Visual Thinking

The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures

Published: The Penguin Group, 2008

Visual thinking is an extraordinary powerful way to solve problems, and though it may appear to be something new, the fact is that we already know how to do it.”  Dan Roam

How do you convey business problems in a clear, concise manner that most people can understand?  The answer is simple, you DRAW IT !!! The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, by Dan Roam is much more than effectively using comical stick figures to demonstrative tasks. Instead, it provides a new and insightful way of looking at problems and simple, ready to use, mechanisms for finding solutions through the use of pictures, which Roam defines as visual thinking.

Roam, who is currently the President of Roam Inc, a management consultant firm, unknowingly at the time, streamlined the concept of visual thinking while onboard a train headed to Sheffield England. Since this was a last minute trip….literally, (his colleague who planned the trip had a medical emergency the day before his flight to England) Roam did not have a formal presentation planned, when the British team leader at breakfast asked if his PowerPoint presentation was good to go.  Going into to full panic mode, the British team leader told Dan the topic for discussion was “…..the role of the Internet in American education”. Roam, who is a ‘black pen’, described in chapter 2, took a pen from his pocket, grabbed a couple of napkins from the table and starting to demonstrate his knowledge of the topic by drawing on the back of the napkins. Hence, The Back of the Napkin was born.

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas

Dan Roam

So what’s the book about?

Solving business problems visually.  By effectively using your Built-in Visual Tools: Your eyes, mind’s eyes and hands.

According to Dan, to be a great visual thinker, you only need three tools: your eyes, mind’s eyes and hands.  Couple these built-in visual tools with a few accessories like paper and pencil or a whiteboard and erasable markers and you will be ready to solve business problems that are picture perfect.  Roams’ goal for writing the book is to provide a new way of looking at problems and seeing solutions.  He accomplishes this goal by doing three things:

1. Defining the visual thinking process as a 4 Steps Process: LOOK, SEE, IMAGINE, SHOW

2. He cleverly outlines the 6 problems that businesses face:

  1. The Who/What problems: Challenges that relate to things and people
  2. The How much problems: Challenges that involve measuring and counting
  3. The When problems: Challenges that relate to scheduling and timing
  4. The Where problems: Challenges that relate to direction and how to fit together
  5. The How problems: Challenges that relate to how things influence one another
  6. The Why problems: Challenges that relate to seeing the big picture

3. Roam gives a method, SQVID, which succinctly allows you to bring your initial idea to fruition.


Click here to purchase The Back of the Napkin on Amazon.

Why I like the book:

The Back of the Napkin keeps true to the concept that pictures are just as powerful as words. The book is filled with simple, easy to understand illustrations that were used to help companies like Google and eBay solve real life problems.  Secondly, Dan recognizes that many people are not comfortable drawing and teaches that drawing or as he calls it showing, is the last step in the visual thinking process.

Learn more about other books by Dan Roam on his website

What’s wrong with the book?

When it comes to the fourth step in the visual thinking process, showing (drawing), Roam under estimates how uncomfortable most people are at explaining big ideas through pictures. Even if a person seamlessly moves through the first three steps of the visual thinking process, if he or she cannot graphically display his or her ideas then the notion that visual thinking is the best way to solve problems becomes a moot point.  More emphasis should be place on how the non-drawer can overcome this challenge.

Read Andrew Dlugan review of The Back of the Napkin

Where can you buy the book?

At the time of this post, the list price of the hardcover book is $19.77 on

I hope this review provided you with some clarity about The Back of the Napkin. Leave a comment, let me know what you think.

 Read my post about internet cookies

internet cookie

Internet Cookie |Created by AMit

 Before I list the 4 essential things you need to know about internet cookies, first lets define internet cookies and their uses. An internet cookie is a small text based file a website places on your computer. Once installed, they collect information about the websites you visit and the activities you perform on those sites.  Some cookies allow sites to remember account information such as the username to log into your cable account, items you place in a shopping cart while shopping online and any customization you do on the site. Generally speaking there are two types of internet cookies: Single and multi session.

 Types of internet cookies:

Single –Session cookies which I will refer to as friendly cookies, get deleted immediately after your session ends. They help with page navigation and most likely your web browser accepts them by default.  I deemed these cookies friendly since no personal identifiable information can be collected. 

On the other hand, multi-session or persistent cookies can collect identifiable information and can track and store your online activity.  So why are internet cookies important to websites?

Why do websites use internet cookies important?internet cookie_2

Nowadays, it’s all about BIG DATA.  Big data consistent of the sites you visit, words typed into a search engine, the type of web browser you use, purchases you make, your activity on  social media  and blogs  visit etc.  Cookies store some of this information. It is just one of the many ways companies track your data footprint. Once this information is collected from millions of online users, companies can sell or use this information to tailor online advertisements and find new users trends.

Yes, cookies are convenient for the user who finds it difficult to type his or her username when logging into a frequently used site. And they save preferences like font size and background color but in doing so may violate your privacy rights.  If you would like to see the cookies stored on your machine click the following link:

How do I manage internet cookies for internet explorer, safari and firefox?

Tip: Delete your internet cookies at least once a week!

So, here are the 4 Essential things you need to know about internet cookies:

  1. There are two types of internet cookies, single-session and persistent. Cookies have the ability to store personalized information and help with page navigation. Persistent cookies usually have an expiration date and can be manually deleted. Single-session cookies are automatically deleted when your browser session ends.
  2.  Persistent cookies can track demographic information and web surfing habits of a users. This information can be sold for marketing purposes.
  3. Cookies are not dangerous to your computer, but there is an ongoing debate on whether some cookies violate users’ privacy.
  4. You can enable and disable your computer from using cookies by managing your browser settings.

Did this post provide you clarity or do you think it’s nonsense? Leave a comment below.

Read my book review on Dan Roam, The Back of the Napkin.

The best way to keep knowledge is to give it away. ~nentoya19

Quote  —  Posted: October 11, 2012 in Social Media