Book Review: Blah, Blah, Blah

The Book is “Blah, Blah, Blah: What to do when words fail” by Dan Roam.

I love communication and hate when communication is bad. Meaning that this might not be an unbiased review. I was very disappointed in this book. And that disappointment started from about a third of the way into it.

The author promised to show the reader how to identify when they are being blathered at and then further how to use certain tools to make sure that they do not spread the blathering by using a visual way of thinking and then communicating that thinking. This was a great beginning. Anyone, anyone at all, who has sat through a power point presentation while their butt goes numb or tries to listen to a speech and finds themself hopelessly lost, would welcome this with open arms.

However, for a book that decries blather, it surely used a vast amount of words. That leads me to two hypotheses. First, it could be that the author has fallen afoul of the very problem he seeks to fix or, second, it could be that the author’s new visual thinking needs a lot of words to explain it.

In terms of readability and usefulness, the first third of the book is very good. It breaks down the types of wordiness that we run across, shows them to be what they are (intentionally misleading, too full of jargon, trying to cover too many audiences, etc) and categorises them. Excellent way of defining the problem.

The next two thirds of the book start to get so complex that no amount of cute little stick figures (which were somewhat entertaining) could make it easier to swallow. The principles that drive Mr. Roam’s technique are completely non-objectionable – clearer communication, better use of the whole of our brain, looking at things holistically – and I was thoroughly in agreement with why he thought improved communication was needed. In the end, his visual technique is probably better suited to a live seminar with the teacher drawing out the ideas rather than trying to write about it.



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