Before I start, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Now draw instructions for an alien for how to make toast with no words.

Done? This is an exercise in systems thinking. The average illustration has between four and eight steps, but Tom Wujec said the “sweet spot” is between five and thirteen.

The concept is not how well you draw, but how one breaks down a situation and explains it. While making toast doesn’t sound all that complicated, you’d be surprised what happens when you start illustrating simple instructions. This simple test will help you and your staff solve future complex problems as it reveals unexpected truths behind how your staff work. For example; giving a staff member a task with no further information might be okay for a one to three step toast person, but difficult for a five and up step toast person.

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Two factory workers are talking. The woman says, “I can make the boss give me the day off.” The man replies, “And how would you do that?” The woman jumps up and hangs upside down from the ceiling. Their boss immediately came in and said “What are you doing?!” The woman replied, “I’m a light bulb.” The boss then says, “You’ve been working so much that you’ve gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off.” The man starts to follow her and the boss says, “Hey, where are you going?” The man replied, “I’m going home too. I can’t work in the dark.”