I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Roam, author of international bestseller “The Back of the Napkin.” His experiences as a designer and management consultant led him to discover how useful a form of communication visual imagery can be. With the help of a few clearly drawn pictures, he noticed that conflicts in the boardroom lessened and were replaced with productive energy. Roam knew he’d stumbled upon a powerful tool; he’s since brought his message to some of the most powerful corporations and leaders in the United States! Can you benefit from his advice as well?
“Any problem we are able to articulate at all, we can articulate so much clearly through the use of pictures,” he explained. “Do we need sophisticated photos to do so? Do we need expensive software to create them? No. I’m talking about photos that are bone-headedly simple here. Arrow. Stick figure. Circle.”
What exactly does he mean? Roam went on to explain why creating simple visual images can be so powerful.
“Every time I began drawing in a boardroom, I’d receive stares. People were confused. Before I jotted something down, I asked, ‘Is that what I heard you just say?’ It was like someone pulled a trigger. Ideas were so much clearer when articulated through drawing. People began to contribute to the idea at hand, rather than engaging political arguments or bickering or pointless debate. It happened again and again. People could really see the problem and focus in on it.”
Eventually, his peers noticed that his methods were working and encouraged him to write a book about it. Who is the book for?
“I never intended the book to be for creative people – those who already incorporate visual imagery into their work, like industrial engineers or architects. They understand what’s going on. I wanted to reach out to those who don’t draw and don’t think they have the talent to do so.”
According to Roam, you do. To help you learn how, he published, “Unfolding the Napkin.”
“’Unfolding the Napkin’ is really a workbook. It guides the reader through learning how to draw simply and how to present ideas. It begins with picking up a pencil and ends with presenting a photo to 700 people,” he explained.
As a visual person, I could totally relate to what Roam had experienced and was advocating for. To see things clearly, I must put them into visual images. I liked that his book might bridge the gap between those that see visually and those that have been trained to be more analytical. How does Roam describe it?
“It’s a great smashing of heads.”
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 30 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight,
a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas
and the skills needed to succeed. You can listen to the weekly radio
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