Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Blah Blah Blah by Dan Roam

One of my colleagues recommended this to me because I’m more of a words person and she thought this might help me become more balanced in my thinking. Blah Blah Blah is basically a book on how to balance writing with visuals for better communication.

So disclaimer: I’m not a visual person. I like taking photos but I express myself much better in words than pictures. Even when I read books about mind maps and get really excited about them, they never really work for me. So I was a little wary of the book, despite its claims that it’s for everyone.

The basis of this book is the idea that words aren’t enough - we’ll need pictures to fully understand an issue. The land of Blah Blah Blah is a land where words are boring, foggy, or even misleading. And by checking things out against the Blah-blahmeter, we can check use ‘vivid’ to clarify things, make the message even more appealing, explore ideas, or debunk fake news.

Now what is vivid? Vivid stands for VIsual + Verbal InterDependent thinking. Basically using words to illustrate words. The idea is that by using both halves of the brain, we can see connections and communicate more clearly than we can without only words or with only images. And the way to use vivid is to use something called the vivid grammar graph:

In the vivid grammar graph, people are represented by portraits, numbers by charts, positions by maps, tense by timelines, interactions by flowcharts and reasons by multivariable plots. The third section, and the majority, of the book is on how to use vivid to improve your ideas.

The book was very nicely written and illustrated. It’s easy to understand and representing the verbal mind with a fox and the visual mind with a hummingbird was a very cute touch.

The book’s summary of The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson’s did convince me that visuals can help in understanding. But is it a method suitable for me? I have no idea. I’ve tried to use it as I read it, but I didn’t really see it expanding the way I think.

That said, I can see vivid as a useful tool for summarising and communicating. While I like words, I know that not everyone does and a picture can be a very effective way of communicating. I’ll definitely be keeping vivid checklist in the back of my mind next time I have to present something.

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