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Showing 1-10 of 141 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 246 reviews
on June 18, 2017
I took about a month and a half to convert a PowerPoint presentation into hand-drawn, anthropomorphized illustrations using "Back of the Napkin" (BOTN) tools.

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.
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on August 14, 2012
I was looking all over for a book on how to use a whiteboard more effectively.
I've found that in my workplace in silicon valley, everyone appreciates people who can use the whiteboard effectively to demonstrate ideas, track status or discuss problems. Interviews, meetings, trainings, demonstrations - you can express yourself so much better if you use a whiteboard. But information with some basic guidelines and a framework on how to draw was hard to come by - and almost all the folks I've worked with are no better at drawing or explaining themselves visually than I am.

Then coincidently around the same, Dan Roam was invited in to give an hour long lecture at my company. I was quite fascinated when I watched the lecture- this guy really knew how to do it! As soon as I learned that he had books out there, i bought em all and I'm now half way through the first one.

I really really like the way the book is structured and the examples he's used. Like any new skill one learns, you have to make it a point to practice - even copy the diagrams in the first few chapters that he uses to get you used to drawing.

The layout and design of this book is very well done. You do feel like you're reading a book written by someone with a design background. The material is very lucid, non-academic and the examples are compelling.

Will add more to the review once I've completed the book.
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on November 11, 2013
This is a book about using graphic illustrations to communicate. It has scores of illustrations, most of them simple, many of them cute, all of them hand-drawn. The author wants to teach us how to use graphics and his copious use of graphics helps make the point. Unfortunately, however, the illustrations are printed in a book format that is too small. The physical size of the printed pages is 6 1/2 x 7 with wide margins whereas a more typical page size (a book grabbed at random from a stack on my desk) is 6 x 9. Everything about this book is too small, including the type font. The difficulty in reading the illustrations, many of which have short words and/or numbers packed into a small area around the graphic elements, distracts greatly from the flow of information. It actually had the effect on me of undermining the core idea of the book, that I should be communicating more through graphics. I propose rule #1 for graphic communications; graphics have to be easy to see and read if they are to have impact. The publisher (Penguin Group) and the author should be ashamed of themselves. The physical format they chose is oxymoronic relative to the subject matter and greatly diminishes the value of this book as a learning tool.
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on July 2, 2017
I found this book as a result of research into sketch noting. Dan Roam's stories and examples elevate visual note taking into a tool kit that I was able to put to use the day I got the book. YMMV
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on February 6, 2013
One of the reasons this book appealed to me (before I read it) was that it seemed to be promoting simplicity.

How to simplify things using pictures.

Because of this I had expected a very simple book. I figured each chapter would be 1, 2, 3 -DONE.

Not quite...

I was reminded that many times authors are pushed to "fluff" a book up as much as possible before a big publishing house will except it. These things never bothered me until I started reading books that were written for kindle-- where no fluff was added.

That being said, I never finished the book-- stopped about halfway through.

Quite honestly I became bored.

What I did read was well written and very thorough. If this is a topic that interests you, you'll probably enjoy your time with this book.
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on March 31, 2009
The Back of the Napkin had a great impact on the way I think and solve problems. In fact the only two business books I can say had more of an impact on my thoughts and actions are "How to Make Friends and Influence People" and "Made to Stick". So why only three stars?

The execution of the book leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the influence this book had on me wasn't actually reading it, but watching all the fantastic videos that explain the concepts on [..]. It's not too often the promotion of a book can have much more impact than the book itself. I have implemented many of the concepts and couldn't be happier, but here are some issues with the book:

- Too small - if you are going to focus a topic around pictures they need to be bigger than tiny thumbnails - terrible usability.
- Illustrations that actually make understanding more difficult. The best example is the authors use of pictures of hands with fingers to represent simple number like 3. 3 is significantly easier to recognize than a drawing of fingers.
- Terrible acronyms. If you are going to use an acronym throughout the book it should be somewhat easy to remember or at least read. SQVID might be one of the most discordant acronyms I've ever seen, and I laughed out loud when I saw that S stood for simple and D stood for Delta (change). Really SQVID is about as useless of acronym as possible. There is nothing that makes it "stick" and there sure isn't anything simple about SQVID.

It is still well worth the read, but I hope the author will try to make some of these ideas a little more "sticky" in the next edition. In the meantime visit his website and watch everything on there - it will definitely stick better.
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on March 17, 2014
I'm going to have to read it again to be able to put it into use, but I'm confident I can because I have a project to apply it to in the works. If you're just reading it to capture theory without applying it, my guess is it won't sink in.

Dan Roam starts simply enough, almost patronizingly simple. Then the complexities of advanced application kick in. And it's not limited to conveying information visually - there's also an aspect of using pictures to solve the problems your facing by working through them in logically visual ways.

This book has varying depths for the different intelligence levels of its readers. I'm sure I won't get all the benefits that wiser practitioners will get, but it won't be a result of my innate lack of drawing ability.
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on February 6, 2013
I know that I have always been a visual thinking type of person. I *see* problems and solutions in my head as pictures. But until I got this book, it was merely something I just understood about myself; "yes, I'm more of a visual type of person" and that is that. Just a self observation such as my right arm is stronger than my left arm.

Then I got this book and it helped me better understand what it means to be a visual thinker but, more importantly, how to leverage and even strengthen those innate skills. As a result, I am more excited to tackle problems and solution description as ways to sharpen these skills. The more I practice, the better I get.

Value of this stuff extends wat beyond corporate board/conference rooms. The techniques are relevant in all aspects of life including home-life. This has expanded my thinking, solution and communication skills and is, therefor, worth more than the price of the book.
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on July 12, 2008
Executive summary: This book opens up a completely new marcet for career minded people. See details below .


Dan Roam is visually summarizing in four sections how to step through problem solving tasks.

Part I is a general introduction into problem solving.
Part II is about discovering the ideas.
Part III is developing the ideas to a business plan and
Part IV is about how to showcase your presentation and sell the idea.

What makes this book different is the fact that Dan is using visual clues to solve the problems.

In all parts of the book he is vigorously running through each of the below questions

Who/What ...
How many ...
Where ...
When ...
How ...
Why ...

and emphasizes the importance and the impact of the answers to it.

He is using the "Look,see, imagine and show" steps to explain whats is actually happening when a problem is analyzed, defined, a solution prepared and it must be "sold" to the upper management to get the go ahead.

I can easily see how this book opens up a completely new marcet f.e. for
instructors and junior business consultants.

Instructors for teaching those people that want to understand what they have missed so far and junior consultants because it visually combines their analytical skills, selective filtering skills and presentational skills and makes them explicitely aware of them and how to apply them.

It is interesting to see how Dan is able in Part III to "simplify" and demystify the open source <--> closed source issue any software company is facing.

That alone must be worth the book for any software company.

What Dan is really show casing is what good analysts already call their own:

- analytical skills
- context sensitive expertise
- selective filtering skills
- experience

Explicitly visualizing the problem solving steps in slow motion is a powerful weapon that will give you an edge over your competition.

I suggest you read the book three times.

First to get an overview.
Second to let it sink in and
Third to finetune.

Its one of those books that will give you new aspects everytime you read it.
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on September 10, 2013
This is an provocative way of modeling problems that yields new insightful solutions.

I think that there are different pathways in the brain that symbols and a images stimulate and this generstes different and I would argue
creative new ways of visioning problems solutions and communicating them.

I have been arguing with friends for years that too much of our societis thought process and solutions are rooted in a language based paradigm. The noted exception to this are the fields of math and science but these have not been common place in the board room or in the tool kit of chief strategy officers.
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