Explaining the world one sketch at a time

Word spectrum examples and explanation showing what is a word spectrum as gradations of description and examples of different word spectrums for size, frequency, talk volume, intelligence and taste

Word spectrum

A word spectrum highlights different aspects of a concept from one extreme to another. By arranging words on a spectrum, we can see their subtle differences and nuances. For example, a word spectrum of happiness might range from "Miserable" on one side to "Ecstatic" on the other, passing through "Gloomy", "Content", and "Happy" along the way. Or a word spectrum of tiredness might be: Asleep - Drowsy - Groggy - Awake - Alert - Energised It's not a science, and there's a fair amount of latitude for people to place different words in different positions. Looking at many spectrums, it strikes me that some writers excel at selecting specific and perhaps more intriguing words such as "scrumptious" or "mouth-watering" over the more common "delicious." Roald Dahl often had his characters "guzzle" instead of "eat hungrily," for example. I became curious about word spectrums when I realised that my understanding of the spectrum of approval was different from that of many of my American friends. In British English, "quite" is often used to mean "a bit less than," but in the U.S., I found it was more commonly used to mean "a lot" or "very." So, my British English word spectrum of approval would be: OK - Quite good - Good - Excellent While the word spectrum of approval for many of my U.S. friends might be: OK - Good - Quite good - Excellent It left me confused several times before I figured it out. For other variations in interpretation, such as where you might put "awesome", there's an excellent table as a Guide for U.S. students interpreting feedback from faculty trained in the U.K. (and vice versa). More word spectrums including those illustrated here: Size: tiny - small - medium - large - huge - gigantic Frequency: never - rarely - occasionally - sometimes - often - always Talk volume: whisper - murmur - talk - shout - yell - scream Intelligence: stupid - dim - average - bright - brilliant - genius Tastiness: disgusting - bland - tasty - delicious Smell: foul - stinky - scented - sweet More fun scales and spectrums: Fahrenheit and Celsius The Bortle scale The fun scale Solar system scale The Scoville scale The square-cube law Do a 2x2
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Detecting prostate cancer summary - how screening for prostate cancer has changed DRA, PSA blood test and MRI screening compared in the old way and new way

Detecting prostate cancer: old way, new way

1 in 8 men in the UK get prostate cancer, according to the charity Prostate Cancer UK, and the risk of prostate cancer doubles if you're black. It's also the second most common cause of death from cancer for men in the UK, after lung cancer. Prostate cancer is not always life-threatening, but an early diagnosis can be life-saving. So, for Men's Health Week 2024, I worked with experts at Prostate Cancer UK to visualise how screening for and diagnosing prostate cancer has changed. In short, it's more accurate and safer than before and needn't rely on a chance conversation to trigger a discussion—you can do a 30s online check for your prostate cancer risk on the Prostate Cancer UK website right now. The new way has reduced reliance on the imperfect DRE (digital rectal examination—the test that might come to mind for many). After a suspicious PSA blood test result, you can be referred for a pre-biopsy MRI scan. Clinical trials show that pre-biopsy MRI triage can rule out 27% of men from having an unnecessary biopsy (a biopsy is when a doctor removes some cells for analysis). Biopsies have also improved and can now be guided by imaging, allowing doctors to identify the areas of the prostate they need to biopsy. It makes it safer and has fewer side effects. These changes, together, mean fewer unnecessary biopsies and diagnoses that find a higher proportion of clinically significant cancers over clinically insignificant cancers (which may not require treatment), meaning fewer men are at risk of harm from the screening. Rob Bell, host of the Sketchplanations podcast among many other talents, is an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK, which supports our "dads, brothers, partners and friends by raising awareness, funding life-changing research, campaigning for change and providing much-needed support." Rob made the connection (this isn't a paid promotion), and you'll hear our discussion with Amy Rylance, Assistant Director of Health Improvement, on how screening has changed in this week's podcast. Medical research and knowledge is always changing. This sketch has been checked by the team at Prostate Cancer UK based on research. See, for example, the article Fewer Men Face Harm in Prostate Cancer Diagnosis. It's intended to raise awareness, help early diagnosis now or in the future for men reading this, and maybe even save a life. If you have feedback or comments on it, please do write to me: Didn't know when Men's Health Week was? I learned that International Men's Health Week is the week preceding and including Father's Day. Don't forget, you (or someone you know or love) can do a 30s online prostate cancer risk check online now. Aside from helping your father avoid prostate cancer, he might like a copy of Big Ideas Little Pictures.   Also see: The Swiss Cheese model Dracula sneeze Reference: Most common causes of cancer death
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The Village Venus effect example, a term from Edward De Bono, with a fish declaring that another fish in the fish bowl is the most beautiful fish in the whole world

