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Fostering Collaboration by Condensing Presented Data? Yep.

I've been reflecting on a project I'd previously worked on which included presenting the objectives and strategies of an organization for the next few years, while identifying the market's opportunities. A standard format was routinely presented to the team to catalyze direction.

One of these routine slides was a complex collection of charts and stats that had been presented many times to many of these individuals over the years. It had never received much feedback or questioning, even though it "felt" like it was intended to be a critical slide in the presentation.

I hoped to gauge the opinion of its message and gather insight, so I decided to take a different approach. This time, I elected to do something differently. I decided to present the same slide, consisting of only facts. I presented it as simplified as possible – no tables, no charts, no complex conditional formatting. It consisted of only six numbers. Striving to present the information with as little text as possible.

Edward Tufte promoted this idea with his ink-ratio concept where the data-ink ratio is calculated by 1 minus the proportion of the graph that can be erased without loss of data information. You can read more about it here.

This time, I presented it to the same group of individuals that were fully aware of the subject and had received the more detailed slide in the past. This time, with just six numbers, it was engaged and discussed comprehensively when received. I felt that the simplicity enabled conversation versus the audience striving to interpret the information being presented.

The simplicity created dialogue versus the complexity hindering engagement.

Yet another example of saying more with less, and again proving that Edward Tufte was right – “above all else show the data.”


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