Why sketches and diagrams work!

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For a long time, it has been recognized by cognitive psychologist and brain researchers that sketches, maps and diagrams are powerful ways to communicate complex information. In the world of business, complex information is embedded in concepts such as strategies, business models and architectures.

The capacity of the human brain to simultaneously keep information in the working memory while doing mental operations on that information is limited. This fundamental processing capacity bottleneck can be effectively mitigated by off-loading memory to external representations of the information that subsequently can be inspected and reinspected by the brain. Similarly, mental operations can be facilitated by putting the information relevant to particular operations in the part of the brain that interprets spatial/visual objects, thereby taking advantage of human’s enormous capacity for recognizing many different patterns.

Because maps externalize ideas and relieve working memory, maps and sketches often uncover unintended consequences of ideas which can lead to even better ideas. One role of a map/sketch/diagram is to check the completeness and internal consistency of an idea. The iterative process of inspecting sketches and diagrams may inspire changes in design ideas, which are put down again on paper to be reexamined again, reconceived, redrawn and so on. Furthermore, the public nature of sketches makes them brilliant enablers of co-creation allowing a community of people to observe, comment on, and revise the ideas represented by the maps, and to enact those revisions in the diagrams/maps.

Expressing ideas in a visual/spatial medium makes comprehension and inference easier compared to more abstract media such as language or text. By using maps and diagram you are forced to focus on the important details and leave out the irrelevant, and provide necessary structure for complex conversations.ArchiMate
Building Archimate models is a powerful way to convey highly complex information on business and IT architectures. Based on a simple meta model with relatively few objects, surprisingly rich graphical representations of various perspectives on an enterprise can be modeled. Archimate offers a common language for describing the construction and operation of business processes, organizational structures, information flows, IT systems and technical infrastructure, and for visualizing the relationships between different business domains in an unambiguous way. This end-to-end coverage makes Archimate unique and the obvious choice for a common language bridging the traditional business-IT divide. Furthermore, by applying the Archimate concept “Viewpoint”, models can be designed that addresses specific stakeholders with specific concerns, e.g. CEO’s, architects, project managers or developers.

Archimate models with enterprise coverage constitutes a tremendous asset for an organization because they are visual and consistent baselines for change that can be communicated and understood across different enterprise domains. However, to maintain their value models have to be constantly updated to reflect the dynamic, on-going changes of the enterprise architecture.

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