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August 16, 2008

4 more books on visual thinking

I spent a lot of my time in Australia taking the opportunity to flip through a number of books I have been trying to catch up with for a while now.

Ever since reading Dan Roams' The Back of a Napkin I have really trying to push the envelope in the area of visual thinking. Fortunately I have been working like this for many years and my recent foray into the area has really helped to polish some of my visual communications skills.

These are some of the books I have been working through recently, and they have been invaluable to me in my own consulting work. The goal here is to try to present a far more rounded picture of visual communication beyond that of just drawing images. (Which is also good)

The Big Book of Flipcharts -  This book was a lot of fun. I am a devotee of flip charts from way back and this book was a good insight into some additional techniques for using them effectively. Covering issues such as designing good flipchart visuals, effectively using them in training and interactive sessions, and arranging them for maximum impact. I really liked this one.

Good fun and a few good tips in it.

Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it® Notes - Yup, like the Post-it® note form of attacking problems. As a consultant in asset reliability I often use similar approaches for Root Cause Analysis projects, and it always gives me a great result, rapidly, without the need to resort to software at all.

It starts off by showing simple key principles: (1) Chunking; capturing small information of data, (2) Problem Patterns, arranging and determining relationships, (3) Guiding decisions and keeping clear objectives, and (4) the *FOG* factor (Facts, Opinions, Guesses).

It then provides 6 easy to use methods: (1) Post up, (2) Swap sort, (3) Top-down Tree, (4) Bottom-up Tree, (5) Information map and (6) Action Map. All methods are represented graphically with many examples to help you determine which method is best suited to find the solution for complex problems.

Good resource for any consultant!

Mapping Inner Space: Learning and Teaching Visual Mapping - For those readers who still think 'mindmapping' is great stuff, wait till you get hold of this book! For beginners, this book is also a great help as it shows how to do simple iconic pictures. (Which is a great help for drawing dunces like me!)

I like Mind mapping, and this is a good approach because it is less structured and (I think) provides consultants with a good tool for facilitating and mapping discussions and innovation sessions.

Good book on the subject (possibly the best) And a really good book for basic mind mapping tools and techniques.

Beyond Words: A Guide to Drawing Out Ideas - This one is great! Within a few minutes I was doodling exactly like what was on the page. Again, for me any help to draw is a good thing. (I might even take an art class one day, who knows?) I have used the techniques in here many times over the past few years to take control of an issue in a room, and use the drawing to engage clients and colleagues while focusing everybody on the issues at hand.

I am also in the process of hard wiring some fo these tehcniques and some of those from Dan Roams book into my own training courses.

Great book, I recommend it strongly if you are (like me) prone to presenting at a whim and without software)

The whole picture of visual communication is far broader than what has recently emerged. Mind mapping, images and illustrations, sticky notes for problem solving, flip chart techniques and even visual representations within PowerPoint(R) - all powerful tools for getting the message across. But they are also very powerful tools for engaging people in a useful and entertaining dialog.