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Happy Scrum Master Booklist: Visual Thinking by Willemien Brand.

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my blog about my preference for old school handwritten notes but also plenty of people who said things along the lines of: 'but Nance, I'm really useless at drawing, so sketch noting, well.... I don't think it'll work for me'. Which never ceases to amaze me, to be honest. You learn to draw before you learn how to write, but it seems that as people get older they 'forget' how to do it. But it's the same as playing, really. As a kid, you never thought about it, you just went ahead and played but as an adult suddenly it's become 'difficult'. WEIRD! But I promise you: drawing (and playing) is just like riding a bike, once you've mastered the basics, you're able to do it. Obviously, you'll have to get back into the flow when you haven't done it for a while. That's something I've had to struggle with too.

To help you get started, I'd like to discuss a book in this blog that makes me happy every time I flip through its pages:

Visual Thinking by Willemien Brand.

Visual Thinking is the perfect book if you want to take up sketch noting. To start with, it gives you a good overview of the sketch noting basics. How to draw a figurine, for instance. It's filled with all these amazing drawings you can easily copy for yourself but it also provides you with some well-worded explanations on why sketch noting is so effective. It's not just a 'book meant for reading' but more importantly, it's a 'book meant for browsing' and I find myself going back to it every time I'm looking for inspiration or when I'm not sure how to go about drawing the image I'd like to use. Why reinvent the wheel, when you don't have to....;) It’s also full of practical information on how you can visualise abstract definitions (for instance 'vision' or 'strategy'). In the past, I've attended a workshop by Willemien Brand at a Scrum Event and I think she's a truly inspiring person.

The book not only gives you the bare basics of drawing and sketching but also provides you with a lot of tips on how to incorporate the images you've created in your work. When giving a talk about a complex subject you can use a drawing to quickly and easily explain the more complex aspects without forcing people to have to listen to a long (and often dull) monologue on the subject. Allowing you to breeze through your talk and entertain people instead of flooding them with words and information. This book will help you to prepare for your talk by giving you tips on what images to use, how to draw them and how you can use them to liven up your presentation. And, you'll find out soon enough if your drawing fails to hit the mark by the responses you get from your audience. Images are also a lot more neutral than words. Which makes people less afraid to give their opinion. You're 'only' discussing an image on the screen, after all.

Especially when you're in front of an international audience, images are a must. With images you can easily cut through the 'intercultural interference' and make sure that you're all discussing the same thing. Images, arrows and figurines are a great way to help you navigate the usual cultural communication roadblocks. This book is not only super handy when preparing a talk. It also contains techniques and examples you can use to better streamline your projects, to help liven up difficult meetings and to easily visualise problems. Brainstorm sessions become a lot more tangible and fun when you're using images.

I wouldn't even dream about giving a presentation without adding some made-by-me images!

I'm telling you: after reading this book, you'll be left wondering why you'd even bother to write another sentence. ;-)

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