battles with Google, to the Arab Spring, to how Steve Jobs influenced Zuckerberg. The interview is a must see not just for those involved in the tech world, but also for everyone who is interested in the future of leadership.

Zuckerberg on Jobs and the entire Charlie Rose interview (video)

Recycling Plant & Recycling a Plant (Part 2)

By | Creativity, Features, Ideas, Political Competence, Proactive Stories, Social Media | 2 Comments

Part 2: Recycling a Plant

Ok here we go. A “Part 2”. This is a very adventurous and presumptuous endeavor on my part to attempt a Part 2 of anything. Part 2 suggests that I have some loyal audience that meticulously follows my work and was left trembling in anticipation at the end of my Part 1. I think George Lucas had it right in his Star Wars chronology. Next time I’ll start a blog post at Part 4 and leave readers scrambling to find the previous contributions. When they discover these do not exist, perhaps they will appreciate the creativity and eagerly await the missing posts. Ok, enough of this meta blog analysis. On to Part 2:

In Part 1 of this series, I praised the efforts of a for-profit recycling plant in Chicago, IL. Now with the insertion of “an” indefinite article, I have the opportunity to share a story of Chicago creativity and innovation that elevates modern recycling into the stratosphere (or onto the 5th floor of a Chinatown loft to be more precise). Consider this story of “Recycling a Plant”.

In an earlier post on this blog, I introduced the site CouchSurfing.com, “a social networking site designed to connect travelers around the universe,” to generous hosts. The site also offers a local events page that sustains and enhances community involvement. On that page, I discovered this event for “Funky Chinatown – A Funk, Soul, and Disco Loft Party.” The page included this notice about the event:

For exact directions, please RSVP to CHINATOWNFUNK@GMAIL.COM
– include Name + # of Guests so I can get a good headcount.”

My mom once mentioned something in passing about avoiding secret, funky, CouchSurfing, Chinatown parties staged in abandoned lofts with “a ton of beer and cocktails for free.” On the other hand, my mom often offers advice so sometimes I have to pick and choose when to comply…

I’m glad I followed my gut (even if my liver is slightly peeved) because the evening illustrated how a group of creative individuals can convert an abandoned loft into a productive community music and art space. In between funky dancing that put my Bar Mitzvah to shame, I connected with travelers from around the world and exchanged gripping stories of Couch Surfing exploits. Instead of wasting my evening consuming money, time, and space at a neighborhood haunt, I recycled stories and a stunning loft space and converted them into an unforgettable evening.

I started this series with the question: what is the difference between a recycling plant and recycling a plant? The answer is that they offer distinct and innovative ways to enhance sustainability and create community. The recycling plant promoted environmentalism through pragmatic corporate action while the loft party enhanced community while using an abandoned industrial space.

I guess the essential difference is then that the recycling plant did not play funky tunes. Maybe that would increase efficiency?

To read (or re-read) Part 1: Recycling Plant, click here.

Sofa Snorkeling

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Proactive Stories, Social Media | No Comments

Picture Credit: wnstn

Two weeks ago I met a stranger on the internet and last weekend I slept over at his place. My parents are aware of the situation and seem comfortable. I’ve done it several times before in countries ranging from Canada to Andorra and it’s always been a rewarding experience.

Ok before sullying the good names of Sam Bacharach and Cornell University let me explain how this was in fact a benign and platonic experience that informs leadership theory. Of course, if I do get in trouble I’ll just blame it on my ghostwriter.

CouchSurfing.com is a social networking site designed to connect travelers around the universe (although surfers in outer space are encouraged to pack Velcro in order to stay fixed to their futons). The site is funded through karma and donations and fueled by the surprising willingness of people to host and introduce nomads to their cities. The self-policing service maintains safety and integrity through a rigorous system of user-provided references. If someone even suggests your couch was uncomfortable or your personality was unappealing, you’ll likely receive few requests. If someone calls you a smelly mooch, you’ll have a difficult task securing a host. It’s an impressively successful network.

While I’m still waiting for my first hosting attempt, my CouchSurfing hosts have included a Brazilian IT professional, a Disney Channel actor, and an NPR producer. Each has introduced me to a new city and a network of their friends. Even with limited time to form a couch groove in these host’s living rooms, I now find myself in coalition with diverse and talented partners around the globe. We’re each independently engaged in mobilizing a collective agenda, albeit a slightly romantic one.

Just like any organization, we actively support and host each other when necessary and passively support with positive references when that suffices. We expand our networks by identifying engaging and enthusiastic coalition partners. We sustain momentum by organizing community CouchSurfing meet-ups that preserve community and participation. We shove our egos into the dark crevices of our couches and reject hubris and narcissism. It’s an organization that embraces uncertainty and functions with perpetual fluidity.

I’m not suggesting that you infuse a little pragmatic fun into your organization and start surfing on your colleagues’ couches. That probably crosses the line. Just remember, if a generation of couch potatoes can mobilize a proactive global coalition, imagine what you can do in your organization.

