Dan Roam is a management consultant who uses visual thinking to make complicated ideas simple. His books Back of the Napkin and Draw to Win explain how anyone can use visual thinking to improve communication, problem solving, and innovation.
“People often talk about the simplicity that’s on the other side of complexity,” Roam said in an interview with Lisa Kay Solomon, Singularity University’s Chair of Transformational Practices. “I have found no better way to get to that simplicity then simply to draw things.”
You don’t have to be an artist to benefit. In the business world, he said, new challenges look complex, like a “conceptual plate of spaghetti.” Visual thinking breaks down problems into their core elements, and by looking at the same images, people can more easily get on the same page.
The results speak for themselves. Roam said a set of 46 pictures explaining the Affordable Care Act landed him an invitation to Fox News and the White House—not because he was the most knowledgeable expert, but because his drawings offered the clearest explanation—and a 1967 sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin launched Southwest Airlines.
The power of the pen isn’t only in what it can write; drawing a picture can be even better.