Pictures of SQVIDs

Welcome to the fourth stop on The Back of the Napkin Virtual Book tour. Hopefully, you made the other stops at Jeff De Cagna’s Principled Innovation Blog, Peter Durand’s Center for Graphic Facilitation and Design Crush from Kelly Beall. Tomorrow marks the final stop at Pure Play with Keith Bohanna. You can find more information about the tour at Idea Sandbox.

Today I am talking to author Dan Roam about SQVIDs. And no, that’s not a typo (you’ll see why shortly).

BotN_book_shotThe beauty of the book is its smack-yourself-in-the-forehead simplicity to the concept. Where we normally would waste reams of paper developing reports and days creating massive slide presentations, we can now put ourselves on target through pure imagery. The Back of the Napkin shows us how to work smarter and produce better results. A beautiful combination.

OK, Dan, let’s jump right into it. Briefly, if you could, please explain the SQVID.

Think of the SQVID as a practical lesson in applied imagination. It’s a simple mnemonic that guides us through the “five focusing questions” of mental imaging. Here’s what I mean: the next time someone says “think outside the box” or “let’s brainstorm”, instead of sitting there wondering what the heck that means, run your idea through the five questions of the SQVID.

S) What’s a SIMPLE way to visually express my idea vs. what’s an ELABORATE way?

Q) What’s a good QUALITATIVE way to show my idea vs. what’s a good QUANTITATIVE way?

V) What’s a VISIONARY way to show my idea vs. what’s an EXECUTION view of my idea?

I) How could I best show my idea INDIVIDUALLY vs. how could I show it as a COMPARISON?

D) (Delta, which signifies CHANGE) What’s a good way to show how my idea would CHANGE things vs. how can I best show the STATUS QUO (the ways things are now)?

By sketching out our idea according to each of these questions, we force our minds to dig up all sorts of views of our idea, triggering both our Right Brain (synthetic / conceptual side) and Left Brain (analytic / verbal side) into joint action – something that does not happen if we simply created a verbal list.

Whether as an independent or team-based exercise, running our idea through the questions of the SQVID forces us to look at our problem from all sides and come up with many unexpected mental images.

How did you develop this concept?

For years, I had relied on an extended series of questions to guide me through imagining all sorts of variations of any starting idea. Whenever I was faced with a business or communications challenge, I’d ask myself, “should I show a simple or a complex drawing” or “should I show where we’re going or how we’re going to get there?”. Over time, I realized that I was always asking the same set of questions.

Finally one day, I was on the New York subway on my way to a meeting where I knew I was going to be asked what these questions were, and I was really afraid that I was going to forget one of them in the stress of the interview. So I pulled out a piece of notebook paper (I wish I could say it was a napkin, but I’d already thrown away my bagel) and started writing them all down, seeing if I could find some simple mnemonic device to help me remember them all.

With just minutes to go before my stop, I finally hit upon S.Q.V.I.D. It was a little squishy and a little weird, but I knew that would actually help me remember it. Sure enough, the interview went great, and the SQVID stuck.

How often do you use the SQVID? Give some examples.

I use the SQVID in every business meeting or brainstorming session that I attend. Whether I actually stand at the whiteboard and ask participants to help me come up with a sketch for each question or more subtly push teams in that direction, I *always* fall back on the SQVID to make sure we’ve really pushed our imaginations as far as we can. In fact, I use the SQVID as a checklist once we think we’re “done” to make sure that we didn’t miss any image possibilities.

I have many favorite examples. Earlier this year, eBay asked me to help an internal team sell an idea to the technology group. We used the SQVID as a way to best frame the idea so that they technical teams would “get it” right away without getting lost in the technical details. More recently, I helped a team at Microsoft develop a software demo using the SQVID as a guide towards the level of detail we needed to include and to storyboard the demo itself.

How many iterations of the same SQVID have you used? What was the reasoning behind that?

Although the number and variety of “focusing questions” I ask myself has varied over the years, once I hit upon the SQVID it never changed. The five questions really do cover pretty much any way we can think about an idea, do activate both hemispheres of the brain, and do force us to dig into the darkest corners of our mind’s eye. As a stand-alone, help-me-cause-I-gotta-really-think-this-problem-through-right-now tool, nothing beats the SQVID.

Who are most likely to benefit from using the SQVID?

Everyone benefits. Again, all the SQVID does is to help us focus our mind’s eye on a problem in a methodological, practical, and repeatable way – something we all benefit from.

Creative teams find the SQVID useful because it forces them to think through a problem more analytically and quantitatively than they normally would. Likewise, the SQVID helps buttoned down business types come up with more abstract and “what if” ideas than they normally would. When you put the two together, the SQVID is a marvelous way to get teams from either side of the aisle to work together to solve any problem.

Using the back of a napkin, sell the SQVID concept to a skeptical business executive who says, “Prove it.”

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  1. […] properly … the Back of the Napkin’s been on a whistle-stop: Principled Innovation LLC | The Paddlewheel | The Center for Graphic Facilitation | Design Crush | Pure […]

  2. […] been on a whistle-stop: Principled Innovation LLC The Paddlewheel The Center for Graphic … game controller – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe paddle wheel is usually mechanically […]

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