If a Record-Setting Jeopardy! Winner Learns from Children’s Picture Books, Can You, Too?

on April 30, 2019

Another ringing endorsement that visualization promotes retention came from the most recent Jeopardy! Champ. Contestant James Holzhauer – who has racked up nearly $1 million in winnings, making him the second-best player of all time – was asked how he prepares for the iconic game show. His reply may surprise many of you, but not me and my colleagues at Root Inc.

Holzhauer spends hours at his local library reading children’s picture books.

Why? Because the pictures help him remember vast tracts of information.

The Power of Visuals

For centuries, we have used pictures to share information and knowledge. From the earliest humans, who created cave paintings to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frieze, to the slightly more pedestrian shopping mall maps we use today, visualization figures prominently in our social history.

Yet in the workplace, where we spend most of our time, not so much. At work, we frequently hear and use terms – such as vision, roadmap, or blueprint – that suggest a picture. But how often are they accompanied by an actual image? I would suggest that it’s rare to see visuals used in the workplace other than the typical graphs and pie charts.

Outside of work, there are many other places where visuals could make a big difference. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon one such place: the U.S. immigration office.

When I became an American citizen, part of my naturalization process included a citizenship test. To help me prepare, I was sent study materials. The test was 100 questions, and golly – it was really hard to remember all the strands of information from the Q&A booklet and CD I was given, so I made my own rudimentary study-aid visual. It was no masterpiece, but I was able to use it to show a timeline of key dates, as well as how the branches of government were related. I also captured images of key people and events, which helped me understand and remember so much more.

I’m proud to say that not only did I ace the test, but I can still remember most of the information today.

l urge everyone to take a leaf out of James Holzhauer’s book, which is filled with lots of pictures, and start infiltrating the workplace (and beyond) with visuals. Doing so will illuminate concepts, clarify information, accelerate understanding, drive common meaning, show relationships, and inject emotion to make our words more relatable and memorable to everyone.

Thinking

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