This post is a tribute for one of the most important tools for exploring ideas: Napkins.
Ideas sometimes emerge during family or friend reunions at restaurants, bars or even while you are alone just taking a coffee and napkins are the ideal companions.

The author Dan Roam has even written two books whose titles allude to napkin's role in idea generation and transmission: "The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures" and "Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures". I haven't read them, but if someone has give me your opinion.

My theory is (besides just having a napkin available right there while having lunch) that there is something about our perception of "unimportance" and "wastefulness" of a napkin that allows us to feel free to sketch and explore unstop without inhibitions. It is definitely different than the feeling of using a white sheet of paper which can impose some kind of structure and value. Napkins fold and unfold easily with no definite format; they even tear as paradigms also should; you can use different napkins or sections for different ideas; what is commonly used to clean your mouth and hands can also clear you head; and you can save them or throw them away without remorse (use eco-friendly napkins by the way).

Napkins also invite others to collaborate. I've had idea sessions with friends who ask for my opinion on some new product or business and when writing my ideas while explaining, they feel free to draw, write on top or add new things on my napkin, something I think they wouldn't do if I had a neat white sheet presentation with well organized ideas. It is as if the napkin and the informality of the session "allows" this type of interaction freedom. It also makes them feel integrated to the very beginning of the idea generation process, which is good in combating the Not-invented-here syndrome, specially if you are giving new ideas to an entrepreneur who already conceived something of his own in his mind. Personally, I also feel it gives the impression you have good top of the mind ideas that you can transmit anywhere with whatever available resources you have.

Some group creative-sessions and techniques involve the use of color Post-its to transmit and organize new ideas which preserve these feelings of informality and versatility. Still, napkins in a restaurant work better for an intimate planning rather than a group session. I've had friends telling me afterwards: "Can I keep the napkin?" which I find really funny as the once disposable napkin is now something of great value to treasure.

No comments:

Post a Comment