Unfolding the Napkin- The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures

I’ve been intrigued for a while now by Dan Roam’s series of books about visual problem solving. I purchased Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures, without realizing it is actually the workbook for his first book The Back of the Napkin. However, it doesn’t really matter as it works well as a standalone book.

The book is geared towards business people who want to improve their presentations by including pictures that encourage audience involvement. The techniques are simple enough that they can be used by anybody who want to be a better visual thinker. Unfolding the Napkin is full of fun doodles, exercises and real life examples of where pictures were used to solve a major problem in major corporations. The book is divided into 4 lessons (complete with lunch breaks). The four parts make up the steps of visual thinking: Looking, Seeing, Imagining and Showing. The most helpful section to me was the Imagining section which introduced the SQVID method of thinking. It stood for the different ways of imaging how to solve a problem (although I’m not entirely what the acronym stands for).

SQVID on opening a wine bottle

The book explains how modern day presentations all suck because they are often hundreds of pages of Power Point slides that mean nothing. It also delves into the psychology of how when something is computer generated and perfect, we tend not to question it. In contrast if we doodle an idea or a plan, there is imperfection and people will comment and give feedback. There is definitely truth in that idea, and hey, I like to doodle.

I recommend this book to anybody who makes presentations of any kind and wants to look beyond just Powerpoint. I’ve always been a visual learner and I think I may dive into some more of Dan Roam’s books. I’m especially interested in Blah Blah Blah which is geared more towards personal thinking than the board room. PS. I haven’t stopped on delivering you guys doodletastic posts. More to come soon.

Book marked places to take a lunch :)

The Grimms’ Fairy Tales Taught Me Nothing

The past couple of months before bed, I’ve been reading The Brothers Grimms’ fairy tales. I had never read the real stories as a child, and I am glad I never did because I haven’t taken away anything useful from the 210 stories. The majority of which were vastly repetitive. Some were just down right stupid. Here are some recurring themes:

  • The princess always marries the first tolerable person she meets. The kings and princes always must marry a princess.
  • Inanimate objects such as beans can run away and have conversations.
  • The majority of the time there is no lesson to be learnt.
  • Ugly people always lose.
  • The youngest brother is always the best.
  • It’s okay to gruesomely kill animals.
  • You can steal from people who are evil.
  • Parents frequently abandon their children due to poverty or to teach them life lessons.
  • Cutting off parts of your toes might win you a prince.

The Future of Music- A Book Written in 2005, Read in 2012

I won the Entertainment Marketing award when I graduated Metalworks Institute and it came with a $300 gift certificate to Music Books Plus. I’m slowly plowing through my books, but I recently finished The Future of Music- Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution by David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard.

I read the entire book, but it didn’t take me long for me past the prologue to ask “When the hell was this written?” It was written in 2005.

While the book had some interesting points, such as music should be as easily accessible as water, there were predictions that were hilarious. Napster with a legal streaming service that works? Sorry, it was dead since it was sued. In 2005, Facebook was only a year old and the iPhone wasn’t even released for another 2 years. It’s strange to see how much has changed in 7 years, or even in my lifetime. I lived through vinyl, cassettes, CD players, MD players, mp3 players and now that has all shifted on to one device.

While the book does mention how our entertainment hubs will combine into one, it rarely mentioned Apple. It’s a well written book for someone who isn’t as knowledgeable about the music (or even entertainment) industry, but for someone like me who’s been through schooling, it was a little redundant and stating the obvious.

While technology has changed a bit, there are things that remain somewhat similar. Media companies are still trying to fight the consumer for downloading media, which as stated can only have negative impact. In addition, the book stresses the revolution of streaming music, which last year at every digital music summit, still seemed like a big deal. However, as some artist’s have stated, it takes thousands of listens to make a couple of bucks.

Even though there are a lot of things in this book that are laughable. I really liked the idea of future music being as ubiquitous as water. We pay for water without thinking about it. It’s routine. We even pay for premium water (in bottles, Evian etc..), with the guarantee that it is better than what comes out of taps. iTunes and streaming services are closer to a way of music being so easily accessible but not everyone is ready to pay for it like we do for our water yet, nor the most simple way. Whatever lies in the “future” of music, isn’t going to be a singular solution.

For your entertainment purposes here’s a list of other things that didn’t exist in 2005:
– Twitter
– iPad (or any other useful tablet for that matter)
– Youtube was a baby
Hypem had only just started
– PS3
– Justin Bieber

The Rest is Noise: New Appreciation of 20th Century Music

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross is an interesting summary of 20th century (classical) music. I purchased this book in my first or second year of University but was too intimidated to read it. I’ll have to admit, it is written in very flourished language and sometimes I had to look up the definition of some words. If anything, this book has given me a greater vocabulary to become a better music writer. At almost 600 pages, it took me well over a month to read. I purposely read it slowly so that I could absorb and retain as much of it as possible.

