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The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures Hardcover – March 13, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1591841999 ISBN-10: 1591841992 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; 1 edition (March 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841992
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841999
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The premise behind Roam's book is simple: anybody with a pen and a scrap of paper can use visual thinking to work through complex business ideas. Management consultant and lecturer Roam begins with a watershed moment: asked, at the last minute, to give a talk to top government officials, he sketched a diagram on a napkin. The clarity and power of that image allowed him to communicate directly with his audience. From this starting point, Roam has developed a remarkably comprehensive system of ideas. Everything in the book is broken down into steps, providing the reader with tools and rules to facilitate picture making. There are the four steps of visual thinking, the six ways of seeing and the SQVID– a clumsy acronym for a full brain visual work out designed to focus ideas. Roam occasionally overcomplicates; an extended case study takes up a full third of the book and contains an overload of images that belie the book's central message of simplicity. Nonetheless, for forward-thinking management types, there is enough content in these pages to drive many a brainstorming session. Illus. (Mar 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“As painful as it is for any writer to admit, a picture *is* sometimes worth a thousand words. That's why I learned so much from this book. With style and wit, Dan Roam has provided a smart, practical primer on the power of visual thinking.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

“Inspiring! It teaches you a new way of thinking in a few hours -- what more could you ask from a book?”
—Dan Heath, author of Made to Stick

“This book is a must read for managers and business leaders. Visual thinking frees your mind to solve problems in unique and effective ways.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

“If you observe the way people read or listen to things in the early 21st century, you realize that there aren't many of us left with a linear attention span. Visual information is much more interesting than verbal information. So if you want to make a point, do it with images, pictures or graphics. . . . Dan Roam is the first visual consultant for businesses that I've worked with. His approach is faster for the customer. And the message sticks.”
—Roger Black, Media design leader, Author of Websites That Work

“Simplicity. This is Dan Roam's message in The Back Of The Napkin. We all dread business meetings with their mountains of documents and the endless bulleted power points. Roam cuts through all that to demonstrate how the use of simple drawings -- executed while the audience watches -- communicate infinitely better than those complex presentations. Is a picture truly worth a thousand words? Having told us how to communicate with pictures, Roam rounds out his message by explaining that “We don't show an insight-inspiring picture because it saves a thousand words; we show it because it elicits the thousand words that make the greatest difference.” And that is communication that works.”
—Bill Yenne, author of Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint

More About the Author

Dan Roam is the author of the international bestsellers "The Back of the Napkin" (Fast Company's Innovation Book of the Year, The London Time's Creativity Book of the Year, and Amazon's Top 5 business book of 2008) and "Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work."

Dan is the founder of The Napkin Academy, the world's first online visual-thinking training program. www.napkinacademy.com

Dan has helped leaders at Microsoft, Boeing, eBay, Kraft, Gap, IBM, the US Navy, the United States Senate, and the White House solve complex problems with simple pictures.

Dan and his whiteboard have appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NPR.

Dan's "American Health Care on the Back of a Napkin" was voted by Business Week as the world's best presentation of 2009.

Customer Reviews

The book has too much unnecessary details.
Elar Alexander
I really liked this book I also purchased Blah Blah Blah I jumped unfolding the napkin but think I better go back or maybe sign up for the academy classes.
Richard Smith
Dan Roam covers that subject in the book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.
Thomas Duff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 143 people found the following review helpful By John Bartelt on April 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like many books, "Back of the Napkin" seems to have begun with a brilliant very short concept that someone (correctly) thought would sell like hotcakes if padded out into a full-length book. The author really does present significant insights, but the irony is that they would have been best summarized literally on the back of a napkin, rather than dragging them out into full book form. So it reads like a 300-slide PowerPoint presentation advocating brevity.

The sequel, "Unfolding the Napkin" (which I also read) is better thought out, serves more as a method, and contains more visual examples - but it still rehashes pretty much the same material as the first book in order to make its point, so reading both books was redundant in my opinion.
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130 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Tom Carpenter VINE VOICE on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I saw the book on the shelf at Borders and the cover caught my attention. I read the first few pages and knew I had to read the rest.

I am a technical trainer and writer and have been teaching classes for more than 10 years now. For the last 7 years I've been using a pen tablet in my classes to draw diagrams on-the-fly while lecturing about different technology concepts. The attendees have given phenomenally positive feedback about this learning method.

Now, I find this book that not only validates the process I've been using but helps me take it to the next level. The author reveals the four steps to visual thinking and the six problem categories that we all face. He shows you how to do it with case studies and examples that are practical.

One thing that I think many will find helpful is the way the author quickly removes any fear of drawing you may have. He gives the testimony of many attendees that he has helped overcome this fear of drawing in front of others. Personally, my family plays Pictionary very regularly because I want my children to be comfortable with this process.

My favorite part was the Appendix: The Science of Visual Thinking. I found it very interesting as it presents scientific research as it relates to this simple process.

If you want a great new way to solve problems and a great way to communicate ideas, I think you'll find this book very useful.

Excellent!
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79 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Adelle Frank on January 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If money or portability are your primary considerations, then get a used copy of the first edition, as it communicates the central ideas in an almost identical fashion and is easier to carry around. However, if a few more dollars and a slightly-bigger book don't bother you, consider buying this new edition, as it's subtly-revised diagrams and improved explanation of key brain science concepts make it easier to understand on the first read. For more detail on the differences between this and the previous edition, read on...

Both books are hardcovers and much of the content (including, sadly, the Resources listed in the Appendix) is the same. However, there are a number of important differences between these editions:

SIZE

At 8.2 x 8 x 1.3 inches, it is bigger than the first edition, which clocked in at 7.1 x 7.1 x 1 inches. While this does allow for the pictures to be bigger and slightly easier to see, it also means a larger, oddly-shaped book to carry around. This only matters if, like me, you like to schlepp your favorite books around and carry them on the bus.

PAGES & TEXT

Includes more pages at 304 pages, rather than the previous edition's 278, making it a mere 0.2 pounds heavier. 10 of those additional 26 pages are the new "Appendix A: The Ten (and a Half) Commandments of Visual Thinking." This is a very useful set of 11 rules of thumb to keep in mind when applying Roam's visual thinking technique. Most, if not all, of these rules are mentioned elsewhere in the book, so don't let this appendix be your only reason for purchasing the newest edition.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Innes on April 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It must be great to be in the audience when Dan Roam gives a presentation and when you in the audience share the same kind of visual sense. On the other hand, if you do not share that sense, that way of structuring the topic under consideration, then you might well want to be beamed somewhere else.

This is a great book, extremely useful and thought provoking. The structuring of problem-solving into a six by five visual codex makes enormous sense; you can literally see the evolution of the thought processes and the development of the insights take shape through the pages. It is not the kind of book that you can dip into. There is a structure and that structure has to unfold and be assimilated by the reader before there can be any translation into action and effect. I think that there is no "quick fix" for someone who wants to animate or rejuvenate their presentations with a rapid read. The art of solving problems has to be developed through the acquisition of the skills protrayed in these pages. And that takes time and effort. And it also needs a sense of congruity between the visual sense of the author and that of the reader. Pictures can convey so much that words cannot evoke. But some pictures and representations succeed and others fail, otherwise there would be no evolution of art and expression.

Be wary of this book on face value. The editorial recommendations of the book do not necessarily reflect the content. Simply to say, as does one commentator, "So if you want to make a point, do it with images, pictures or graphics.", is true only to a point. It is not necessarily the case for all readers, all viewers and certainly not for all people who need to make a presentation.
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