Crusty Public Relations

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Features, Managerial Competence, Political Competence, Proactive Leaders, Social Media | No Comments

I cringed when Rupert Murdoch was pied in the face in Britain’s Parliament at the peak of his News of the World scandal. As frosting projectiled toward the media tycoon’s face, jaws dropped in both offended horror and journalistic hunger for a rich news story. The gears of a media landscape Murdoch helped construct began turning against him as reporters baked the event into a delicious tabloid commentary on the mogul’s precipitous fall from grace.

I cringed because I saw a leader’s struggles compounded by the judgmental gaze of media. Leaders often incorporate media training into their management arsenal. Politically savvy executives understand that the internet generation affixes a steady lens on people in positions of power. You may try to establish a contained audience of coalition partners and interested parties, but you must realize your statements and actions reach an alarmingly diverse audience.

Everyone receives the same HR orientation that warns you to seize your internet identity and protect your external image. However, leaders invariably find this lesson conflicting with the impulse to promote accomplishments and campaign your agenda to the past. A leader is a public personality so how does one hide from flying pastries when fortunes go south?

There is no clever maxim that frees the proactive leader from the 24 hour news cycle. Human resources logic suggests that a leader adopts a cautious paranoia that shields them from an antagonistic external world. This caution may work for Willy Wonka but leaders from Richard Nixon to Julian Assange have discovered the perils of mobilizing a paranoid agenda.

The truly proactive leader co-opts the media into its coalition as an active participant in mobilizing an agenda. Like all coalition partners, the media is not always your ally. Journalists and public observers can range from active supporters to weak supporters to committed antagonists. While factions of the public may applaud your agenda, others may actively disparage your efforts. Don’t view the media as a monolithic organism but rather as a diffuse network of critical observers.

You will inevitably confront your pie-in-the-sky moment and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to duck out of the frosty public spotlight. Just pack some napkins and a sense of humor and you’ll receive your just deserts.

Retire Your Resume…Please

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Ideas, Social Media | One Comment

If you are looking for a job it’s probably best to throw your resume away. Everyone has one and thanks to resume workshops, websites, and books they all look the same. If your resume is professional it is no doubt typed up with something very close to Times New Roman and it’s in 12 point font. I bet you even use bullet points. Way to stick out.

But if you don’t believe me–maybe you’ll trust the Wall Street Journal. According to a recent article more and more recruiters are finding job candidates on Facebook.

So much for resumes. It’s the age of the ‘cool’ looking social media profile. The resume is dead.

Half of me is grateful. I hated formatting resumes on Word or any other text editor. It took forever. The second you indented one job another one would disappear.

But the other half of me is scared. Resumes are boring–but they have established rules to follow and set guidelines. I know that if my resume has a purple cover page, I’m making a mistake. With social media profiles we’re still in gray territory. Is it OK to tell future employers about the minutia of your day? Do you want them to see pictures from your vacations and your nights out?

Maybe. The trick is figuring out how to do these things with a little class and an ounce of humor. But before we iron out the details there will be a lot of mistakes.

So if you want to stick out and be on the cutting edge–take a deep breath and drag your resume to your recycle bin. After that figure out a way to show the world what you can do without putting people to sleep.

Top 10 Social Media/Tech/Leadership Links 6.13.11

By | Leadership On the Edge, Social Media | No Comments

1. Building your own iPad and iPhone apps just got easier

2. Has the internet “hamsterized” journalism?

3. Conan O’Brien’s amazing Dartmouth commencement speech

4. Apple worth more than Microsoft, HP and Dell COMBINED

5. Nine reasons your company should use brand advocates 

6. Winning, Losing and Collaboration7. Tips on successfully blogging from home

8. Google acquires Admeld 

9. Five tough questions entrepreneurs have to ask about growth

10. Lonely Employees and Productivity

Top 5 Social Media and Tech Stories of the Day 5.12.11

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Social Media | No Comments

It hasn’t been a slow day so far in the world of social media and tech. Check out these interesting stories about what’s going on:

1. Facebook developer Buddy Media buys Spinback

2. Using Social Media is all about implementation

3. Informative story about Facebook’s PR attack against Google

4. Are tech stocks popular again?

5. Costin Raiu talks about the security risks of Google’s new Chromebook.

It’s all in a name: The Flying Child-Injuring Disk (video)

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Leadership On the Edge, Social Media | No Comments

Being a leader is about more than just getting from point A to point B. Sometimes you need to be creative as well. No one is demanding that you re-paint the Mona Lisa, but you do need to have either a) some creative ideas of your own b) the forethought to hire people who do. Of course if it was that easy nothing would ever go wrong, but in fact creativity is a multi-step process. You can come up with the most amazing product ever (for our sake let’s say you invented the Frisbee) but if you name it the Flying Child-Injuring Disk, all your work will be for naught. Naming stuff might seem like an afterthought, but if done incorrectly, you can scuttle the best laid plans.  At this point you might ask, “is the hip and with-it tech world immune from this chronic and debilitating  lack of imagination?”  My answer would be a firm “NO!” but seeing how that’s kind of harsh and boring,I will instead let the always informative and entertaining Brian Cooley from CNET TV tell you all about the Top 5 Worst Named Tech Products. Oh and don’t forget to go out and pick up a Flying Child-Injuring Disc, summer is just around the corner!