Sometimes words or numbers just don't cut it. When you find your thinking stymied or blocked, try drawing the problem. When you are having trouble communicating, try a drawing or other visual representations. When you want to easily remember a complex set of information, consider the power of a drawing.
Here are some examples.
A client of mine wanted a way of bringing all his developmental insights into a cohesive whole. After struggling with words for a few weeks, he decided to draw a representation of what he had learned (click on the image on the left for a full size version). This drawing shows the client's goal, the path to get there, and the tools he will use along the way. In this case, the client had a truck he particularly liked, so he used the truck and its components to represent his full set of tools. Now when he needs a reminder of where he is going and how he is going to get there, he simply need glance over at his map and it all comes back.
Jessica Hagy says more with simple drawings on one of her posts than I say in 600 words. Check out this one (on the right), for example. And for more, subscribe to Jessica's brilliant blog.
Tony Buzan invented mindmapping as a tool to bring the visual into our thinking, planning and acting. Here's a nice one (on the left) by Sarah Grice. For more on Tony Buzan's ideas, consider his beautiful book, The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's Untapped Potential (Plume, 1996, 320 pages). And check out my 295 word primer on how to mind map.
Next time you are stuck, frustrated, or simply tired of words, try drawing what's on your mind.
P. S. Rather than use a computer program to do your drawing, do it free hand. That kinesthetic experience will deepen your understanding of the subject even more than merely drawing on the computer.
P.P.S. My client reminded me, after reading a draft of this post, that smell can help with recall, too. He burned a bit of incense while making the map. Now, whenever he lights the same scent, the map comes quickly back to mind. The more senses you use, the better when it comes to creativity and memory!
P.P.P.S. I just stumbled across a brand new book on solving problems with pictures: The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, by Dan Roam (Portfolio Hardcover, March 13, 2008, 288 pages). I haven't read it yet, and would love to hear from you if you have.