Following my Agile 2018 conference workshop, I had a couple of people ask how I created the smooth PowerPoint animations. I have always liked using animations to explain ideas since they help me understand processes.
My logic has been, if they help me understand it, then they should help others understand it too. Visual learning, and especially animations, are valuable on knowledge work projects.
Animations help us overcome the three challenges of knowledge work:
- Invisible – designs and ideas are often abstract and hard to visualize.
- Intangible – bits not atoms. Since we cannot see or feel ideas there is a real danger other people might interpret them differently, leading to difficulties with collaboration and problem-solving.
- Transient – Our work is often novel and unique, the challenges teams face are often unique too. The solution to our last problem is unlikely to help us today.
Tom Wujec, the author of The Future of Making, has an interesting short Ted talk on how animation helps create meaning. He explains seeing an image triggers 30 portions of the brain to start working together to process information, solve problems and make decisions.
Visualizations address the knowledge worker challenges:
- Clarity through visualization – engage all those brain circuits, helping us comprehend faster and clarify ideas.
- Making concepts interactive – when we all see the same interaction of components, we build a common understanding as a group.
- Make permanent – Animations can be stored, shared, and replayed - capturing mental models of A-ha moments.
So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, is an animation worth a thousand pictures (a million words)? – No, but it is hard to beat visual storytelling.