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Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work [Hardcover]

Dan Roam
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011

Ever been to so many meetings that you couldn't get your work done? Ever fallen asleep during a bulletpoint presentation? Ever watched the news and ended up knowing less? Welcome to the land of Blah Blah Blah.

The Problem: We talk so much that we don't think very well. Powerful as words are, we fool ourselves when we think our words alone can detect, describe, and defuse the multifaceted problems of today. They can't-and that's bad, because words have become our default thinking tool.

The Solution: This book offers a way out of blah-blah-blah. It's called "Vivid Thinking."

In Dan Roam's first acclaimed book, The Back of the Napkin, he taught readers how to solve problems and sell ideas by drawing simple pictures. Now he proves that Vivid Thinking is even more powerful. This technique combines our verbal and visual minds so that we can think and learn more quickly, teach and inspire our colleagues, and enjoy and share ideas in a whole new way.

The Destination: No more blah-blah-blah. Through Vivid Thinking, we can make the most complicated subjects suddenly crystal clear. Whether trying to understand a Harvard Business School class, or what went down in the Conan versus Leno battle for late-night TV, or what Einstein thought about relativity, Vivid Thinking provides a way to clarify anything.

Through dozens of guided examples, Roam proves that anyone can apply this systematic approach, from leftbrain types who hate to draw to right-brainers who hate to write. This isn't just a book about improving communications, presentations, and ideation; it's about removing the blah-blah- blah from your life for good.


Frequently Bought Together

Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work + The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures + Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures
Price For All Three: CDN$ 59.25

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Product Details


Product Description

About the Author

Dan Roam is the author of The Back of the Napkin, which was Fast Company's Best Business Book of the Year and BusinessWeek's Innovation and Design Book of the Year. His consulting clients have included Microsoft, Google, Wal-Mart, Boeing, Lucasfilm, The Gap, the U.S. Navy, and the White House Office of Communications. His health-care analysis was named BusinessWeek's Best Presentation of 2009. He lives in San Francisco.

Visit www.danroam.com

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Those who have already read one or both of Dan Roam's previous books, The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin, will be pleased to know that in his latest book, he develops some of his most valuable insights in much greater depth but also expands the scope of his analysis to include new issues and new challenges as well as new opportunities to communicate more effectively. Of even greater significance, at least to me, he explains with exceptional precision and clarity the interdependence of verbal and visual literacy.

In the first "Napkin" book, Roam suggests to his reader that one of the best ways to answer a question, solve a problem, persuade others, or to achieve another goal is to express its essence. What the French characterize as a precís. For example, formulate it as a simple drawing. You may claim that you have no skills for drawing. That's good news. Why? Roam asserts that less-sophisticated drawings have greater impact because those who see them can more easily identify with stick figures, for example, and focus more readily on the relationships suggested, such as between and among options to be considered, implications and consequences, and cause-and-effect relationships. Simple drawings accelerate both inductive and deductive reasoning.

Then in the second "Napkin" book, reiterates three key points:

1. There is no more powerful way to discover a new idea than to draw a simple picture.
2. There is no faster way to develop and test an idea than to draw a simple picture.
3. There is no more effective way to share an idea with other people than to draw a simple picture.

In both "Napkin" books, Roam explains how to achieve these objectives by (you guessed it) drawing a series of simple pictures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Très bon livre Dec 13 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Très bon livre. Lorsqu'on travaille en qualité, souvent on s'inspire d'outils comme le QQC OQ CP, (Qui/Quoi Combien Où, Quand, Comment Pourquoi). Ce livre vient consolider la connaissance de cet outil et permet une meilleure compréhension des autres outils qualité qui exploitent à leur tour, à des intensités différentes, le QQC OQ CP.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blah Blah Blah - Great!!! Feb. 28 2012
By Greg
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Blah Blah Blah is a great follow-up to Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin. In this book, Roam both expands and extends on his vision of visual thinking and it's utility for everyone, in particular those who want to or have to really get their ideas across. The tools in the book are clear, concise and easy to use. Hopefully Roam will make some of these available as online supplements for easier access. Well done Dan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  55 reviews
92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visual and verbal literacy "on the other side of complexity" Nov. 1 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Those who have already read one or both of Dan Roam's previous books, The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin, will be pleased to know that in his latest book, he develops some of his most valuable insights in much greater depth but also expands the scope of his analysis to include new issues and new challenges as well as new opportunities to communicate more effectively. Of even greater significance, at least to me, he explains with exceptional precision and clarity the interdependence of verbal and visual literacy.

