Roam fosters creativity

By Megan Herrera

Assistant News Editor

Any problem can be solved through the use of drawing and pictures, a world-renowned author said on Tuesday.

Students, staff and the Lewisburg community filled the seats of the Leanne Freas Trout Auditorium to hear Dan Roam speak about his bestselling book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.”

Roam’s book was released in December 2009 and has won various awards, including Business Week and Fast Company’s best innovation book of the year, along with Amazon’s fifth best-selling business book. Roam’s book is now sold over the world in 25  languages. Leaders at eBay, Microsoft Office, Wal-Mart, Boeing, the U.S. Navy, the US Senate and more have already incorporated his ideas into their work.

The bestseller focuses on the idea of using simple pictures to solve the complex problems people face in their everyday lives. Roam said that in a person’s life, nothing is perfect. “Whatever our problems might be, I believe they can be solved by pictures,” he said.

The pictures he discussed are simple, consisting of a square, an arrow, a circle and various stick figures. According to Roam, everyone can and should use this method of solving problems through effortless drawings .

While many people have heard that humans only use 10 percent of their brain, Roam said that three fourths of a human’s sensory neurons in the brain are focused on vision. Even so, we use words to explain our solutions and solve them, instead of pictures.

“Whoever best describes the problem is the one most likely to solve it,” Roam said.

Who says a sketch on a napkin doesn’t have power? To Roam, a sketch has an enormous amount of power. Looking back at our presidents, he showed examples of George Washington preparing a map of his Mount Vernon estate, John F. Kennedy outlining a solution during the Cuban missile crisis and Ronald Reagan drawing random doodles during a cabinet meeting. Now, President Barack Obama, a great public speaker draws as well, and yet, he has never drawn out his vision. Roam asks, “Why not?”

The problem Roam sees within government is not the fact that people disagree with it, but rather, they don’t understand it. For example, the 1,447-page health care reform plan is full of words that make absolutely no sense to the human mind. Roam and a colleague decided to draw the plan in pictures.

These drawings became “The World’s Best Presentation of 2009,” and all of its content contained the simple drawings he advocates such as stick figures and arrows. After posting this online, the Huffington Post posted the same presentation on their website, FOX gave him seven minutes during prime time to digest on the power point and finally, the White House’s Office of Communications called on him to discuss his method. Two weeks ago, the White House published the White House White Board online that breaks down complicated problems into understandable terms.

Roam showed the audience exactly what he feels is the best way to solve any problem. He handed out napkins to every person and walked them through the process.

Before the speech, drawings by University students were shown as the crowd piled in. Roam explained that the students were challenged to draw a problem and create a solution using only simple drawings. Ryan Burg ’11 won an iPad for his depiction of his problem: a mouse in his room.

Carla Firetto, lecturer in educational psychology,  gave her students the option of attending this lecture. She said the chapter they are covering deals with the idea of solving problems visually so she saw this speaker would be the perfect opportunity for her students to see how successful one could be.

“He did a great job, I loved his examples and the student’s drawings that were presented at the beginning of the speech,” Firetto said.

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