The Village Venus Effect

The Village Venus effect describes the experience of someone living in an isolated village and knowing the most beautiful person there. Because the person is the most attractive person they've ever seen, it's easy to think that no one could be more so. Yet, beyond the village is a whole world of people, many of whom could be more beautiful. The Village Venus effect can remind us that we often think within context and constraints without realising or considering what may be outside them. In that way, it can nudge us to think bigger or look outside our sphere of familiarity. Travel is always an eye-opener for me. I'm consistently surprised (I should probably get used to it now and stop being surprised) at how ideas or delicious foods from one country or region don't reach others. Sometimes, the simplest way to innovate is to learn what people already do elsewhere. In design research projects, we deliberately went on inspiration trips to broaden our thinking and escape the Village Venus Effect, often looking at adjacent industries. For example, when working on a premium sports equipment project, you could visit premium food stores to see what makes a food premium. Working in the US, I consistently found Asian stores a great source of inspiration for thinking wider. I remember each time I went to the next level of my education (primary, secondary, college, Masters, PhD) whether, even though I had achieved well at my current level, I would fit in with the next calibre of students. The Village Venus effect is related to the challenge of local optimisation—not realising there may be a higher level elsewhere—and the Dunning-Kruger effect, where it's hard to evaluate your level before you know how good "the best" can be. It's also an example of something Daniel Kahneman called What You See Is All There Is—WYSIATI. If you're hiring and you interview five candidates, should you hire the best of those you've seen, or could there be a set of candidates in a different pool who would all be a better fit than those you've spoken with? How many builders should you meet with before you're confident you have one who'll do an excellent job for your project? How often do we unintentionally limit our choices by only looking at the immediate options presented to us? The Village Venus is a term from lateral thinking originator Edward De Bono. For a funnier take on the Village Venus watch Flight of the Conchords, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room. More ideas from Edward De Bono: Six thinking hats Things get more complex before they get simple Lateral thinking sketches: Lateral thinking: increasing the breadth of options Lateral thinking: labels are not fixed Lateral thinking: you don't have to be right at every step Lateral thinking: changes perspective
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Hara Hachi Bu meaning summary showing a person, perhaps in Okinawa Japan, declining food at 80% full

Hara Hachi Bu

Hara Hachi Bu is a saying from Okinawa in Southern Japan that advises people to stop eating when they're 80% full. Okinawa is famous for the longevity of the people who live there. I learned it from Michael Pollan's excellent book Food Rules many years ago. He shares traditions, including the Ayurvedic in India, the Chinese, and the prophet Muhammad, that all counsel stopping eating earlier than your stomach might be telling you. That, and the German expression, "You need to tie off the sack before it gets completely full." Hara hachi bu also appears in Dan Buettner's Netflix documentary Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones. Blue Zones are areas in the world with the longest lifespans. Dan Buettner identifies eating to no more than 80% full as one potential factor in Okinawans' long lives. The more literal translation of hara hachi bu is stomach eight parts (out of ten). Some other methods to eat less without sacrificing enjoyment include: Eat slowly so that changes in hunger signals from your stomach have a chance to reach your brain Avoid distractions such as the TV while eating (when eating dinner, just eat dinner?) Use smaller plates Have a good selection of convenient (stacking) Tupperware for storing leftovers Also see: When drinking tea, just drink tea (I like this sketch—I have it on my wall—so I drew hara hachi bu in the same Ligne Claire style) Smaller plates Non-stacking Tupperware should be destroyed Advice to eat well from Michael Pollan 1.5 billion heartbeats It's sometimes misspelled hari hachi bu or said as hara hachi bun me.
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Equality equity difference illustration: showing 3 of the same bikes that fit just one adult as equality vs 3 differently-sized and equipped bikes to fit an adult, a child, and an adult with a baby

Equality and equity

Equality and equity are two important ideas that help us understand how to make things fair for everyone. Here's one way that helps me think about the difference between equity and equality: Equality is fairness through uniformity, and equity is fairness through a recognition of individual needs. If everyone gets the same—equality—this is fairer than some people getting something and others nothing. However, if a group were to go bike riding, as in the sketch, if everyone had the same bike, then it might work well for one person but not fit at all for a child or a shorter person. And if you had extra gear, young children to handle, or a disability, getting the same bike might not work at all. In contrast, equity considers each person's individual needs to give everyone the same opportunity. Since getting the same bike doesn't meet everyone's needs, this might involve getting a bike that is the right height, or has a child seat to allow a parent and child to ride together, or other adaptations to accommodate someone with a disability. This way, everyone can ride comfortably and safely. Equity is about understanding that everyone has different needs and making sure those needs are met so that everyone has a fair chance to succeed. Thinking about it this way helped me understand the difference between equality and equity, two concepts I had never clearly distinguished. By focusing on equity, we can ensure that everyone has the support they need to do their best, even if it means giving different kinds of help to different people. I am self-educated in this and don't consider myself an expert, so I'd be happy to receive guidance or links to articles for further education if you have them. Also see: the curb-cut effect, one-size-fits-men, how to draw a bike
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Public commitment pledge explanation - a soft commitment device shown by someone battling a desire to eat cookies with a public commitment

