You need to wear the six hats, whenever you’re learning anything new Boomed by school teacher in his loud baritone. Do YOU UNDERSTAND? At that time, at that age, it was like what is he talking about? He was referring to the who/what, how much, where, when, how and finally why.
Children know the secret
Every little child always inquisitively asks these questions, and it’s the cause of frustration to parents. However, understanding about any concept is etched in us, once we layer this information in our minds. Children auto-magically do this.
Visualizing the problem
Dan Roam in his classic book “The Back of the Napkin” brought this to the fore again in terms of his The 6×6 Rule. The six ways we see mapped to the only six pictures we need to be able to draw.
(Image Source: Dan Roam’s blog: http://digitalroam.typepad.com/digital_roam/2008/07/napkin-tools-no.html)
You can use it to: Solve Problems, Present Ideas and even Write Articles
Turns out this applies to any kind of information understanding and explaining or presenting, it’s a common theme which you’ll find in the best of articles, blog posts, presentations etc.
Any information is typically presented by talking or explaining about the who or what and then followed by the other 5.
Every time I think of how Dan applied the concept of the 5 Ws and the H to visual thinking, I’m just amazed. This framework helps one to understand as well as present most types of information. I’ve yet to come across a problem which I’ve not yet understood better once i’ve visualized each of the aspects of the problem using the 6×6 rule.
Whether you’re learning, presenting or writing an article, using the 6×6 eases the process. Just asking the questions helps a great deal, just using the questions while presenting is great as well. However, the magic truly unfolds when one visualizes with the 6×6. What’s been your experience, do share.
I created this monster of a mind map while putting together techniques and ideas revolving around article writing. Beginning from how to generate ideas for article topics to the subject of crafting a headline for the article, how a headline can be used to promote the article, the structure, what you want people to feel, know or do based on your article etc. How it could be packaged into a report etc. It covers a lot of stuff.
Who is this for?
Now this is looks like a monster octopus and I basically made it for my personal consumption. Its extremely difficult for anybody else to make sense of this mind map, especially if one is new to the topic. However, for me it a great visual where all the elements I’m learning about are placed in front of me. This gives me a birds eye view and is useful for my personal learning.
Is it a general learning tool? suitable for all?
I’ve seen a whole lot of people share such mind maps, in fact much much larger and more detailed with others and they wonder why the other person doesn’t see the beauty or understand/learn from it.
How could one use this as a teaching tool?
The best way to teach others with it would be to break it up in to easily digestible chunks, visualize it and then built it up in front of their eyes and layer it with good examples so that they really learn the subject.
For e.g. one part of the mind map deals with what your final objective is with the article you’re writing.
What do you want them to
Basically what is the purpose of the article, what should they know, or feel, or do after they have read your article.
Now comes the layering – this can make the person learn.
Here it’s useful to be able to make the person see what you mean and hence visualization helps a great deal.
(The about visual which I’ve used was illustrated by Dan Roam in his first book “Back of the Napkin”)
I’ve drawn all elements and I’m showing you the final picture of how it could look. However, you would need to break it up and visualize each part separately.
For e.g. one would start with just the three words, then talk about the situation of building a website and how one would go about it. Then one would add each visual element to make sure people see what you’re trying to explain.
I know it doesn’t map exactly to the do, feel, know concept, but you get what I’m saying right?
So in short, an idea which was outlined in the mind map, was separated into a bite sized chunk and then one layered a nice example to explain the concept further.
Does that make sense to you? What has worked best for you? Do share in the comments below.
Quite some time ago, I had encountered a problem which I see most software product companies struggle with. The problem is, incorrectly leveraging their brand advocates, fans, and social media to help promote their software products. They assume that they need the help or rather should be connecting with their brand advocates and seek their help in just the marketing of their products. The thinking is flawed and let me illustrate why. Note: I’m not saying that they shouldn’t leverage them for marketing, I think there are many more mutual benefits.
Software Product Development Lifecycle
Software product development has a typical lifecycle which I’ve simplified and visualized below.
The above visual shows interesting opportunities for engaging with brand advocates.
Each and every stage, from ideation, testing(alpha and beta), to launching and finally supporting of their software product can benefit from involvement with their brand advocates.
For those of you to whom software development or social media/ brand advocacy is new this might not be so clear. But I’ve found that as soon as I show the above visual to people in this industry their eyes literally light up at the opportunities they can now see.
P.s. If you’re interested in this topic feel free to read my recent article on how software product companies can leverage brand advocates to save money and reduce time to market.
Have you had days when by the end of the day you’re wondering what the hell did I accomplish. Well yesterday was one such day for me. It just sucked out all I had and at the end of the day I was left wondering if I had achieved anything at all.
From Frustration to Light at the end of the Tunnel
Literally like a beam of light cutting thru the darkness I came across a really simple technique called Outlining by Sean D’Souza from Psychotactics.com (If you haven’t read his stuff do yourself a favour and go visit his site).
How to Outline?
