Just posted the below blog over at Leadership Network. Take a look.


A few months ago I noticed the book The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam appearing over and over again at Amazon in the section "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought."  It was alongside a lot of my favorite books so I figured I should give it a read.

The subtitle of the book is "Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures" which is something that intrigued me as possibly being a very effective tool in ministry, leadership, counseling, business, social media, etc.  I figured that it must be an effective means of communication if the idea for Southwest Airlines was diagramed on the back of a napkin (see image at bottom).

Diagramming on a whiteboard also seems to be one the teaching methods of Rob Bell, especially on his Everything is Spiritual tour, or the method of teaching for influential leaders.

I think this is a very important book especially in our technological driven culture.  It’s almost unheard of that we should be unplugged or unwired and communicate in a means that doesn’t involve technology.  Teachers, pastors and leaders have been communicating important truths forever through the use of pictures, whether it be on a whiteboard, or flannelgraph if you want to go way back to our early Sunday school days.

What if there was a way to more quickly look at problems, more intuitively understand them, more confidently address them, and more rapidly convey to others what we’ve discovered?  What if there was a way to make business problem solving more efficient, more effective, and–as much as I hate to say it–perhaps even a bit more fun?  There is. It’s called visual thinking, and it’s what this book is all about: solving problems with pictures.

I think in our fast pace, high tech culture, it’s nice to sit down with people in small or large gathering and walk people through your thinking.  One of the advantages of drawing pictures is that you give people a visual where they can follow your thinking.  For example, instead of just handing over a picture for them to see, you can actually walk them through the process of how you arrived at your idea, thought, etc.  The power of this process really empowers those that you teach to better understand your ideas, clarify your thinking, and receive feedback for possible flaws or better avenues to innovation and creation.

About two weeks ago I walked out of the ECHO Conference after hearing Donald Miller speak on the idea of "story."  I was talking with Tony Steward afterwards about the talk when he opened up his Moleskine and showed me the visual map or picture diagram of the talk Miller just gave.  It was amazing to see the talk laid out visually on paper and it made more sense to see it visually then it would to have just written the talk down by bullet points and only with words. 

Reading this book, talking with Tony Steward, and realizing that pictures can often explain and clarify what words cannot has turned me into a believer of this practice.

Therefore, I have a few recommendations:

  1. Buy and read the book, The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam.
  2. Start reading Tony Steward’s blog.  It’s great in this area of technology, social media, visual thinking, etc.
  3. Start practicing your ideas, sermons, lectures, business ideas, etc. by drawing them up on pictures on some paper.
  4. If you want to move from paper to computer, then check out Mind Meister. (HT: Tony Steward)