Public commitment pledge

Public commitment pledges are a surprisingly effective and free way to help you reach your goals. A public commitment pledge is simply writing what you will or won't do, perhaps something you know you find hard, signing it and displaying it publicly. In her excellent book, How to Change, Katy Milkman describes how the simple intervention of a public commitment pledge in doctors' offices significantly reduced prescriptions of unnecessary antibiotics—just through a poster on the wall. Commitment pledges are a form of what Katy calls a soft commitment device (of Odysseus fame). This strategy helps us stick to our commitments even when tempted to go astray. Pledges may work through our desire for consistency and create cognitive dissonance when considering going against the pledge. The benefits of what we desire to do, say "eat cookies," are pitted against the potential guilt or discomfort we'd feel by going against what we said we'd do, not "eat cookies." You don't want to let yourself down. The pledge gives us a greater chance of sticking to our actions and a defence against our present bias. Is there something you wish you'd do more of or less of? A simple public commitment pledge could help you on your way. Other free ways to help you achieve your goals: Temptation bundling, The Fresh Start Effect, commitment device, Nine-enders, Implementation intentions
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Muddy puddle leaky ceilings - James Clear's model of two types of problems

Muddy puddles, leaky ceilings

What type of problem are you dealing with? James Clear shared a technique of splitting problems into two types: muddy puddles or leaky ceilings. A muddy puddle problem is one where leaving it alone can help to make it clearer. A leaky ceiling problem is one where leaving it alone causes more problems. Leaky ceilings need resolving soon. Muddy puddles can be left until they are clearer. Here's James Clear explaining it in his own words: "I split problems into two groups: muddy puddles and leaky ceilings. Some problems are like muddy puddles. The way to clear a muddy puddle is to leave it alone. The more you mess with it, the muddier it becomes. Many of the problems I dream up when I'm overthinking or worrying or ruminating fall into this category. Is life really falling apart or am I just in a sour mood? Is this as hard as I'm making it or do I just need to go workout? Drink some water. Go for a walk. Get some sleep. Go do something else and give the puddle time to turn clear. Other problems are like a leaky ceiling. Ignore a small leak and it will always widen. Relationship tension that goes unaddressed. Overspending that becomes a habit. One missed workout drifting into months of inactivity. Some problems multiply when left unattended. You need to intervene now. Are you dealing with a leak or a puddle?" Also see: lateral thinking sketches, The XY Problem, Point Positive, Solvitur Ambulando
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Rose Thorn Bud reflection technique summary showing a rose with thorn and bud highlighting successes, challenges and potential

Rose, Thorn, Bud

Rose, thorn, bud is a simple tool for reflection for yourself or your team. The basic idea is to look back at a recent project or how things are going and consider each aspect of a rose: Rose: what are the successes? What's gone well? Thorn: what are the challenges? What could we do better? Bud: what are opportunities with potential? What could we explore or try? If running as a team retro activity or retrospective, you might spend a few minutes individually adding thoughts for each prompt, then talk through each of the thoughts in Rose, Thorn and Bud. A separate but no less important step is often to capture actions from the reflection—what you'll do as a result. If you're conducting retros regularly, consider revisiting actions from previous sessions. I like "rose, thorn, bud" as it's beautiful to consider that a rose contains such different facets, like so many things. I've come across many retro and reflection activities that are variations of these three prompts: "What went well?", "What didn't go well?" and "What else?" A few to mention: The sailboat retro: Goal/vision, Rocks, Wind, Anchor — a nice feature for a team is that this activity places you all in the same boat Glad, Mad, Sad Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed for Wishes, Risks, Appreciations, Puzzles I liked, I wish, What if Start, stop, continue Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) A reader suggested a fourth aspect of the rose analogy to reflect on as its leaves or roots: what are the unnoticed or behind-the-scenes things that contribute to the rose's success? I've come to consider that it doesn't matter too much what activity you choose to get a discussion going. What matters most is regular reflection, hearing all the voices in a team, and making progress together. One teammate ran an excellent retro by us all finishing early and heading to the pub. I didn't intend it, but some of the products and prints for rose, thorn, bud out to be some of the nicest I have. Also see: Information radiator, MoSCoW prioritisation, RACI, How to peel a Post-it so it doesn't fall down, the upward spiral
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