In the first "Napkin" book, Roam suggests to his reader that one of the best ways to answer a question, solve a problem, persuade others, or to achieve another goal is to express its essence. What the French characterize as a precís. For example, formulate it as a simple drawing. You may claim that you have no skills for drawing. That's good news. Why? Roam asserts that less-sophisticated drawings have greater impact because those who see them can more easily identify with stick figures, for example, and focus more readily on the relationships suggested, such as between and among options to be considered, implications and consequences, and cause-and-effect relationships. Simple drawings accelerate both inductive and deductive reasoning.

Then in the second "Napkin" book, he reiterates three key points:

1. There is no more powerful way to discover a new idea than to draw a simple picture.
2. There is no faster way to develop and test an idea than to draw a simple picture.
3. There is no more effective way to share an idea with other people than to draw a simple picture.

In both "Napkin" books, Roam explains how to achieve these objectives by (you guessed it) drawing a series of simple pictures. "To complete the workshop, you'll need three things...This book is your primary tool; please expect to draw in it and generally muck it up - that's what it's for. [Also,] please bring your own magic wand with you to class. My own favorites are a plain no. 2 pencil, a Sharpie, or a Pilot pen." Although Roam encourages his reader to use the book as a workbook and add annotations throughout, he also suggests using something to draw on, everything from several pages of blank scratch paper provided at the back of the book to a small personal whiteboard (i.e. small "lap board"). My own preference is the "Original Marble Cover 50-Sheets" composition book that costs less than $2 each.

Whereas The Back of the Napkin introduces the core concepts of the visual problem-solving process, Unfolding the Napkin develops and extends the same concepts to wider, deeper, and more valuable applications. Yes, Roam really does take a "hands-on" approach...and the hands belong to his reader.

What we have in Blah Blah Blah is a shift in focus from using simple drawings to express complicated concepts to a rigorous explanation of how to avoid or eliminate boredom in communication. More specifically, how to think more effectively about complexities, how to increase one's understanding of them, how to increase others' understanding of them when we explain them, and how to make learning about them more engaging. To a much greater extent than in the previous two books, Roam includes a full complement of tools and techniques by which the reader can (a) select information, insights, and suggestions that are most relevant to her or his specific needs and interests, then (b) apply them most effectively where they will have the greatest impact.

They include:

o A map of the Land of Blah-Blah-Blah
o The Blah-Blahmeter
o The Three Rules of Vivid Thinking
o The Six Elemental Pictures of Vivid Grammar (and Their Relationship to Verbal Grammar)
o The Seven Essentials of a Vivid Idea

These and tools and techniques can help anyone to think clearly and explain convincingly in ways and to an extent most of us do not realize.

With regard to the subtitle of this book and its reference to words that "don't work," it important to keep in mind that in order to understand visual literacy and verbal literacy, it is necessary to understand the vocabulary of each as well as the "grammar" of both whenever they interact. Drawings on cave walls thousands of years ago did not have captions but were presumably recognizable to those who saw them as were tone of voice and gestures (i.e. body language). We need to recapture once again, Roam suggests, the ability to grasp the essence of a thought, to overcome the complexity of "clutter," then select words and images that express an idea so clearly and so compellingly that when sharing it with others, they care as much about it as we do.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking it to the next level Nov. 1 2011
By David W. Gray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have been a fan of Dan Roam's work since I first saw his blog sometime in 2006. Dan has a fantastic way of simplifying things that seem difficult, or even impossible, to the point where they are easy to understand and achieve. In his first book, The Back of the Napkin, he demonstrated in a step-by-step fashion how anyone can use pictures to improve their thinking, solve problems and sell their ideas. In this book he takes it to the next level. He shows you how to not be boring. This may sound like something simple, and when you are talking about simple things maybe it is. But what about when you want to explain something that's complex or potentially confusing? If this is your challenge this book will be especially helpful.

