9 people in a conference room, reviewing requirements. There’s debate, points made, counterpoints made. Slowly, with great effort, ideas develop and flit around each other, desperately seeking to converge. Homer is trying to track, trying to keep up. Marge is selling hard, sharing the urgency of her vision. Bart is doing his best to update the document to reflect what clarity he can glean from the discussion. Others disengage, waiting for a topic that concerns them more directly. Reading the document a few days later, none of it makes sense. Sound familiar?

Next time you are in a meeting like that, try this. Ask, “What would that look like?” Hand the speaker a pen and a piece of paper. If they won’t draw it out, try drawing it yourself, maybe on the whiteboard.

The goal is to move the conversation from in the air onto paper, to move from verbal or text based communication to visual communication. Sketches are orders of magnitude more effective at communicating ideas, both in the moment and later, after the conversation has long faded away.

Think you can’t draw? Dan Roam says, “Think again,” in his handy guide to sketching for non-sketchers called, The Back of the Napkin.

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