Book review: Unfolding the Napkin

During my holiday I finally got time to read a book that was high on my reading list. In Unfolding the Napkin, Dan Roam takes his famous back of the napkin concept one step further. His second book promises that you as a reader will be able to visualize every problem via a simple drawing. Since I’m a big fan of using visual aids, I had to try this myself.

The first thing you notice about this book is that it’s full with drawings. Almost every page has some sort of sketch on it.

Dan starts by explaining his case : Why would you try to solve problems with simple pictures?

He explains the science behind it, which is great if you’re not yet convinced of the power of visualization.

Then the fun part starts, we start drawing. Throughout the book he explains how we can think about visualizing problems, how this process can help us to start solving it and how we can use effective drawings in meetings and presentations.

By asking ourselves 5 questions we can help ourselves to imagine the visualization possibilities.  Finally, he explains that the drawings we use depend on the kind of audience we’re showing them to. Some profiles such as project managers are more interested in details, flows, processes. Others like board members are looking for vision, high level, simple pictures.

I will try to use these guidelines when creating a next presentations or facilitating a workshop. Here’s already a preview of my drawing skills.

You can guess what I’m trying to visualize.

Don’t worry about your drawing skills, mine are terrible.  The great thing about not drawing a perfect picture is that people are more likely to discuss it. When we see a picture that is highly polished, we see that someone worked it again and again and our mind tells us not to criticize it. This doesn’t help at all when you’re trying to improve an idea and try to get feedback.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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