- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures 1st Edition
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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.
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Back of the Napkin is the "how" and "why" of communicating with your customer, team or prospect. As the title suggests it is a very visual book with many images, acronyms and approaches on how to draw and have a conversation versus death by powerpoint. By traversing through the 6 "W" questions (i.e. What, Who, When, Why, Where and How), Dan Roam provides a stock set of templates on how to visualise this to provide impact in your conversation. Very well worth a read!
Three key takeaways from the book:
1. People like seeing other people’s pictures. In most presentation situations, audiences respond better to hand-drawn images (however crudely drawn) than to polished graphics; as long as you're credible that is
2. Look, see, imagine and show is the four step process to getting visual. You don't need to be a phenomenal drawer because there are templated approaches for any situation
3. Visual thinking is where it is at. We need to take advantage of our innate ability to see both with our eyes and our mind's eyes.
Longer, more traditional review.
Based perhaps on the simplicity of the title, some reviewers have expressed disappointment that this book does not provide a simple silver bullet than can turn chaos into strategic plans and market dominance, all in the space of a paper napkin. True, it does not do that. What it does provide is a bundle of silver bullets that attack specific problem types -- and then a whole bundle of "user's manuals", one for each type of bullet and each way you could use it, and that does create levels of complexity that defy the original premise.
The book sets up the basic frameworks (the types of story that need to be told and the ways in which those can be depicted). The author then creates a matrix (codex) of those combinations - well, OK, we can live with that ... But then we add another level of elaboration for each of the axes of the matrix. That is where it gets pretty complicated in there. To some extent one wonders whether this extra throw-weight comes from an effort to create a "serious" book rather than "powerful business presentations for dummies". The parcel of extra pages actually are useful once you get past the point of saying "well, yeah" to the basic premises, and once you wade through them carefully and long enough. Of course that is the anti-thesis of the original idea! That could put you off the whole project, but it would also be a mistake.
The book's themes and illustrations will definitely help you think about what message you are trying to sell to whom. In narrowing down your presentation to a few proven themes you will definitely force yourself to separate the essence from the "cool graphics" or the "tons to words to convince you that I really have spent a lot of time thinking about this". The truth is that if you have not convinced someone of your position, saying more of the same thing isn't going to convince them either; you need to say something that appeals to their understanding of the world. For the most part, a briefing is supposed to be short (hence "brief"), not a battle of attrition. You want a head-nod because people agree with you, not because they are going to sleep. The approaches laid out in this book will help you get positive buy-in rather than sleepy acquiescence, and in the end that will have lasting impacts.
Buy it, use it. Use the principles and frameworks. As you get familiar with them, the additional drill-downs will become clearer.
Fair amount of work, but wonderful, wonderful insights into how to "say" what I was trying to "say" in my slick PowerPoint slides. The book and tools hold your hand into much greater understanding and appreciation of how people think and receive information - and how thinking through the situation/opportunity/challenge using the BOTN methodology makes things clearer to both presenter and presentee.