When I need to think about my business, I draw boxes. Sometimes, the boxes represent products that my company offers. Other times, the boxes represent my overarching business themes, with little boxes below them representing the kinds of offerings that might fit into those themes. Most recently, I've started drawing boxes with two compartments, for doing things like listing assets on one side and liabilities on another. Boxes (and drawing) help me think.
If I haven't lost you, then you're probably a little bit right-brained in your thinking like me. If I lost you, then you're not reading this (paradox at its best). Let's talk about boxes a bit more.
Boxes Help You Plan
Sometimes, I draw boxes to think about revenue. For instance, I drew a box the other day to think about an ebook I wanted to release. I'm thinking about price points, and my first inclination is to get 1,000 people to buy it at $9.97 (so, roughly a $10,000 payday). But then again, if I price it at $19.97, I only need 500 people to buy it. Carry this logic out further, and if I get it to $97, then I only need 100 people to buy it. (Quick side note: I'm not sure what in the ebook is worth $100, so that's probably not going to be the price.) Where do the boxes come in?
I put down each scenario into a little box, and then above all those boxes, I drew a few arrows to other boxes, showing how I thought I could feed the sales process. What I realized was that if I went for inexpensive, and got 1000 people to buy for $10, it would take me more time, and I'd have to touch a lot more of my potential buying network to be successful. If I put it for closer to $20, then I can do half as much heavy marketing, and maybe eliminate a few channels to generate those leads.
In this case, I used the boxes to try and visualize the impact of my marketing on my community.
Boxes Help You Weigh Things
I copied Robert Kiyosaki's boxes for explaining assets and liabilities, income and expenses to do some thinking the other day. He wrote RICH DAD, POOR DAD, a book that people have mixed feelings about, but that I can say really helped me think things through. When I got those boxes assembled appropriately, I came to the conclusion that I had to focus a bit more of my attention on developing assets than I did figuring out streams of income, as I have suddenly become pretty good at finding ways to earn income, provided that I'm standing around doing the work.
In business, the goal is to find new streams of income by developing assets that do something while you're not around. Real estate is Kiyosaki's big recommendation. I tend to develop more intellectual property-based assets like books and ebooks and online courses. My media property (also known as my blog) is an asset that earns some income, too. But my point (stick to the boxes, friends) is that I wouldn't have seen this clearly without drawing those boxes and paying attention to what I got from my analysis.
Boxes Let You Check
Are you a list maker? How about this? What if you filled in your list inside a four-quadrant box? Fans of Dr. Stephen R. Covey's 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE know where I'm going. Make box 1 "important and urgent." Make box 2 "important, but not urgent." Make box 3 "not important, but urgent." Box 4 is "not important and not urgent." Now, put your to-do items in the right part of the box.
Boxes are a way to see where we're focusing our time. If you do the above-mentioned exercise and find a lot of your stuff in Box 1, then you're not doing as much preparatory work as you can, or you have a staffing/resource issue. If you're spending too much time in box 3 or 4, you're not considering your priorities. When it's visual, it's much easier to perceive.
Drawing Does Something Different To Us
Our hand on a pen or pencil, our eyes tracking that effort, our writing implement gliding over paper - it's a whole different experience than tapping into your laptop. Don't miss the opportunity to experience that. It opens your mind in different ways.
Have you had experiences like this? What do you do with boxes? How else can we open our business minds up to right-brained but useful visual thinking? Your ideas are welcome here.
Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.