Dr Paul Duignan on Outcomes: You're living in last century if you're not exploiting the power of visualization when you're running meetings - why waste everyone's time? The essence of the DoView approach is to push the visualization envelope out to its boundary and then some. The underlying philosophy is really simple - 'a picture's worth a thousand words'. But it's often a challenge to derive the benefits in some meetings rooms.

I always warn the people I'm working with that it's essential that the meeting room we used is optimized for visualization. Paradoxically the best set-up for this also happens to be the simplest. You just need a large white wall in the meeting room so you put your data projector onto a table and you're ready to go. Having a 'short throw' projector also helps because it can generate a relatively large image on the wall without needing to be a long distance from it. From my point of view the scariest rooms are actually the most modern - one's with glass on all sides and large flat screens. The screens are totally state-of-the-art but they deliver you just a fraction of the screen real estate you can get with a simple old data projector on a large wall.

I walked into a meeting room in Indonesia the other day for some training with the Indonesian Government on our DoView visual strategic planning approach used to underpin public sector budgeting processes and my heart sunk as I saw the size of the screen I had to work with. It was a standard sized screen but it was in a really large room - fine for throwing up a few slides with several few bullet points on each, but no good for serious visualization work. Fortunately the organizers had provided a number of datashows which we were planning to use for small group work. Because of their efficient IT people, we were able to daisy-chain these so that the same image could appear on three different screens - hence everyone could cluster around one of these screens and clearly see the DoView work we were doing. 

A week later I was in a room in Rome which was, as you would expect of anything in Italian, about the most tasteful and beautiful meeting room I've ever been in. Fortunately the screen size was manageable in this case. However the issue here was related to the beauty of the room. In addition to the data projected version of the DoView, we also needed to blue tac up a large-sized printed version of the whole DoView as we progressively built it. There were issues with one of the walls which we couldn't blue tac onto without it losing its paint. Again the support staff were great and we found a way around it. 

But what this reflects is that people have not yet fully grasped the concept that a meeting room in which you cannot efficiently visualize (both on screen and by sticking things all over the walls) is simply not an effective meeting room in today's world. 

In a way the Popes got onto this approach centuries ago. While in Rome I took the obligatory tour of the Vatican and was struck as I walked through the apartments of the former Popes by how much they seemed to be into visualization. They squeezed paintings of biblical and historical scenes onto every square inch of their walls and ceiling space. The best way to describe what's going on with the visuals in the Sistine Chapel is that it's 'busy'. One very cool corridor in the Vatican Museum was called the Gallery of Maps. It was painted in the 1580s and it was lined with massive paintings of maps of Italy and Europe - a sort of modern day Google Earth. They even had 'street view' type blow-ups of some of the towns. I presume the Popes wandered up and down with a billiard cue and pointed out towns of strategic importance as they discussed strategy in the various military campaigns over the centuries.


One of the maps from the Vatican Gallery of Maps (source Wikipedia)

And today's meetings are about exactly the same two things - talking strategy and visualizing that talk. The problem with talk on its own is that its just that - just talk - unless it's captured in some way. You get some lovely moments in meetings when the talk encapsulates vast amounts sophisticated strategic thinking. But the danger is that that those beautiful strategic insights just vaporize when people leave the room. 

The traditional approach has been to get someone to take notes in the meeting and then write them up as either Minutes or within plans or strategies of some sort. But the problem is that this fatally separates the process of thinking from the process of representing of that thinking. The thinking comes out in the talk, but it's captured and represented in something that may take weeks to appear and which people no longer have the time or even the inclination to read. 

The DoView philosophy is to liberate the information from people's heads and get it up into the visualized strategy model in real time, so everyone can see it taking shape on the wall in front of them at the exact time that they speak. And it's essential that it's a visual model they can immediately start to manipulate, argue about and improve. The visualization of the model is an integral part of the thinking process itself.  That's why DoView software was specifically designed from the ground up as a real-time visualization tool for meetings rather than it merely drawing software. We were sick of hearing the normal 'here's a slide of my diagram but you won't be able to read it' comment you get from many people when presenting diagrams in meetings drawn in normal drawing or presentation software.

The standard modular page in DoView is optimized for all of the text being readable in a normal sized room at the resolution of a normal data projector. DoView provides just enough options for the facilitator to be able to use it in real-time while still facilitating the meeting. There's no dramatic break between a presentation and editing mode to break the concentration of the participants as they create, and own, 'their' model on the wall. See here for more information on the difference between DoView and standard drawing software. 

So, obviously people like me who are obsessed with the power of visualization are going to be banging up against non-visually-optimized rooms for some time to come. Do remember, if you find yourself in a sub-optimal room, always feel free to tell people to leave their tables and bring their chairs up to cluster around the screen while you are doing crucial visualization work. You can guarantee you'll lose them if you just leave them gazing pointlessly at a model where they can't read all of the text. 

Hopefully as more people get to experience the magic of real-time visualization while they are doing their thinking in the meeting room,  people who plan room design will get with the program and optimize meeting rooms for their visualization in addition to their talking function.

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