I recently read an article about learning a foreign language. The author claims to have become fluent in French in five months and Russian in 10 through a process of mentally tying words to images. He cites research that shows our visual memory is “extraordinary” and by capitalizing on that, we can learn new words and actually remember them with great accuracy.
Instead of repeating “gato…cat” to learn the feline word in Italian, he suggests that you connect the word to an image of a cat; preferably an actual cat that you know. Those associations penetrate our memory and help us to learn new languages much more easily than through memorization of rote grammar.
I believe the same idea is true when trying to help people grasp new concepts. Instead of talking about the theory of enrollment management, I can make my point instantly understood through the visual of a three-legged stool. I have a wooden block that distinctively demonstrates what we are trying to achieve in our student mix and a saltshaker that illustrates a supervisory style. In my office I have visual aids such as Wile E. Coyote (like creativity and focus), ruby slippers (empowerment) and a spider (making connections).
I use analogies all of the time: applications are like bananas, ideas are like dots, goal setting or vision is like Indianapolis, transitions are like a rubber band, a marble jar is like credibility, etc. I think they help get the point across more quickly than an elaborate explanation and it serves to make the point memorable.
Think about how you can enhance your visual connections — not just through words on a power point, but by analogies and images that are as sticky as a spilled jar of honey.
Source: The path to fluency is paved with pictures by Gabriel Wyner, Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014.