December 5, 2012

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Sketchnotes: Visual Problem-solving–Dan Roam (DAN ROAM!)

Dan Roam (Back of the Napkin; Blah, Blah, Blah) was in Toronto yesterday to give a talk on visual problem-solving at the Rotman School of Management. I like to think that I was cool and composed during the post-talk book-signing, but really, the only reason I didn’t get a picture with him was because I was too busy trying to not hyperventilate about the fact that he recognized me from Twitter and said he liked my work. =)

I did ask him to sign this sketchnote, though. 20121204 Visual Problem-solving - Dan Roam

“Whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to fix it.” That reminds me of SPI 046: Building a Lucrative Business with No Ideas, No Expertise & No Money with Dane Maxwell, a Smart Passive Income podcast that dove deeper into defining problems and building businesses around them. Nugget from that one: “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, then they will assume you have the solution.”

Check out my other sketchnotes for one-page summaries of business and technology talks. Look at Rotman’s upcoming events calendar for other cool speakers!

Text from the sketchnote, to simplify searching:

Whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to fix it.

Say more with less: ideas -> pictures (easy to share, easy to act on)


  • Best – Boeing: built in 17 countries; challenge: languages; solution: all communication is visual
  • Worst – Politics: challenges: intentional obfuscation, outcome is so many words
  • 1974 Dr. Arthur Laffer – taxes; If you reduce taxes, you might increase revenue. Napkin sketch.

We can solve our problems with pictures. Simple drawing is okay. 75% of brain = vision. We are highly visual people. But we teach linear, verbal thinking in school!

detail + big picture. We think detail is intelligence. Power on your visual operating system. You can recognize ~100% after delay. You can figure out time from simple images. Our memory uses images and then we translate

The six ways we see:

  • who/what: portrait
  • how much: chart
  • where: map (how things fit, what’s missing)
  • when: timeline; also, motion
  • how: flowchart
  • why: equation (now + change = new)

Maybe it’s enough to draw 6 simple pictures

Drawing – you don’t have to remember anything!

Why visual thinking? Run away from death by Powerpoint.

Tools: Tablet PC (can use mouse as well), PowerPoint – pen tool

Wong-Baker pain scale; maps: spatial relationships; time: we recognize the when through the change in the where in the what.

Delegation update: Scheduling!

I think we’ve got this scheduling process sorted out, and I really really like it. It turns out that I didn’t have to fuss about with lots of templates or worry so much about exceptions.

When I’m reaching out by e-mail, all I have to do is cc: my assistant and add a short paragraph with details. She knows how to handle things. She knows my preferences for in-person and online meetings. She can follow up and make things happen.

So far, amazing. Things appear on my calendar! I can send Criselda a long e-mail with the AngelHack schedule for the weekend, ask her to pull out just the 2:15pm demo and block off 1h before / 2h after for travel, and it appears on my calendar with the venue information and other things I need to know. I feel comfortable asking her to coordinate with multiple people. This is good.

Here are a few things we’ve done to make it nice and smooth:

  • I used Google Calendar to share my calendar with her so that she has full edit access to it without being able to access the rest of my e-mail. Stephan Spencer has his assistants process his e-mail for him – I’ll get to that level of trust someday!
  • I set up an account for her on Google Apps. Because she uses a address, I feel like I need to explain less about who she is, and I worry less about offboarding.
  • I add the person’s name to the subject line: That way, when she’s reviewing her inbox, she can easily distinguish the different conversations.
  • We use Trello to keep track of task status: I want to be able to see whom we’re waiting for a response from and the status of other tasks I’ve assigned her, and Trello makes it easy to do that. I do most of the Trello task updates, but I hope we’ll get the hang of updating the boards together.

Who’s interested in talking about delegation and scheduling? We can look into scheduling a Google Hangout!