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Your introductory guide to information visualization

Once television began replacing radio across North America in the mid-1900s, viewers and businesses never looked back!

It’s no surprise that videos, infographics, and other visual delivery systems are equally popular today. After all, our brains are hard-wired to process, remember – and yes, enjoy – information better when it’s presented in a visual context.

Information Visualization 101

Information visualization is a process that uses interactive, visual representations of data to reinforce human understanding. In other words, using information visualization tools makes it easier to work with data and translate it into business outcomes.

Using visualization to share and manage business information and knowledge doesn’t just improve understanding and communication significantly within teams. The information visualization process makes it easier to access, utilize, and update valuable data across your department or company.

In this introductory guide, we’ll explore what information visualization is all about, why it’s so important, and some examples of how you can use it to make a wide range of data more meaningful in the workplace.

 

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What is information visualization?

Technically speaking, information visualization is a process that uses interactive, visual representations of abstract data to reinforce human understanding.

Translation?

Taking advantage of multiple visual tools makes sharing information easier, so you and your team can apply that data more effectively in the workplace.

Visualization aids range from visual maps and diagrams, to timelines and data charts. But no matter which tools you work with, presenting your business process, workflow, or project information visually will make it easier for everyone to understand.

Because information visualization improves comprehension faster than text-based knowledge alone, it paves the way to better outcomes with less time and effort required.

Information visualization can help you:

  • Make sense of complex concepts or data
  • Lay out information in an interactive way that makes it easier to update
  • Make data more memorable through the visual chunking of ideas
  • Turn raw data into actionable steps
  • Use data to inform about a topic or teach someone how to perform a new task
  • Present information in a way that facilitates decision-making
  • Provide an overview of a plan or idea while showing relevant connections that help users draw valuable insights

The bottom line is that visualizing information makes it more meaningful to the user – which in turn makes it more likely to deliver value in any way you choose to apply it.

4 key goals of information visualization

Computers and the internet have amped up our ability to create, store and reclaim information in real time. The downside of all that data exposure, however, is that it can cause confusion and decision paralysis in the real world.

In many cases, we’re given access to far more information than we can ever comfortably process. So, the best way to make your workplace data both relevant and practical is by aiming toward these 4 goals of information visualization.

1. Promote better understanding

Whether you use it to explain ideas or explore relationships around business data, representing information visually promotes understanding, learning, and remembering over the long term. Laying out a workflow path with the help of a visual map, for example, lets you highlight important connections along the way and turn facts, figures, and other evidence-based materials into useful working knowledge.

2. Manage information overload

One of the biggest benefits of information visualization is the way it streamlines the information management process. Information overload can easily happen when you have so much data relating to a task or problem that it becomes difficult to complete or resolve it efficiently. A visual framework can help you take better control of individual and team-based information resources.

3. Improve data access

Visualization software dashboards let you integrate company knowledge, reports, and information records from various sources. Being able to quickly navigate to shared information in different systems helps clarify relationships among that data and provides a ready connection to additional resources where and when it makes sense to include them.

4. Keep information up to date

When you take steps to control your data, make it clear and logical to a wider audience, and lay it out in a visual platform, keeping it current becomes easier by default! User-friendly digital diagrams, for example, are simple to update and often sync automatically with other applications and visual maps.

Remember: disorganized, hard to understand sources of information are tough for team members to embrace and apply successfully. Information visualization is an effective way to decrease user stress, increase productivity, and prevent poor workflow decisions.

Information visualization examples in the workplace

Before you can use information visualization to improve workplace outcomes, you should think about the type of information specific users might need – and how, when, and where visualization will make it easier for them to achieve their objectives.

Here are a few information visualization examples that demonstrate some common-use scenarios.

1. Process design

Some business processes have so many moving parts that they can be difficult to discuss without some way of manipulating those parts before team members’ eyes. Designing a new process – like the chain of events involved in scheduling, confirming, and following up with first-time service clients, for example – becomes seamless when you use visual diagrams to brainstorm the necessary steps, collect, share, and analyze input from customer service personnel, and gain insight by illustrating and breaking down existing client communication procedures.

2. Change management

Need to onboard a new employee or introduce a revised workflow process into your department? There are at least two ways to accomplish those changes successfully. You can provide the new or existing team member with a set of text-based instructions. Or you can augment those instructions with a visual flowchart, for example, that’s linked to all the relevant resources. While the first way explains the necessary tasks, the second shows them in a way that’s much easier to interpret and apply.

3. Document creation

Information visualization can establish a clear route to writing up a sales proposal, planning a project, or creating a training manual, lecture, or course. Take a moment to think about how much easier it is to find your way from Point A to Point B when you have a map in hand, rather than just a set of directions. Visualizing a business document provides a big picture perspective that lets you plot the most efficient path, while including important side routes (related tasks or activities) and stopovers (decision-making or quality checkpoints) along the way.

4. Data analysis

Sales is a great example of an area that benefits enormously from data analysis. But visualizing your data with the help of a bar chart or graph makes it even easier to analyze and compare relationships between marketing channels, product sales, or customer retention strategies. Information visualization is invaluable for investigating business outcomes because it helps team members examine the reality of a situation, rather than relying on assumptions around which methods or tactics work best.

The ideal form of information visualization takes advantage of tools and techniques that are both visual and highly interactive. Collaborative information visualization software like MindManager lets teams view and manipulate business data from different perspectives, making it easier to apply effectively in the everyday workplace.

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