Templates and defaults are very useful when you are not a subject-matter expert. You don’t have to know much, but if you choose the wrong templates you are on the wrong track.

Cooking is a good example. I don’t know how to cook and, frankly, I don’t want to learn. But my wife is coming late from work, I’m tired of take-away food and we must feed the kids. So I guess I have to add cooking to my daily routine.

Here in Europe, Thermomix (also known as “Bimby”) is a very popular kitchen appliance (specially among men, so I’m told). You just add ingredients, press three buttons (temperature, speed and time) et voilà, diner is ready (sort of). Follow the recipe  and what you get what you expect. That’s good enough for me.

This is a gadget most people love or hate. A friend of mine hates it and tried to persuade me that I should learn how to cook using the traditional pots and pans. Only ill-informed people buys it, he says.

Yes, but he’s single. No kids, no blog, loves to cook. How can he possibly understand my motives? I just want to get this thing done with minimal fuss, no random results, small learning curve. Some good templates, that’s all I want.

I had to buy one. I just did.

OK, but what about making better charts?

Apparently, most people love making charts as much as I love cooking. Even if they need them on a daily basis, there are so many things fighting for their attention that the need for a better data visualization can easily be overlooked and pushed to the bottom of their list.

Junk food, junk charts. Some times it’s great fun to use them. And it’s very easy to take them for real food, real charts. But they are unhealthy, and if you use them often you and your business will pay a price, sooner or later.

It’s not about food or charts, it’s about business and personal health (or wellness). You don’t have to know the details, you don’t have to know how to use the tools. But you have to have some kind of framework to guide you. Fat is bad, sugar is bad, 3D effects are bad. Then you need to find some templates that implement that framework and tools that use them by default (if you make charts in Excel, using its defaults is not an option).

We played with the machine over the weekend and I’ve very pleased with the results. We eat better than we usually do and saved money and time. Not bad. Now, do yourself a favor and find your own charting machine. If you’ll excuse me, mine is calling me. Dinner is ready.