Draw a business problem to better understand and solve it

Multiple Color Sharpies

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The nature of my accountancy and business advisory work involves words and numbers wrapped around often complex problems.

A business model or problem typically has a myriad of moving interrelated parts (and people). Add to this the jargon that surrounds accountancy and tax legislation and you can frequently see a client’s eyes glaze over beneath a furrowed confused brow as a sea of words envelopes them!

This is where a piece of paper, a flip chart or a post-it note comes into its own – ideally with a nice colourful set of Sharpies!

Some people are more ‘visual’ than others (myself included) although evidence suggests that we are all as humans innately visual. Just to be able to draw a person (stick-man) and a square box (company) and some arrows to show the flow of cash to and from the company and suddenly the client sees where all the cash is disappearing!

Another sketch I find useful to draw is the lifecycle of a business and to discuss with an entrepreneur where they think their business is at its current stage of growth on this chart. From this we can discuss the planning points that are relevant now and in the not too distant future.

Post-it notes are really useful for planning and brainstorming. I find it best to use one idea per post-it note. In this way it is easy to shift the post-it notes around to gain new insights. If there is a team working on a problem then allowing each participant to write ideas on each post-it note and for them all to be stuck up and discussed before they are moved, promoted or eliminated works well. If you can get your hands on some giant post-it notes – all the better!

The downside with the above ‘post-it notes approach’ is that you are still using words albeit on brightly coloured moveable pieces of sticky paper. There is definitely something to it that makes it a more creative and insightful process than say writing linear notes or brainstorming in a discursive way, however, drawing simple sketches on paper (or on a tablet device such as an iPad with an app such asĀ Penultimate) has a merit all of its own.

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