In the transition from the industrial age to the information age, we are now faced with a growing volume of visual, non-linear information. But as a society, we are largely visually illiterate. Dave Gray, writing in his CommunicationNation blog, recently touched on this apparent paradox.
In this post, Dave is writing about PowerPoint, a visually-oriented business tool that is almost ubiquitous, but is poorly utilized. The problem, he explains, isn't due to Microsoft. It's primarily because we live in a visually illiterate society. In this context, he defines literacy as the ability to not only view and interpret visual media, but also to be able to effectively create it - in much the same way that traditional literacy implies the ability to read AND write. Visual illiteracy leads to the much-dreaded "death by PowerPoint" syndrome, caused by the inability of many people to effectively use this software.
One major problem, Dave theorizes, is that our school systems aren't doing enough to prepare today's students for tomorrow's visual-centric world:
"Our world is changing fast – faster than we can keep up with our historical modes of thinking and communicating. Visual literacy – the ability to both read and write visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain – will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life.
"We’re leaving an industrial age and entering an information age, yet we continue to teach, and operate our schools, as if they were factories. In an information age, visually literate societies will succeed and thrive. Shouldn’t we be one of them?"
What does this have to do with mind mapping software? It probably has much to do with the fact that it isn't more widely accepted as a genre of productivity software. Yes, its influence is steadily growing, but some managers don't like it because they prefer to consume information and data in linear form. So what happens is that many companies have small "islands" of users of mind mapping software, which prevents larger numbers of workers from benefitting from the collaboration and communication benefits it has to offer.