Using technobabble to sound cool

Jargonicious! A plea for simplicity…

The ingenious (and totally fictitious) “Turbo Encabulator” video has long been used to warn against the use of technobabble. It has a fascinating history, which includes this Oscar-worthy 1977 performance by Bud Haggart:

 

What’s the lesson?

Avoid confusing jargon in your presentations.

Be conscious of your audience and sensitive to their familiarity with the terms that you use. We should use jargon, acronyms and other technical terms only if we are sure that our audience will understand them. If there is the slightest chance that they won’t understand, then simplify your language. Remember, if they can’t understand your message, they can’t adopt it.

I know what you’re thinking…

“But, Susan, big words make me sound more interesting and credible!”

Actually, the opposite is often true. The more clearly and simply you can deliver your message, the more likely people are to follow your ideas (intentional double entendre).

I would write more, but I’ve gotta go for now, as my flux capacitor needs recharging.

Your turn

Where have you seen (or even used) technobabble?

__________________________

Thanks to my colleague, Dave Ilconich, for reminding me of this classic video. 

Focus on the Next Right Thing

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time…

In his Harvard Business Review blog post, Tony Schwartz shares The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, asking: 

Why is it that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work?

It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Multitasking saps individuals and organizations of effectiveness AND energy. And it is a vicious cycle, tied up with task prioritization, deadlines, work overload, work-life balance, and many other familiar topics around human performance. Doing one thing at a time can be the secret both to personal effectiveness and successful project management.

What’s Wrong with Multi-Tasking?

The downfall of multi-tasking comes from task switching. I am not particularly interested in aspects of walking and chewing gum, or driving while talking on the phone. Multitasking in the business context means working on multiple tasks “at once.” Or as we know, having a big pile of work and being forced to SWITCH between them without ever getting them done. Throw on top of it the problem of interruptions and too-many-meetings, and you get a great ball of nothing-gets-done.

So How Do I Get This Magic Going?

Here are three behaviors Schwartz says will help you set your boundaries:

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.

3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

According to Schwartz,

A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew. Make waves. Stop living your life in the gray zone.

Here’s to living in black and white…and may the force of singular focus be with you!

Celebrate the spaces between

Let your ideas breathe…

How Can You Harness the Power of White Space?

Objects in a composition need to breathe. White space offers an airy canvas stage on which the parts of your design can freely dance. Just ask Mark Boulton, graphic designer and writer from the UK. Here’s my favorite part about Mark’s view on white space:

“Whitespace is often used to create a balanced, harmonious layout. One that just “feels” right. It can also take the reader on a journey through the design in the same way a photographer leaves “looking room” in a portrait shot by positioning the subject off the center of the frame and having them looking into the remaining space.”

Check out this slide show by Brand Autopsy to see some compelling use of white space.

Now, how can you use white space in your next design, web page, slide deck or thank you note to make a bold statement?

Looking forward to [the spaces between] your ideas,

 

Susan Hendrich

Communicating data with Infographics

Infographics: Pictures That Tell A Story…

What is an Infographic?

The term Infographic is a portmanteau of two terms, “Information” and “Graphics,” and describes the visual representation of data. Infographics help communicate complex information in a digestible manner, as they creatively present data in an understandable and engaging format.

from www.DesignModo.comAs web users, with our diminishing attention spans, we’re inexorably drawn to these shiny, brightly colored messages with small, relevant, clearly-displayed nuggets of information. They’re straight to the point, usually factually interesting and often give you a wake-up call as to what those statistics really mean.  Here are some examples to fire up your i-graph engines…

Example: An Infographic that’s all about YOU

Intel’s “What About Me?”

Intel’s What About Me? is an automatic infographic generator that connects to your own Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts to create a profile infographic about you.

Social media users know that discovery is half the fun. With What about Me? you can capture a snapshot of your social media life and create your own colorful image, full of clues and facts about one of the most fascinating subjects in the world — YOU!

The chipmaker’s new “What About Me?” app culls info from your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube profiles to crank out a data visualization of your composite social media profile.

For instance, there’s a graphic that looks like a flower that tracks your interests based on what you tweet and write status updates about. There’s also a record of your most popular post ever and your most popular pic, your ratio of self-created updates vs. found information and “likes.”

More great Infographic examples

Free Online Tools For Creating Infographics

  • Hohli

    Hohli is an intuitive, simple online chart maker. It’s incredibly easy to pick your chart type, add some data, vary the sizes and colors and see the finished chart.

    information graphics

    Creately

    Creately lets you design easy-to-make diagrams and flow charts. You can choose from a number of purpose-designed diagram types and quickly add your data to make your own chart. The end result looks very professional.

    information graphics

    New York Times

    New York Times’ Visualization Lab lets you use statistics from recent NYTimes articles to create visualizations in various formats. You can also see other people’s visualizations and see how other people choose to display the same data.

    data graphics

    Many Eyes

    Many Eyes lets you upload your own data or use data already stored on the site. The visualizations themselves are well-designed and very professional-looking. This is definitely the easiest way to use your own data for online visualizations.

    data graphics

    Google Public Data

    Google Public Data lets you easily take public data and transform it into an infographic of your choice. These beautiful, colorful graphics simplify and communicate the data perfectly.

    data graphics

    Wordle

    You may have seen my earlier post on Wordle, which lets you create word visualizations using text you enter. There are plenty of interesting designs to choose from. Enter whole books, short passages or see what other people have used. In this example, we can see the US constitution visualised.

    Free Software For Creating Infographics

    Tableau

    Tableau is a free Windows-only software for creating visualizations. As you can see, these impressive graphs are colorful and quite unique.

Great tutorials on infographic creation:

Productivity secret: The 40-hour work week

How many hours per week do you work?

In her compelling essay, Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity, AlterNet’s Sara Robinson lays out decades of research backing the 40-hour work week wisdom and discusses how a down economy and the “passion” of Silicon Valley helped us lose sight of these well-documented facts. She ultimately calls for the return of the 40-hour work week—not just as a route to better health, sanity, and productivity for all, but also as a way to create jobs, arguing that “[f]or every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there’s one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn’t.” Robinson’s conclusion says it all:

For the good of our bodies, our families, our communities, the profitability of American companies, and the future of the country, this insanity has to stop. Working long days and weeks has been incontrovertibly proven to be the stupidest, most expensive way there is to get work done. Our bosses are depleting resources from of the human capital pool without replenishing them. They are taking time, energy, and resources that rightfully belong to us, and are part of our national common wealth.

Your turn: If you do work over 40 hours per week, why do you do so?

http://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/bring_back_the_40_hour_work_week/

Special thanks to my colleague, Kathryn Burke-Howe, from Performance Development Group for referring me to this story.