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Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures Paperback


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Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures + Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work + The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Trade; 1 edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843191
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"In 2008, Roam's The Back of the Napkin soaked up some book-of-the-year love from The Financial Times, Businessweek and Amazon.com. Roam's point was that problems can be better solved by drawing simple pictures, regardless of artistic ability. It's easier to see solutions visually, and it's also the revealing process of physically diagramming a problem, the argument goes.

To discover truly breakthrough ideas, intuitively develop those ideas and share those ideas effectively with others, we need pictures," Roam writes.

Since then, the management consultant and his Sharpies have conducted workshops at an impressive list of organizations, including Boeing, Pfizer, Google, Microsoft, Wal-mart and the U.S. Senate. Now, with Unfolding the Napkin, Roam squeezed his four-day workshop into a workbook so everyone can follow along.

It's a simple concept, but when Roam arrives at a solution for last year's economic crisis by drawing intersecting circles representing financial services, the auto industry and declining energy supplies, it's clear that Napkin is nothing to sneeze on.
-USA Today, Jan. 4, 2010

Whoever draws the best picture of a problem is the most likely to solve it.

Dan Roam offers a simple explanation about how to draw a problem/solution picture.

Draw a circle in the upper left corner of a sheet of paper and label it me. Draw a cloud-shaped circle in the lower left; label it my problem. Draw the shape of a closed Swiss army knife on the center of the page. Add and label "blades" (what you see, what to look for, what if..., how, when, where, why, how much, etc.) that deal with me and my problem. Those blades help you think of others that will help identify the problem, alternatives and solution.

What Roam drew on one page took me 90 words to describe, by the way.
-The Dallas Morning News, Dec. 26, 2009

About the Author

Dan Roam is founder and president of Digital Roam Inc., a management consulting firm that helps businesses solve problems through visual thinking. He has brought his unique approach to clients such as Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, the U.S. Navy, HBO, NewsCorp., and the U.S. Senate. He lectures around the world for clients and at business conferences. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

It is something you really need to do as well as read about.
D. Philips
Dan Roam extends and amplifies the ideas from his groundbreaking book on visual thinking "The Back of the Napkin."
David W. Gray
I found that the book provides great ways to apply his great ideas by using hands-on exercises.
Daniel Kowalski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 68 people found the following review helpful By D. Philips on January 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very glad to have been able to get this in time for the 2010 New Year holiday.
It took me about 7 hours to work through the book, split over two days.
I found the workshop-in-a-book format very appropriate to the material.
Each "day" of the workshop is split into a morning and afternoon sections and that makes for nice-sized learning chunks.

Although The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures was published first, and I read it first, I would recommend starting with this book. The Back of the Napkin goes into more depth about why the techniques work. This book's "hands on" workshop format gets you involved -doing- by having you practice the techniques. It is something you really need to do as well as read about.

If you aren't sure that simple pictures, as advocated in both of Dan's books, can be effective, take a look at his drawings explaining the current US health-care situation, linked from: [...]

While the level of drawing skill needed is very low, what you'll probably find is that you need to work through drawings as you are working through your understanding of your problems. Simple doesn't mean Easy, but the difficulty here is not the drawing, it is working through whatever your problem is.

My only complaint about the book is that it could use a few more blank pages.
I did the exercises in a separate notebook; I had a number of "do overs" and there just weren't going to be enough blank pages for that.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jordan Schaffel on January 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Being that I'm in the 'Explaining' business, I have not only come to rely on the info in both books, but have recommended the books to hundreds of prospects that couldn't afford a video explanation. Yes, it requires you take time to read and practice, but the real results will start as you do the exercises on your own business problems. If you don't have a whiteboard, grab a large blank page notebook and get your pen moving. If you don't like what you see, rip up the page and start over. Unless you want to pay others to create your vision, this is as detailed as you can get with a self-help book so to speak. Take a few hours each week and study Dan's materials. Then go to a coffee shop and see if you can tell your story to someone in under 3 minutes using the visual(s). You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Schaffel
Co-founder
Say It Visually!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Scott on March 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Dan wrote a really great first book. I saw him present at Mix09 in Las Vegas and he was transcendantly good. But this second book is really just the first one again.

It's like back in the 70s when musical artists had their one hit and for the B side of the single they put out a track named "Part Two" which was really just "Part One" without the vocal track. (c.f., Bertha Butt Boogie).

I can tell from reading this that Dan was sensitive about this happening, and I think he tried to avoid it, but it didn't work. Same book. I guess when you have a hit you just ratchet up into another level of expense and expectation and Seth Godin-esque pressure to keep churning stuff out. Perhaps it is simply too hard to say, "Nope, that one book is all I got."
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read the first book, and liked both, but have to say I wish this had fully been a workbook first and foremost. It seemed to try to assume you did not see the first book and repeated a lot-- which is fine BUT... I think there was either too much overlap or it should have used more appendices for that material. The case studies were great (why not have all cases with all the associated drawings?). The idea of having a small, medium and large problem was great, but never really used again. At least leave in template pages for them! The margins being large was great, but there should have been more blank or template pages throughout. There should also have been more of Dan's answers to exercises in the appendices. (and a site where readers could post their answers!) I would be curious to see framework comparisons to UML or Dave Sibbett et al... Dan Roam really added to his credibility with his stories and his whole approach. The multi-variable plot is alone worth reading his approach (though a real color plate would have been greatly appreciated for the Thompsons case study). I also liked the detail in this book addressing naysayers with neuro science, the value of fuzy and incomplete drawings to the brain. This could easily tie in to a DVD or online exercises. I would also have liked to see everything summarized in one final reference (I flipped back and forth a lot). Oh, and how about addressing which and whither and decision making?? Well done!
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Format: Paperback
In this sequel to his previous Napkin book, Dan Roam reaffirms many of the same core values and principles while developing them in greater depth with wider and deeper applications. They are:

1. There is no more powerful way to discover a new idea than to draw a simple picture.

2. There is no faster way to develop and test an idea than to draw a simple picture.

3. There is no more effective way to share an idea with other people than to draw a simple picture.

In this book and in its predecessor, On the Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam explains how to achieve these objectives by (you guessed it) drawing a series of simple pictures. "To complete the workshop, you'll need three things...This book is your primary tool; please expect to draw in it and generally muck it up - that's what it's for. [Also,] please bring your own magic wand with you to class. My own favorites are a plain no. 2 pencil, a Sharpie, or a Pilot pen." Although Roam encourages his reader to use the book as a workbook and add annotations throughout, he also suggests using something to draw on, everything from several pages of blank scratch paper provided at the back of the book to a small personal whiteboard (i.e. small "lap board"). My own preference is the "Original Marble Cover 50-Sheets" composition book that costs less than $2 each.

Roam provides various "tools" that are essential to the visual problem-solving process and explains how and when to use them. For example, he unfolds the material for Day #1 of what he suggests be a self-contained four-day course to master that process, with one day devoted to each of four components: Looking, Seeing, Imagining, and Showing.
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