Visual Diagramming Adds Impact to Ideas

Visual Diagramming Adds Impact to Ideas

Since prehistoric times, mankind has used images and diagrams to communicate.  Today, using visual diagrams – comprised of pictures, symbols and basic geometric shapes to represent your ideas and plans – is a valuable strategic skill that can make your ideas more persuasive, improve team communication and speed decision-making on complex business issues.

Visual diagrams are powerful communication tools because they convey both meaning and context at the same time.  In other words, they show how different elements and ideas relate to each other and to the overall concept.  Wise use of visual diagrams can help clearly demonstrate your creative thinking and problem solving, and can differentiate you from others who rely only on words for their business communications.

Business applications of diagramming

Visual diagrams have many valuable strategic uses:

  • Mapping out business processes
  • Clearly defining the forces or factors that are influencing a current problem or challenge you’re trying to solve
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Explaining a new idea or concept
  • Developing an outline for a project or presentation

Software and resources

If you’re looking for a tool to help you to brainstorm ideas or outline the elements of a project or presentation, MindManager 2002 ( from MindJet is an excellent choice.  It enables you to quickly and easily create mind maps, without getting in the way of your ideation process.  It enables you to quickly add elements to your map, and takes care of organizing and rearranging the structure of your mind map for you – a real plus when you’re trying to input a lot of ideas quickly.  MindManager 2002 Standard Edition is available for download from the MindJet Web site for $99; a Business Edition, which offers improved integration with Microsoft Office, is also available for $189.

SmartDraw 6 ( and ConceptDraw ( are two popular programs designed to help first-time users quickly and easily create a variety of business and technical diagrams, without a big learning curve.  We recently used SmartDraw to develop several diagrams for a patent application, and found it to be powerful and intuitive.  Two of its best features for first-time users is its “create a new drawing” wizard, which helps to speed the process of creating a new diagram (there are 12 main types it supports) and its “explorer” pane, which provides fast access to libraries of diagram templates and elements.   SmartDraw Standard is available for $69 and ConceptDraw is $125; professional versions of both programs, which contain templates for more types of technical diagrams, are also available.

All three of these programs integrate well with Microsoft Office, making it easy to add visual diagrams to your Word documents or PowerPoint presentations.  In fact, ConceptDraw offers a special Presentation version of its software ( that enables you to build diagrams with animation and transition effects that can be integrated into PowerPoint presentations.

Diagramming for handheld PCs

Even users of handheld PCs can benefit from visual diagramming software.  MindJet makes a MindManager 2002 Mobile Edition which enables users of Palm and Handspring handheld computers to quickly and easily create project objectives, details and plans anytime, anywhere, and easily synchronize their mind maps with a desktop PC.  This program is available from the MindJet Web site for $49; the company plans to introduce a Pocket PC (Windows CE) version some time this spring.

Pocket Mindmap ( is another visual diagramming program that is available for Windows CE and Pocket PC handhelds.  It enables mobile users to create mind maps and text outlines in tandem, add custom properties and images to map branches, and even annotate your mind maps.  By designating elements of your Pocket Mindmap as tasks, you can also export them as Outlook tasks.  This shareware program can be downloaded for free; if you decide to keep it, you can obtain a registration code for $42.

Recommended reading

One of the best books on the strategic business use of visual diagrams is “The Marketer’s Visual Tool Kit” by Terry Richey.  This book provides a common-sense overview of the most commonly-used diagram formats, along with tips on when and how to use them.  Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but you may be able to find it in the used book section of one of the major online book seller Web sites.

I recommend that you investigate these tools and look for ways in which you can adapt them to your communication style and business challenges.  Based on my experiences with this strategy, I’m confident that you’ll find that visualizing your ideas, plans and presentations will add new power and persuasion to them, in ways you never dreamed possible.