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Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures Paperback – December 29, 2009
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"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 the internationally bestselling author of five books on visual communication, including The Back of the Napkin, Blah Blah Blah, and Show and Tell, and is the founder of the Napkin Academy, the world's first online visual-thinking training program. He has helped leaders at Microsoft, Boeing, eBay, Kraft, Gap, IBM, the US Navy, the US 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.
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I read this book and enjoyed it, but I didn't get the full value of the content until I went back and worked the exercises. Though I don't remember what SQVID stands for or any of the other organizing schemes that Roam uses, I really did learn something from his very original presentation of simple visual thinking tools.
In the process of working through the exercises in the book, I distilled the complexities of my work into four intuitive pictographs. My boss at the time hated these pictographs for some reason, but the value of the pictographs was demonstrated conclusively a few weeks later. I was presenting an overview of our processes and methods to a group of visitors from Turkey. Although they all spoke English as a second language, all of the text-based materials fell flat. The lightbulbs of understanding lit up all around the room when the discussion turned to those four silly pictographs though.
Unfolding the Napkin is a quick, fun, and useful read.
The thing is that persons are visual, auditive or kinesic. That is, some people would prefer verbal communication, and others empirical emotions (to live things), rather than to visual communication (graphics, illustrations and presentations).
However, for our business world, where democracy is a common and difficult practice, where many people want to express their points of view, and with restrictions such as time, I think the advice given by this book is really valuable.
The main idea is to synthesize, and to achieve this, the first step is to do the effort of understand first what we want to communicate. The rest is drawing.
Either you are a consultant or a manager, communication is absolutely necessary. Therefore, findind a simple way to clarify ideas and portratit then in a compelling yet easy way, is a great added value of this book.
A NOTE: it needs a lot of practice, but you'll learn. I've been doing this for more than 10 years and many times I still find if difficult to simplify ideas, but I always use this kind of methodology. The books gives you great practical recommendations!
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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