Book of the Month – The Back of the Napkin

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The introduction to “book of the month” series was too long so I gave it a dedicated blogpost earlier this week.

The Back of the Napkin

This book suggestion came to me through a former colleague at Veeam, Ben Milligan (Director Veeam Cust Support NA). On a flight home from Saint-Petersburg Russia we were discussing how we explain things to colleagues and friends. Both of us truly like to explain through drawing on paper, whiteboard, … whatever is available. 

Sidenote: I remember myself on a VMworld ‘testing’ the walls and doors of the brand new Veeam booth for whiteboard capabilities. That didn’t go very well 🙂

Back of the napkin1

The back of the napkin is a very good guide for people that explain things through drawing or at least understand the added value of doing so. Although you somehow know how to do that in the back of your mind, having it in a structured format in a book with dozens of practical tips will definitely increase your whiteboard skills … or conversations in a bar on the back of the napkin.

Let me give you one example. The writer of this book has looked at all problem types you would want to explain in a drawing and helps you choosing the type of drawing that helps in that process and then go deeper in the practicalities of those methods. So here it goes:

  • Who or What? > draw a ‘portrait’ of the object
  • Quantification? > draw a graph, pie chart, …
  • Where? > draw a map – by the way: an organisation chart or diagram are also maps!
  • When? > draw a timeline, process circle, Gantt charts, …
  • How? > draw a flowchart
These 5 small lines look like they are just the obvious until you realise all of them are full chapters with very deep explained examples of HOW to.


What’s you book tip for me?

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  1. So glad this book is getting the appreciation it deserves. I’ve gotten so much help from “Back of the Napkin” it’s unbelievable!

    I used to draw all the time in high school and got away from it due to I would put so much time and work into it. Now with these doodles, I can create a cohesive drawing that actually helps me solve my problems in no time!

    This is one of the only books I keep in my briefcase just so I can brush up on my skills…plus, it’s just fun to read!

  2. Not really. Finishing up “The Phoenix Project”, and next on my list is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” after getting a huge amount of recommendations from people. The title sounds tacky, but I’ve heard great things.

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