>"Visual Thinking" and Enterprise Architecture

>A must read…The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam presents a topic near and dear to me: the power of Visual Thinking.

Visual thinking—”taking advantage of our innate ability to see–both with our eye and with our mind’s eye–in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way that they simply get.”

In visual thinking (similar to me to “mind mapping”), we solve problems with the power of pictures. The ability to effectively visualize enables us to see difficult problems and “nearly invisible solutions.”

What kinds of problems can be solved with pictures?

“The answer is almost all of them. Pictures can represent complex concepts and summarize vast sets of information in ways that are easy for us to see and understand.”

How do we do this?

Look—“collect and screen” information (In user-centric enterprise architecture, we call this capture)
See—“select and clump” (catalogue the architecture information)
Imagine–see what isn’t there (analyze the baseline, target, and transition plan)
Show–make it all clear (serve up the information in useful and usable ways i.e. make it user-centric)

Visual thinking provides us a way to clarify vague ideas, synthesize and analyze information, communicate and collaborate with others, and tackle difficult problems.

Dan’s approach is particularly interesting to me as I have also been developing and implementing a visualization-based approach to problem solving–User-Centric Enterprise Architecture.

In fact, my approach began as a response to the usual way of doing business, which was to produce fairly lengthy and convoluted technical documents or “artifacts” to solve pressing problems, and then to find that nobody read them.

While enterprise architecture is not a “back of the napkin” exercise, Dam Roam’s approach of visual thinking is compelling and consistent with how we can implement a more User-centric Enterprise Architecture.

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