So why Venn anyway?

Those who start their day with Google will have noticed that today’s Doodle honours man-of-many-talents John Venn.

He would have turned 180 today and whilst he’s long passed into the sketching room in the sky, his eponymous diagram is as popular as ever. In fact, you could undoubtedly map his skills using the diagram named after him: maths, logic and philosphy.

But why Venn anyway?

Isn’t it just a fad, like so many animated GIFs? Au contraire, here’s why the Venn does not look set to do a 180 anytime soon if we are to believe Google Trends.

It simplifies a concept

In a world where words and visuals (including video) are churned out at an unprecedented rate, the eye longs for something simple yet engaging. What could be simpler than two circles joined together with a word? It cuts through the clutter, establishes a context and it can be a great help when preparing messages for information overload environments.

It explains what the relationship between two or more things

Imagine there’s you, and there’s me. We’re two separate sentient beings going about our everyday business, perhaps drawing Venns and whatnot – or perhaps indulging in one too many espressos – or whatever. Within our activities there may very well be some things we have in common and many other things we don’t.

We now have the basic setup for a Venn diagram. Instead of drawing two separate circles we can draw two that overlap – creating an intersect with the shared elements.

The intersect is where it is at

By focusing in on what we’ve got in common, we now have the basis for grounding our conversation – and possibly collaboration – in familiar, safe territory. This will allow us to build bridges to the areas which may not be shared. This could be interests – or it could be expertise – some of which may always remain entirely separate.

However, with a shared element in the middle we have the basis for hopefully establishing a level of trust, a foundation on which shared work can be built.

That’s a Venn in a nutshell in its most human application – but the approach can of course also be used in a multitude of other settings, from humour and ‘extreme Venns‘ all the way through to explaining something with an animated GIF ready for retweeting if you click on the image below.

I challenge you to take an intersect-first approach (whether you draw it in the air or on paper) next time you meet somebody – I reckon it’ll do you wonders.

Be sure to let me know how you get on.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of // Align Your Org – you can follow him @michaelambjorn

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