The book begins with a mention of Richard Strauss’ Salome and ends with an epilogue that mentions how minimalist influences have spread to the likes of Bjork and Radiohead.

The vividly written narrative highlights the lives of 20th composers; from life to death and their take on each other’s music. They are just like us in the sense that they often don’t understand each other’s music.The book beautifully describes some of the most important works of each composer and the society’s reactions to them. It’s funny because you learn who was in with dictators like Hitler and learn what happened after their reign was over. It dances around everybody who’s helped shaped the 20th century from painters, writers to the events and wars that molded what we are today. In a book about music, I think I learned more about 20th century history than I have ever known.

And if the book wasn’t enough Alex Ross also runs http://www.therestisnoise.com/ which has more to do with 20th century music as well as listening samples.

You Majored in What?- Not Your Average Career Book

As a recent graduate, the process of finding the right career has been quite scary. I heard of You Majored In What? by Katherine Brooks through my best friend and instantly picked it up. It was a refreshing take on job search in a non-linear matter.

As somebody with a Bachelors of Music as well as a degree in Entertainment Business Management, I thought my path seemed pretty linear. However, this book taught me that there are other ways to think. They implement what is called the chaos theory, and how our experiences in life can bring us elsewhere. As a graduate of something non-traditional, I’m always hit in the face with the question, “So, what are you going to do with that major?” and any career aspirations I have are often ones that are really awkward to explain to people.

You Majored in What? offered great advice on creating my own path and ignore what other people think about where I’m headed. It was a motivating book that taught me how to re-frame experiences into learning opportunities, no matter what they are.

There are some great exercises to discover what your true passions are. I found out that besides music, mine were psychology, social media and visual arts. In addition, there was great advice to interviews, resume writing and crafting your own personal story.

The book gears towards destroying the linear career path way of thinking. For example, just because you majored in engineering, doesn’t mean you have to be an engineer. To anybody who thinks they are stuck in a rut job search wise or even if you want to change your career trajectory, this is a wonderful eye opening book to pick up.

I leave you with this quote:

The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different. – Peter Druker

Why The Hunger Games is Less Retarded Than Twilight

I never jumped on the Twilight bandwagon, maybe because it’s semi-embarrassing to be associated with it. Also, I was never really that into the cliche idea of vampires and werewolves. Even if The Hunger Games shares similarities to Japanese movie Battle Royale and Steven King’s Running Man there are more reasons to love this new novel-turned-movie franchise.

I didn’t have to force my boyfriend to go see it. Like I had mentioned, The Hunger Games is less embarrassing and I didn’t have a problem convincing my boyfriend to go see it. Although there is the love triangle involved, the idea of a “chick flick” is masked with the idea of kids killing each other off.

Katniss Everdeen is way cooler than Bella Swan. Katniss is pretty bad-ass, a rebel that started a revolution. She is well loved and doesn’t want to commit to either man. Bella’s just some “average girl” in which anybody can take her place (that was the point right?), but Katniss has heart, character and history. I don’t want to be in Katniss’ shoes, but I want to read about adventure. I enjoyed her fearlessness and her independence. The National Review once said that Bella gets what she wants eventually “by giving up her identity and throwing away nearly everything in life that matters” I don’t really care much for Bella’s story and the fact that she will end up marrying and having a vampire baby.

The Hunger Games mocks our obsession with reality television. Whether or not it was intentional, The Hunger Games mocks our own society. If we’ve gone to extremes of making such things as Teen Mom a hit, what’s in the future of reality television? Will we have our own version of the Hunger Games? I don’t think Twilight makes us think about society in any way, unless it’s maybe that boy down the road is a vampire.

I sort of want a Mockingjay pin. I usually don’t like movie paraphernalia, but if it’s a token of being a rebel. Something like Edward’s face on my wall would be much more embarrassing.

In 3 not-so-long books, Suzanne Collins created a complicated world and it’s movie marketing campaign ingeniously created a tour of it’s Capitol. It didn’t rely on hot men, (although Gale and Peetah’s portrayal is not bad), or overly CG’d girls. You can see every imperfection on Jenniffer Lawrence, but that didn’t matter. I loved the cliffhangers in the end of every chapter of Suzanne Collin’s books. They were intelligently thought out but the only thing that makes Twilight books look smart is the intimidating size of their hardcovers.

The Evolution of Useful Things

I love reading and I tend to read a lot of non-fiction among fiction. I also have a fascination with cognitive science, the human mind and why things happen. So naturally when I stumbled on Henry Petroski’s The Evolution of Useful Things it was quite intriguing.

The book dove into the fascinating world of how normal household items became the way they are today. He talked about such things as forks, pins, paper clips and zippers which we don’t normally think much about. There’s even parts on pop cans and the wrapper for your McDonald hamburgers.