Episode #1258 Dan Roam: Why Drawing Is Your Secret Weapon

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Moe Abdou is joined by the pioneer of business visual thinking, Dan Roam to further explore why drawing is the secret weapon to effective sales, leadership, and modern business building.


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Dan Roam

Business Visualization Consultant View Full Profile

Whoever Draws The Best Picture Wins

Vision is predictable - the moment you see a picture, your visual mind triggers a series of explanations that help you make sense of anything you see.

Drawing isn’t an artistic process, drawing is a thinking process.  If you can’t picture it, you can’t understand it.

No matter your business, these four tasks keep you driving forward:  You must lead, you must sell, you must innovate, and you must train.  Only pictures will help clarify & streamline all four tasks.

These six pictures will illustrate and explain almost every business idea you want to explore:

  1. Combine squares, circles, and triangles to show simple objects and people.

  2. Using stacked rectangles or slicing up a circle will help you draw a chart.

  3. You can create a map by crossing two arrows and placing shapes in the appropriate quadrants.

  4. Lining up big, thick arrows in a row will help you create a timeline.

  5. By sorting shapes into order and linking them with arrows, you will create flowcharts.

  6. Combining any number of your simple shapes will help you create equations.  

The right order for Thinking is the right order for Drawing - If you want to understand or explain something, be sure to include the original Five W’s:  Who, What, When, Where, Why, plus ‘how much’.  

People are at the heart of everything - If you look deeply into most problems, you will find people.  But if you look deeply into people, you will find your solution.

When you want to get people involved in your idea, the first thing you should show them is who is involved.  If you want to engage their mind, show them people.  If you want to engage their heart, show them themselves.

As a leader, you’re on a quest.  You are taking your team to a specific goal; and thus, your most important responsibility becomes to describe that destination with precision.  Remember what Aristotle taught us - For a story to capture someone’s interest, it must have a hero, the hero must have a conflict, and that conflict must be a singular.  

Our brains don’t understand how to look at something new, so the real magic when presenting a new idea is to couch it in the visual language of things that we’re already familiar with; and contrast the before and after.  

David Ogilvy on Selling | If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.

The best sales person doesn’t have to convince his prospect of anything - she simply shows them a world in which things are better than they are now.  

The magic in any visual selling situation begins when you hand over the pen - It involves you drawing 75 percent of your chart, map, timeline, or vision, then handing over the pen and helping your prospect draw the remaining 25 percent.  At that point, the drawing is no longer yours, it’s your prospect’s.  

The best definition of Innovation comes in the shape of a circle.  On the right side, the circle curves into an arrow called “pattern breaking.”  On the left side, the arrow circles back around as “pattern optimizing.”  

To become a great visual innovator, use these five innovation prompts to stimulate your thinking:

  1. Flip your current idea backwards

  2. Turn your current idea upside down

  3. Oppose your current idea

  4. Put your current idea in a box

  5. Reduce the number of pieces


To be an effective leader, you have to be an effective teacher; and to be an effective teacher, you have to be an effective storyteller.  These six pictures in sequence will help you develop a compelling visual narrative:

  1. Who and what are involved - Open every teaching story with a visual summary of the people & issues involved.

  2. How many are involved - Next, show a quantitative measure the people/things involved.  

  3. Where the pieced are located - Use a map to illustrate the relative positions of these people/things.

  4. When things occur - Show a timeline that demonstrates the sequence of those people/things interacting and steps to bring them into alignment.

  5. How things impact each other - Use a flowchart that adds cause-and-effect influences superimposed on your previous pictures & show how you plan to achieve your proposed change.

  6. Why this matters - End with a visual equation summarizing the key learnings, takeaways, and actions from your presentation.

Whoever draws the best picture wins!

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