My oldest son (age 16) is interested in rebuilding our wooden swing-set, which is over 12 years old and in serious disrepair. At dinner recently, he sat down with a pencil and paper and started quizzing his siblings about what they would like to see on the swing-set. After creating a list of 10 to 12 items and features, including things like a slide, swings, and a climbing wall, he began describing how the new swing-set would look. After a few moments of this, I said: “Charlie, you should sketch this out for us to look at. If you just describe it, everyone will picture something different.”
My 8-year old daughter Lila immediately responded, “Yeah, I’m picturing hippos in a swimming pool!”
Sometimes drawing a picture, a sketch, or a flowchart, can communicate information much more accurately than just spoken or written words. Think about that next time you’re trying to explain to your database users how data flows through the system, or how a certain procedure should be followed. You just might find that the picture in your listeners’ heads is not the same as the picture you’re trying to describe.