The Back of the Napkin

Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

Dan Roam

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2009, 278 pages

ISBN: 978-0-462-09947-7

Keywords: Creativity

Last modified: June 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

When Herb Kelleher was brainstorming about how to beat the traditional hub-and- spoke airlines, he grabbed a bar napkin and a pen. Three dots to represent Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Three arrows to show direct flights. Problem solved, and the picture made it easy to sell Southwest Airlines to investors and customers.

Used properly, a simple drawing on a humble napkin is more powerful than Excel or PowerPoint. It can help crystallize ideas, think outside the box, and communicate in a way that people simply "get".

Dan Roam argues that everyone is born with a talent for visual thinking, even those who swear they can't draw. As a consultant, he's shown Microsoft, eBay, and Wells Fargo how to solve problems with pictures.

Now, drawing on twenty years of visual problem solving combined with recent discoveries in vision science, he shows anyone how to clarify a problem or sell an idea by visually breaking it down using a simple set of visual-thinking tools. His strategies take advantage of everyones's innate ability to look, see, imagine and show.

The Back of the Napkin proves that thinking with pictures can help you discover and develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and dramatically improve your ability to share your insights. This book will help you literally see the world in a new way.

  • Part I: Introductions
    Anytime, Anyone, Anywhere: Solving Problems with Pictures
    1. A Whole New Way of Looking at Business
    2. Which Problems, Which Pictures, and Who Is "We"?
    3. A Gamble We Can't Lose: The Four Steps of Visual Thinking
  • Part II: Discovering Ideas
    Looking Better, Seeing Sharper, Imagining Further: Tools and Rules for Good Visual Thinking
    1. No Thanks, Just Looking
    2. The Six Ways of Seeing
    3. The SQVID: A Practical Lesson in Applied Imagination
    4. Frameworks for Showing
  • Part III: Developing Ideas
    The Visual Thinking MBA: Putting Visual Thinking to Work
    1. Showing and the Visual Thinking MBA
    2. Who Are Our Customers?
      Pictures That Solve a Who/What Problem
    3. How Many Are Buying?
      Pictures That Solve a How Much Problem
    4. Where Is Our Business?
      Pictures That Solve a Where Problem
    5. When Can We Fix Things?
      Pictures That Solve a When Problem
    6. How Can We Improve Our Business?
      Pictures That Solve a How Problem
    7. Why Should We Even Bother?
      Pictures That Solve a Why Problem
  • Part IV: Sellin Ideas
    It's Showtime
    1. Everything I Know About Business I Learned in Show-and-Tell
    2. Drawing Conclusions
  • Appendix A: The Science of Visual Thinking
  • Appendix B: Resources for Visual Thinking


The Back of the Napkin

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Bad ** (2 out of 10)

Last modified: June 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

OK, nobody can tell me that it is rocket-science that it is easier to associate to a picture or a chart, than to pure, boring text? This idiot seems determined to get me to believe he has invented this concept. The worst part? He has followers, like any con-man / self-help guru!

Spend your money elsewhere, this is pure crap.


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