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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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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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."
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.Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Back of the napkin and unfolding the napkin make the perfect pair to make clearer any problem or plan!Published 16 months ago by Carlos Eduardo Santin Dominguez
It's a fun book, and a quick read. However the digital Kindle Edition was not well formatted with regard to the many images and doodles throughout the book, sometimes causing... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Nicholas Conrad
Practical and useful, specially for those who believes that complex problems can be managed by their smaller and simple partsPublished on September 28, 2014 by David Rodriguez
If you haven't seen Dan Roam's books - you should. Visual Thinking and this one are so good and you do not have to have talent in drawing.Published on September 18, 2014 by Barbara Russell
I'm extremely visual and notice that in the world of consulting, rarely do people really understand what is going on in a meeting or a workshop. Read morePublished on August 5, 2014 by Dawid Naude
I love the theory but find the practise difficult to put un placePublished on July 20, 2014 by Pulusi
Awesome infographics and other information related to cognitive science. Infographics make the reader better understand how people perceive various messages.Published on August 25, 2013 by Erin Pangilinan