Draw to Win: A book review by Bob Morris

draw-to-winDraw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind
Dan Roam
Portfolio/Penguin (September 2016)

“Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.” Michelangelo

In my opinion, Dan Roam is among the most creative thought leaders in the business world because his insights are most effectively communicated both verbally and visually. I have read and reviewed each of his previously published books – notably The Back of the Napkin, Blah Blah Blah, and Show and Tell — and have learned a great deal from each. My guess (only a guess) is that in his latest, Draw to Win, he shares everything he has learned about how to think even more clearly, make even better decisions, and achieve results that have even greater impact and higher value.

For example, “Along the way, I’ve learned a few things:

o Pictures help people learn, and the best pictures are the simplest.
o Simple can be hard, but having a process makes hard things easier.
o Hand-drawn pictures make people smile, and smiling people think better.
o Everyone can draw, even people who know they can’t.”

More specifically, he shares the top ten lessons he’s learned. “The first two explain why you should draw. The next three show you how to draw. And the last five show you what to draw when you need to lead, sell, innovate, train, or just figure things out on your road to success.”

Doodling is a form of drawing and almost everyone doodles. It’s easy to do because there is nothing to learn. However, with regard to the drawing to which Roam refers, there are some basics to learn, including a process by which to use drawing (of stick figures, squares, circles, straight and curved lines, etc.) to suggest direct and indirect connections, relative sizes (and implied relative importance), comparisons and contrasts, and sequence steps.

Fortunately, as pre-kindergarten students reassure us, these basics are far easier to master than it may seem.

The earliest generations of homo erectus may have drawn on the walls of caves before they developed a vocabulary to communicate.

“Your ancient ancestors had things to tell each other, and the technology they used to record it was drawing. That desire to share was so compelling that Oog and Aag’s children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren kept going back to that same cave and drew the same pictures for the next hundred years.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Roam’s coverage:

o Business break-line (Pages 11-13)
o Winning (16-19 and 146-147)
o Sales (17-18, 107-126, and 146-147)
o Pen-color test for visual thinking strengths (32-35)
o Circles (38-43 and 49-50)
o Combining shapes in drawing (44-46)
o Timelines (44-45, 61-62, and 152-153)
o Gestalt (synthetic) vs. analytic drawing (46-48)
o Dimensions of vision (53-63)
o Facial recognition in brain (73-76)
o Stick figures (77-81)
o Destination/ultimate objective (87-106)
o Seven classic quests (92-93 and 98-104)
o Before-and-after chart (118-120)
o “Backward” innovation project (134-136)
o “Upside down” innovation project (136-137)
o Showing stories in six figures (151-161)
o ABCs off drawing (165-167)

In 1961, Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met in a restaurant bar to discuss King’s interest in starting an airline whose fares would compete with Greyhound and Trailways on trips among San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. They worked out the basic details on a napkin that is now framed and proudly displayed in the lobby at the headquarters of Southwest Airlines. Some doodles become drawings that prove to be more important than idle scratches.

Personal digression: With all due respect to the value of drawing to communicate more effectively with others, I want to stress the incalculable value of drawing to clarify one’s own thinking. I wish I had a dollar for every time a simple drawing helped me to identify and then answer the right question, to identify and then solve the right problem. I constantly remind myself of an observation by Peter Drucker in 1963: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Dan Roam’s mission in life has been the same at least since June 29, 2007, when he completed work on his first book: To help as many people as he possibly can to master “the power of drawing” to which Michelangelo refers. He is an evangelist for using visual thinking to accelerate personal growth and professional development.

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