The Power of Pinterest
Whenever a new website enters the market I try to figure it out. It took me a while to figure out Twitter, and I still don’t like Facebook (I dont like sharing so much), but Pinterest has really grabbed me.
Why is this? Because I am a visual thinker. And Pinterest, to me, is a paradigm-shattering way to find and share information – visually.
Are you the type of person who stands up in the middle of a meeting and draws on the whiteboard? I am. In fact whenever I see a graphic or image I like I write it down or capture it.
In our business we deal with lots and lots of data, and most of us have a hard time figuring out what it all means. What I do is try to draw it. And once I draw it, I understand it.
One of the best tools I have for my work is a big book of white, thick, drawing paper. When I have a confusing project or a daunting business problem to deal with, I sharpen a good old-fashioned pencil (the yellow types with erasers) and I sit down and try to draw it. My mind calms down and I suddenly see the relationships between the problem and the information.
Our entire business has been built through visual models. We collect millions of bits of information (practices, examples, spending levels, models) and our job at Bersin & Associates is make it easy to understand and relevant for you. I use the word “practical” a lot. We assess the collective wisdom of millions of people and boil it down to practical, proven, easy-to-use tools and advice. And nothing makes things more “practical” than drawing a picture.
Not everyone is a visual thinker. Some of us are very auditory. We like to talk about things a lot. That’s why we have conference calls and meetings to discuss issues and findings. Many people can’t really “get” what to do until they’ve talked it over with their boss, their team, their peers, or even their spouse. And we all need to vocalize things to make them real.
This, by the way, is why giving speeches is such an important learning process. I give more than 100 speeches a year, and while I agonize over every one, they make me smarter and more knowledegable about all the complex issues we study.
We also learn through writing. I find that one of the most powerful ways to understand something is to “write about it.” This is why we all had to write papers in school. When someone in our company comes up with an idea, I always try to get them to “write down a plan.” The process of writing forces you to fill in the missing ideas, and “complete” your thinking. It’s a lot harder than you may think. And in my personal experience, writing well and visual thinking are very related.
Which gets me back to Pinterest. Pinterest has uniquely found a way to let you view, share, and find visual information quickly and easily. Using Pinterest for me is like diving into a pool on a hot day – it just “feels good.” Unlike Facebook (which feels like an intrusive advertising machine) and Google (which is useful but somewhat boring) and Twitter (which is fascinating but a bit distracting for people like me), I find Pinterest compelling. And I am willing to bet that the community of creative people in L&D are going to find Pinterest a compelling way to create and share stories.
This is why I think so many women use Pinterest (more than 75% of its users are women). Women, in general, are more visual and “feeling” in their approach to life – so the interface and experience of Pinterest is enjoyable. (Another interesting topic we’re looking at is how women, because of their way of dealing with people and information, are becoming more and more important in business leadership.)
Also, by the way, Pinterest is beautiful. The images and visuals on Pinterest are visually pleasing. People aren’t uploading videos of “fails” or people shooting each other. It’s a little like a social and beautiful version of Reddit. (In fact one blogger calls Reddit the “male version of Pinterest,” and I can see why. I use the Reddit pics app on my phone and love to view all the funny pictures, cats, and sweet stories about people and places.)
Pinterest is still very new, and the team hasn’t focused on making money yet. So unfortunately we may find the site starts become crowded with ads (promoted visuals), which may make it just as frustrating as Facebook. But for now I have to say it is a fascinating and important new tool in our own personal exploration of information, data, and the world.