Because they are cute, funny and memorable. The memorable part is valuable for exam preparation.
Images that are surprising for the context, such as using animals to show project management topics, are “stickier” in our brains. In the book “Made to Stick”, authors Chip and Dan Heath explain we remember things that are simple, unexpected and emotional.
Animal cartoons about project management do all three.
Our brains are quite lazy and filter out the ordinary or familiar. Recall vacations, often the first few days are memorable because everything is new and different. Then the last few days seem to pass quickly in a blur. Our brain skips the usual stuff, presumably saving space for valuable fresh information.
To help us study for exams more effectively, we can trick our brains into marking everything as new, unusual and needing to be stored away by associating it with the unfamiliar.
The good news is you will find recall much easier. The bad news is you might try and thank a snake instead of avoiding it.
Animals can convey emotions and concepts. When we see a carthorse, we think of strength. Gazelles are fast and agile.
Throughout the website and book, we use the following animal icons to represent essential topics.
Traditional. Mr Carthorse is large and strong and tells us about traditional, plan-driven life cycle concepts.
Hybrid. Mx Zebra is somewhere between Mr Carthorse and Ms Gazelle in terms of strength and speed. Mx Zebra explains hybrid approaches.
Smart Fox. Mrs Fox is smart and explains great ideas learned from life experience. Not always topics on the exam, but valuable advice for putting these skills to use in the real world.
Remote Teams. These distant-cousin bears explain virtual and remote team concepts to us.
Most of the other animals are just random to keep our minds and memories stimulated. Some animals, such as cats and dogs can be fickle and troublesome, like team members and stakeholders. They can be a pain, but we love them, or have to get along with them at least.
Others like crocodiles and dung beetles represent risk and unpleasant work. Emotion is a strong memory aid. If we can attach emotions to ideas, they are much easier to remember.
Humor is the final memory-booster. To help protect us from replaying unpleasant memories too often, our brain tags them as unfavorable to suppress them. If you do not enjoy your study and revision time, you will have a more challenging job recalling the concepts you learned.
The converse is also true. Things we enjoy we find easier to remember. This is why we can recall all kinds of information about our favorite hobbies or sports teams. It is because we love the topic, and those memories get an upvote in our mind’s ranking system.
It is challenging to make project management fun. Sometimes the best we can do is make it suck less than it needs to. Animal cartoons can help, and if they do, even a little, it is going to improve retention and recall.
Animals Are Awesome!
Last but not least, animals are amazing. They share the planet with us and enrich our lives. Sadly we have not been too good at sharing, and many need our help just to survive.