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First Look at Dan Roam – Napkin Academy – Review

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.

Napkin Academy - Dan Roam - New material

New Non-Book Material

  1. Four videos on How to draw
    1. How to draw anything
    2. Drawing 5 Essential Shapes
    3. How to Draw People
    4. Advanced Stick Figures
  2. 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 Smile, 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 Smile 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

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.



Using Great Storytelling To Grow Your Business… Really?

Recently I read an article titled as above at FastCompany

It’s an interesting article a must read. I’ve talked about storytelling earlier as well on my blog.

The FastCompany article talked about two concepts and I’ve visualized it below:

1. Ensure that you trigger the senses.

LOTS - Language of the senses

2. Use a five step structure throughout your talk, presentation, meeting etc.

“They call it the "story spine": reality is introduced, conflict arrives, there is a struggle, the conflict is resolved, a new reality exists. These two tools caused a profound shift in our abilities to tell effective stories.”

They author does give an example of the same in the article, and it’s quite good, read it. However, I wanted to capture it in a way that I would remember and hence I illustrated the 5 steps using the below visuals.

Lets say you’re walking down a cobbled street and you see and literally smell the stench of a homeless person on the street

Reality Introduced

Yep most people will empathize and feel pity, or might even feel disgust at the sight.


Conflict IntroducedYou might face a conflict in your mind, wondering if you should open your wallet and part with your money $ or possibly just look the other side and walk away…




You might have further arguments against the idea of helping them at all.








Conflict Resolved

Or you might notice that the sign he’s holding up shows that he’s willing to work to survive and you might step up and help him.

This ultimately could change the reality into something new, helping you both breathe a sigh of relief.

New Reality

The above ideas could be used in a number of situations. However, I feel that considering that a large portion of the brain is dedicated to visual processing, it might just be a good idea to focus a lot more on the visual aspect in your communications and story telling. Moreover, providing visuals enables one to not only understand but also retain the information far longer and hence it’s more effective. Moreover, using LOTS(Language of The Senses) might not be most appropriate in specific kinds of business contexts, for e.g. lets say you’re explaining a manufacturing business process or the way a computer program works. In these cases visuals work brilliantly, however using the other senses would not make sense. On the other hand using their 5 step process might be useful to provide more structure to your talk/communication.

What do you think? Do share your experiences and thoughts…

Weekend Reading on Visual Thinking–26th Feb 2012


2. – Behind the scenes: Creating custom cartoons

3. – How to create a visualization. Shared by Gavin McMahon on G+

4. – The top 10 visual thinkers on Twitter

5. – The Visual Thinking Revolution is here

6. Video – Dan Roam and Nancy Duarte compare notes on Creative Process –

7. Video – Are you a fox or a hummingbird – Dan Roam explains your brain –

8. Video – Grammar Ain’t Just for Words Anymore –

9. Video – Quit Talking and Start Thinking – Dan Roam and Nancy Duarte

10. Creating short, simple videos that use simple animated graphics, illustrations, text and photography to explain something

11. – Curated motion graphic & animated informational videos that explain, educate, or inform

12. How2s – Over 100 visual guides to expert teaching –

13. Visual Thinking for Service Design by Dave Gray –

14. Great use of visuals by Microsoft in guiding their developers in building the next generation touch applications for their upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

15. – Sketchnotes a field guide for the busy professional $1.95 pdf download. An absolute beginners guide, very very basic.

Weekend Viewing on Visual Thinking

This week I’m sharing just two links, trust me these are more than enough to satiate your weekend viewing on visual thinking.

  1. Brilliant talks by Dan Roam captured in videos- the last segment 3 on the page is awesome. All the videos on this page together make up a quick mini-course on visual thinking.
  2. Video interview with visual thinkers, Sunni Brown, Dave Gray and Mike Rohde – Hosted by Dan Benjamin

Let me know what you think about these videos, and do share if you come across any interesting videos like these.

How to get a good testimonial?

Most testimonials aren’t able to communicate your real benefit. However, the people to blame are the one’s who’re asking for testimonials.

The best way to get a testimonial according to Sean from is to ask six questions. He describes these in detail in his ““Brain Alchemy Workshop”. He recommends you don’t send the six questions by an email however, ask the person in person or on the phone, so the conversation is more casual.

Creating a Testimonial

A testimonial covering the above is much more useful in conveying the value you provide.

What do you think? Do share.

Does your communication Stick?

People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn within 30 days*

Urban Myth? Or Research?

Ok, test it yourself, without looking at any notes. Try to recall any meeting, presentation or workshop you’ve attended 30 days ago. How much of the main theme do you remember?

Ok, now a different test: Which is the last movie you saw, do you remember the main story? Note: I’m asking you to recollect the main theme/plot to an extent that you can communicate it to someone else.

Stories stick in our minds especially if they are unusual, or strike an emotional chord and/or are visual.

WHY MY AWESOME REPORT GOT IGNORED… UNTILL – that’s the title of the story of how I got into Visual Thinking (Read it here). It’s very short, but I’m sure if I ask you 30 days later about it. You will remember the key idea.

Making our ideas stick in people’s mind is the biggest challenge most communicators face.

3 kinds of stories

Most stories fall largely into three buckets. Three essential kind of plots.

Challenge Plot-David vs Goliath


The Challenge Plot – Think David & Goliath. Just those two words David & Goliath are enough to kindle your memory.




ConnectionPlot Romeo & Juliet


The Connection Plot – Think Romeo & Juliet.





Creativity Plot - Newton & Apple


The Creativity Plot – Think Newton and the apple falling on his head. A mental breakthrough. A person solving a long standing puzzle, or attacking a puzzle in an innovative way.




Here are all three together

Story Plots

Here’s another way at looking at the three story plots

Three kinds of stories

I’ve also noticed that some of the best sales people usually always have a good story to share regarding their products, services and clients, which helps them explain their ideas much better.

What do you think? What’s your experience been? Do share in the comments below.

* Research:

This blog post has been inspired by the research from the book “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.

Weekend Reading on Visual Thinking–5th Feb 2012

So many interesting ideas around visual thinking and how people are using it.

  1. – Content Chemistry: The Periodic Table of Content
  2. – There’s no such thing as information overload
  3. – The best at TED from Hans Rosling the visual master presenter (via Presentation Zen site)
  4. – List of books on Visual Thinking and a whole lot more.
  6. The checklist Manifesto Visualized – Original article
  7. – I want this book in Kindle/e-book format
  8. The 10 1/2 commandments of Visual Thinking by Dan Roam –
  9. Make your business model clear with Visual Thinking –
  10. – "12 Great Visualizations That Made History" – thanks to Greg Neat from the Visual Thinking group for sharing this.
  11. – Dan Roam’s Visual thinking tools, actually I’d call them frameworks, rather than tools. I’ve used these extensively in various business, problem solving situations.