Do you remember Show and Tell back in elementary school? For most of us it was probably our first introduction to public speaking and presenting. What a great concept, bring something in that you are passionate about and want to share with your peers. Two very simple rules must be followed and there is no slide deck to hide behind. One, you must show us the item you intend to share so we all start from the same reference point (this is vital – a picture is worth a thousand words). When we see the item itself (or a picture of it) all layers of abstraction are removed. Two, you have to tell us why this item is important to you and why we should care.
My question is what happened to “show”? Did we forget the impact that “show” can have while telling our stories? In business it seems like we just default to “tell” most of the time. Long, long, long lines of “tell” in emails, reports, slide decks, requirements documents, procedures, etc. The “tell” is important but the “show” is what gets us excited and if done correctly, removes the “I have no idea what she is talking about…” from the audience
“Show” forces us to be visual and make something that is real: a drawing, video, photograph, or a mock up of some sort. “Show” gets us much closer to being on the same page in regards to an idea or future direction. “Show” can help eliminate surprises at the end of a long project – “that’s not what I envisioned 12 months ago when we wrote the business case and requirements document…”
Custom application development projects are the perfect example of why “show” is so important. If you and I were asked to read a 25-page requirements document and then draw a picture of what we think the application should look like they would of course be very different. Start “showing” as soon as possible so you can get feedback from business champions and users before you get too far down a path and find out it’s the wrong road. Remember that “show” removes layers of abstraction and provides something real that everyone can see with their own eyes.
There are some excellent tools out there to help you create application mock-ups that do not require any coding knowledge whatsoever. Here are three that I have used: iRise, Protoshare, and Justinmind. Using tools like these can increase the chances of project success dramatically. If you can’t afford an application then draw it out on a whiteboard and take a picture at the very least.
The next time you get stuck or frustrated with a project or feel like “they just don’t get it.” Ask yourself this question, is there something I can do to “show” them what I mean.