Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Back of the Napkin

The human brain thinks and imagines naturally in pictures. As children, we communicate with pictures and have no inhibitions about drawing. As we grow older, we become more comfortable with language and most people become less confident about their drawing skills. Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin, believes that we never lose the ability to understand concepts and ideas conveyed with pictures, and that we can use very simple drawings to explain ideas and influence decision makers. In this book, he breaks down his process, or toolkit, for solving problems and selling ideas with pictures by using the same process he is teaching.

First he explains the process of Look-See-Imagine-Show where we analyze the idea and decide how to show it. Then we proceed to the SQVID analysis where we decide where our picture will fit on one or more continuums: simple/elaborate, qualitative/quantitative, vision/execution, individual/comparison or change/status quo. Next is The Six Ways We See, where we decide how to present the idea: who/what (picture), how much (graph), where (map), when (timeline), how (flowchart) and why (plot). Here is my Napkin-inspired flowchart of the book:

More than one choice from the SQVID and The Six Ways We See can be incorporated into our graphic in order to represent or sell our idea. (Notice that the first continuum in the SQVID analysis is simple/elaborate.)

I like this book and started using its process to graphically represent my own concepts before I had gotten halfway through. Here's a timeline explaining information literacy that I am hoping will inspire and illuminate college students:
Mind maps are useful for almost anything, but over the course of this project I began to feel a need for a way to show time and process. This is it.