Episode Number 78Dan Roam on Visual Thinking

Dan Roam is the author of the international bestseller The Back of the Napkin, the most popular visual-thinking business book of all time. Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and The Times of London all named it the #1 creativity and innovation book of the year. Dan is the founder and president of Digital Roam Inc., a consulting firm that uses visual thinking to solve complex problems for such clients as Google, Boeing, eBay, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Senate.

Show Notes

Visual thinking is the consistent through line of Dan Roam's work. With his writing, he strives to create books that people intentionally want to spend time with, from the best-selling The Back of the Napkin to his recently released book on presenting, Show and Tell. Roam even uses pictures to describe his work, using three overlapping circles. The top circle would be writing books, the bottom left circle would be speaking about his books, and the bottom right circle would be consulting work around his books' ideas. These circles change sizes depending on what he's focusing on at a particular moment. Once again, solving problems with pictures is the bigger circle around all of this.

While we learn to draw pictures as kids, many of us un-learn this useful skill as we grow up. From here Dan launched into an amazing and thought-provoking discussion on education, workplace skills, and neurology. You won't want to miss this.

Dan's typical month involves a lot of travel — at least a couple of days each week delivering keynotes ("edutainment") or training ("two-day trainings are the most impactful"). This work centers on teaching people to "draw the picture." His consulting work has him "helping organizations draw the picture."

As for his writing process, his biggest secret is ... morning! Dan gets up at 4:30 in the morning and works without online interruptions. At 6:30 he goes upstairs and helps his wife and kids get ready before heading back to work at 8:00 AM. Roam is quick to note that anyone can do this. All you have to do is not watch that "one dumb movie" you watch until midnight (and many times don't remember).

What Are the 3 Apps Dan Can’t Live Without? Dan started with an extra set of tips — the things he needed to write his books. First, the home-equity line of credit that most need in order to take the time off to write. When it comes to apps, he uses the native iPhone Notes app for capturing ideas anytime including the middle of the night. As for other apps, nothing is better than a traditional Sharpie and paper. Candy Crush also helps him have a bit of fun amidst the work.

BONUS! Speaking of Sharpies, we asked the master of visual thinking if there were any tech tools he liked for sketching. Dan told us that he's experimenting with Surface as well as the iPad Paper app. Overall, Dan still doesn't like drawing with his fingers. In fact, his favorite digital sketching tool is PowerPoint with it's almost hidden "inking" tools.

Shout-outs and Shameless Plugs! Nick gave a shout to his upcoming, nationally ranked digital marketing conference, the Social Brand Forum, featuring many past Work Talk Show guests like Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, and John Jantsch. You can get a special rate using promo code worktalk. Dan gave a shout to his new book Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations. Finally, as always, we gave a shout to our tireless Chief Technical Officer Jess Ostroff at Don’t Panic Management.

Until next week, we'll see you on the Internet!

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