Monday, July 4, 2011


By Al Norval,

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s remarkable how true this is. Pictures and images have the power to convey more than the words they represent. They have the power to move us and invoke a connection to our deeper emotions – humour, laughter, sadness even rage and fear. They are able to connect to our emotional core.

Certain images become locked in over time – they become endless. How many of you can recall The Mona Lisa’s smile, Neil Armstrong standing on the moon, Winston Churchill’s portrait and the horrible image of the burning of the World Trade Center. All represent more than a picture or a painting.

Images are more than just photographs. Corporate branding for example, where the iconic images of great brands such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, MacDonald’s and Mercedes all have the power to invoke memories, feelings and thoughts about the products. I’m sure each of you had the brand image dash quickly through your mind’s eye at the mention of these brands.

But what has this got to do with Lean?

Let’s go back to basics. Lean is about engaging our Team Members to solve problems and remove waste every day to create more value for our Customers. To do that we need to not only solve problems but to share the learning rapidly across the organization. By doing this we become a learning organization with the capability of our Team Members getting higher and higher over time. The higher capability people have, the more problems they can solve and so enter a benevolent cycle of learning and problem solving.

The key to sustaining this is the ability of both the organization and individual Team Members to remember what they learned and what was shared in problem solving. Memory is the ability to store, retain, and recall information. But in today’s world of information overload, how do we improve the ability of our Team Members to store, retain and recall information?

Simple answer – we use images.

Images are stored in our brains as Visual Memory. That’s the part of our memory that preserves some of the characteristics of our senses pertaining to the visual experience. We are able to place into memory, visual information which represents thoughts and ideas. The neural connections are stronger if we have an emotional sense tied to the image. That emotional connection is why we can remember images to a far greater degree than we can remember mere facts or words and sentences. As we tie these images into a learning experience that is cheerful, light and engaging, the thoughts and ideas get quickly locked into memory resulting in a higher capability of our Team Members to solve problems.

In summary, we can achieve better recall of key learning points and problem solving if we use simple, elegant images with a touch of humour that ties the message to our soul.

For more on Images and Lean, please see Lean Brain Boosters at


  1. Good insights, Al -- thanks.

    We're awash in information these days -- and starved for knowledge.

    Effective images are vacuum-packed knowledge -- implanting the fundamentals on your nervous system.

    My latest book, The Remedy, is full of doodles -- it's how I remember things.

  2. The thing about images is anyone can draw them. Most peple think you have to be an artist to draw images and shy away from it but put a cocktal napkin in front of them at a bar and they turn into Leonardo. The point is anyone can draw stick figures.
    Images remain a powerful way to communicate information.