Using a framework he calls Vivid thinking, he shows readers how to both explain and engage people around your ideas, whether they be simple or complex, subtle or sophisticated. The subtitle of the book "what to do when words won't work" belies a subtler truth: neither words nor pictures, by themselves, are enough. It's only by putting them together that we can fully engage audiences, make ourselves understood, and achieve our objectives in life.

Dan also practices what he preaches. The book is absolutely engaging from start to finish, with a cast of characters, pictures, stories and tools that all work together to deliver fresh thinking and real help for anyone who truly wants to improve their communication skills and get their ideas across in such a way that they have real impact in the world.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Limited Practicality! July 6 2012
By Ho Kheong Tan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Dan Roam presented a great concept using Vivid (Visual + verbal+interdependent) framework and was brought the readers through the framework using two fable characters - a cunning fox and a big picture hummingbird.

After an intriguing introduction, Dan became draggy and the reading became a bore.

Vivid grammar:
A. When I hear a noun, draw a picture.

B. When you hear an adjective of quantity, draw a chart.

C. When you hear a preposition, draw a map.

D. When you hear tense, draw a timeline.

E. When you hear a complex verb, draw a flowchart.

F. When you hear a complex sentence, draw a multivariable plot.

Dan Roam quoted 4 speeches to illustrate the importance of using Vivid framework. I followed his illustration at the outset and agreed wholeheartedly, but were lost with his conclusion that these were well presented in his concluding chapter.

Stellar points:

1. Always lay out a comprehensive, realistic, sustainable, and scalable vision for the bulk of the company.

2. Always made our idea as clear, visceral, and memorable as we can.

3. Know who is coming. Know your audience - use the Vivid LENS (leader v doer, expert v newbie, numeric v emotional, and sympathetic and antagonistic) to decide the details to disclose.

4. There is no faster way to disarm a potentially difficult audience than to show we are aware f their concerns - and the best way to show that is to create the picture that vividly illustrate those concerns. And if our idea really is good and really is vivid, that should be enough to get them on our side.

5. A Vivid idea has everything it needs to go viral: It's simple. It's clear. It's compact.

6. When we get out idea in a form that people want to learn, they will. When we share our idea in a way people want to understand, they will.

7. If you are struggling to find the right words, maybe you should stop looking for words alone; add pictures to make your message vivid. If nobody remembers what you said, maybe you're using the wrong bazooka.

8. A Vivid idea has form, expressed only the essentials, recognisable, evolves, spans differences (balances to embrace the opposite ideas), and is targeted.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good lessons, but needs less "blah" April 15 2012
By Ilya Grigorik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I caught one of Dan Roam's talks in person, where he was talking about his latest book, and the message resonated strongly: too often, we use words to obscure the actual point, often unintentionally so. "Vivid thinking" is an approach to help you distill the idea to its essence by combining the visual and the verbal elements: if you can draw it, you can explain it, and by drawing it you can it explain it much better. The book goes through the process of how you can change your own thinking and communication to reach these goals.

However, after I read the "blah blah blah" reference for the 100th time in the book, the message itself got lost, not to mention the overstretched metaphor of "the fox" and "the hummingbird". The book could have been cut in half and preserved all of its lessons, an ironic property given the subject.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The difficult art of making things simple Nov. 1 2011
By David Allen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
How we best think about things we care about is the rich and still largely uncharted territory for us getting better things done, more easily. Dan Roam presents keys to still-unimagined possibilities for how creatively and powerfully we can express and manifest in this world. I loved his Napkin books, and use the techniques regularly now. This one is more sublime, but equally right on. The elegance of Blah Blah Blah lies in how it makes clear and simple the insanely hard work of making things clear and simple.
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