Outlining is a deceptively simple but powerful technique. For e.g. while writing this article the outline I created was:
Outline for the article:
- Day Whizzed by (problem)
- Outlining (Solution)
- How to Outline e.g. Article
- One more example – Day Planning
- Why Outline – What does it give us?
- Tools Available for Outlining
Its a list of the things I want to include in the article. For e.g. Sean writes some 300-500 articles per year and when you’re writing so much, it makes sense to outline - list and get your thoughts in order else each article is going to take a while.
Your Day Planner – How is this different from a task List?
For me personally, even though I have tasks listed down I got stuck. What I did do different and how it worked for me was that I outlined the day in the morning on a piece of paper and put it right on my desk. Somehow the piece of paper sticking out just helped me breeze thru today, even though today was a much busier day for me. Best of all I achieved even more than the day before, including writing this article.
I think the proof of the pudding is truly in the eating. I bit the bullet and did exactly as Sean suggested, and it help me get the following:
- Clarity on what I want done thru the day
- Clarity on my article (note. I’ve never used outlining for an article). This just boosted my article writing productivity by 200%.
What are the tools available for Outlining?
- I used a piece of paper stuck onto my desk- You can use a computer software like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or plain old Notepad.
- You could also use a MindMap. In fact I used it today to create a new outline for an eBook I’m writing.
The large paper sticking on my desk kept reminding me and kept me focussed thru the day. I’ve used computer lists before, however the paper on the desk worked for me. Figure out what works for you.
One key concept that Sean added was the idea of planning for chaos or keeping time aside for unknowns. This one thing alone helped me a lot.
Go ahead and read Sean’s entire article http://www.psychotactics.com/blog/lack-planning-waste-time/.
(For those who are curious, this 500 word article took me precisely 31 minutes to write, and I attribute it completely to outlining.)
The basic premise being that the SQVID helps one to take any subject and think about it in a variety of different ways, stretching your imagination, and helping in brainstorming. One exercise he encourages people to do is take a subject and apply the SQVID to it. Learn about the SQVID. (Simple, Qualitative, Vision, Individual, Difference/change)
I’ve taken the computer as a subject, and by applying the SQVID described the computer in a variety of different ways. Obviously there are many more ways, for e.g. I’ve used elaboration to talk more about the hardware, on the other hand one could describe the capabilities in terms of the software side of things, the ability to create documents, presentations, multimedia content, etc.
(Click the below image to view a larger version)
It is also a great way to visually brainstorm any idea and helps one look at it from a variety of different perspectives stretching the imagination.
I’ve just subscribed to Dan Roam’s Napkin Academy, and here’s a quick initial review of it.
First of all for those who’ve read Dan’s books only, there is definitely some new material.
New Non-Book Material
- Four videos on How to draw
- How to draw anything
- Drawing 5 Essential Shapes
- How to Draw People
- Advanced Stick Figures
- The Visual Business Translator – this one video alone according to me is worth the price of the Core Curriculum which is covered in the course. This totally blew my mind, heck I think he could turn just this into a new book, with lots of case studies. I really hope he does that , Dan if you’re listening/reading this, a book of real life case studies where you show at least 3 examples of the 6 types of problems and the 6 types of solutions, or your 6 types of proposed solutions would be brilliant.
What else is new? Well overall almost every video has something more than the book which is nice, it acts as a refresher + more.
Note: I’ve yet to go thru all the material, this is a preliminary review, I’ve gone thru
10 28 of the videos at the Napkin Academy and that’s what I’ve discovered as of now.
There are two courses:
- Core Curriculum (Cadets & Associates) (Note: This is as of now incomplete, it appears he is still adding one entire section and two other videos in another section.) This costs USD 39.99.
- Continuing Education (Coming Soon targeted at Associates) (There is little detailed information, but it’s kind of self-explanatory here are the current details – For Associates who want more than lessons alone, the Napkin Academy will provide the essential tools for collaboration, feedback, and support.
- The Associates Directory.
- Lesson and topic-based forums.
- Picture submissions and review tools.
Note: none of the above is available on the site as yet. I’m kind of excited waiting to see what’s actually going to come here.
Dan also mentions that in the Continuing Education module, he will host two live webinars and add at least two new lessons every month.”
The Continuing Education module will cost USD 24.99 per month. That’s USD 299.88 per year.
I’m guessing that at the end of an associate year, one might qualify as a Napkin Specialist Dan only knows, I’m just guessing. But some kind of certification could be interesting.
What’s my opinion – The video form of instruction about Visuals using Visuals is brilliant. I like the structure and content, some of it’s repeated from his books, however, it’s a good refresher with some interesting new content which makes the cost of the course totally worth it at least for me.
Lastly, I’ll keep updating this post, as I discover more things.
Update 11 April 2012: One of the nice additions is the exercises that Dan recommends one does, especially with the SQVID, I did one myself, and found it to be a wonderful way to expand one’s thinking with visuals. See my other post http://vizcraft.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/dan-roams-sqvida-visual-thinking-tool/
Additionally, I’ve found that a lot of the material has updates. I especially like the examples he’s used throughout. I’m now waiting for him to complete the final five videos. It has been an excellent experience.