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Nii Sai Sai on Back of the Napkin September 23, 2009

Posted by Nii Sai Sai in Back of the Napkin, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.

Look See Imagine Show! Who/What Where When How/How Much Why? These are all part of our lives on a daily basis, but we do not know how they fit into a structured approach to problem-solving. Dan Roam does a great job of explaining how to use tools we already have to solve problems. The first big revelation for me was about my own comfort level with using pictures as tools for solving problems. I always thought my drawing skills were just average, but quickly realized that those skills could be a big part of my problem-solving toolkit going forward. The book provided me with a way to embrace visual thinking based on my personal ability to actually capture ideas using pictures.
The idea of using ‘active looking’ as the starting point to tackling a problem echoes a key observation mentioned in class about effective design thinking . . . identifying the problem or need accurately. Given the overload of tools, frameworks, best practices, etc. that we receive in school, our instinct is often to role up our sleeves and dive right into the fun of developing a solution to a problem presented to us. However, it is only when we can accurately pinpoint the problem that we greatly improve our chances of coming up with a solution which actually addresses the issues at hand.
In today’s world, information overload is a real problem. That makes is much more critical that we can look at a sea of data, identify very quickly what is there, notice patterns and groupings, and then figure out how to connect the knowledge we’ve gathered to the problem we’re trying to solve. That sounds much easier that is really is, but it is undeniable that if we can present the ‘story’ of the problem visually, we can convey the key messages to people much quicker and get everyone on the same page. Pictures are equally effective in showing people what the solution.
The 6 W’s that Dan Roam talks about really help in getting to the heart of an issue. As I mentioned earlier, most MBAs like to solve problems, right away. Taking a step back to first work through the who/what, where, when, how, how much, and why, helps provide clarity and direction. These questions can usually be answered using visual thinking techniques. The process of sifting through data to answer these questions could be tedious, but then the ‘aha’ moments along the way culminate in an end product which draws the biggest ‘aha’ because it hits the bull’s eye.


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