The Back of the Napkin

As I was wrapping up 2008, I read a dozen or more "Best of..." lists regarding business and/or leadership books. Dan Roam's book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, was on nearly everyone's Top 10 list so I felt compelled to check it out. Lucky for me, I got a Barnes & Noble gift card from little Miss Isla for Christmas. Thanks, baby girl!

I have mixed feelings about this book. The general idea is to teach us all to present ideas and problem-solve visually by drawing pictures, charts, maps, etc... As a leader and a communicator, it got my gears turning and thinking in some different directions, but I personally felt a big portion of the book was overkill. How to "see" the problem/issue and the section on using your imagination was too boring to me. However, I think that was Roam's intention. He attempted to cover all bases so that the concepts could be learned even by non-creative types.

I found the rest of the book to be extremely engaging and practical. I learned what kind of visuals are suitable for specific types of problems.
  • For a Who/What question, use a "portrait."
  • For a How Much question, use a "chart."
  • For a Where question, use a "map."
  • For a When question, use a "timeline."
  • For a How question, use a "flowchart."
  • For a Why question, use a "multiple-variable plot."
In ministry, there are obvious leadership uses for the concepts in The Back of the Napkin. Assessing congregational needs, planning unveiling a new program, organizational issues, budgeting issues, etc... But what really got my juices flowing was thinking through the preaching implications of Roam's concepts.

I know that when I use visual aids/object lessons in my sermons, I tend to have more "Ah-ha" reactions from the congregation. Many people are strong visual learners. So it got me to thinking of new ways I could share Biblical truths through Roam's doodling techniques. We've all seen this visual explanation of redemption:
What other theological concepts could be explained visually? It's got me thinking (and doodling) in new preaching directions. The Back of the Napkin is worth your time. Check it out.

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