Is Social Media the Modern Version of a Cocktail Napkin?

All great ideas start somewhere — it’s frankly shocking just how many were born on a cocktail napkin. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our cocktail napkin hall of fame.

You may notice that many of these great ideas created on cocktail napkins are several decades old. Which raises the question, is there a modern version of the cocktail napkin? If so, what is it?

Before we make that leap, let’s think about the essence of the cocktail napkin idea. Sketching out an idea on a cocktail napkin means that you must understand this idea, or business, or argument, well enough to communicate it in the most succinct way possible.

What modern communication vehicle requires you to be able to communicate clearly and concisely? Social media, and, most significantly, Twitter. Use of images and the text constraints that come with social platforms force you to communicate your point in such a succinct way that it demonstrates your depth of understanding for your idea in language easily understood by all audiences. (Intrigued? Check out our post on Communicating Less to Inspire More here.)

While social media shares some attributes with the cocktail napkin, there’s one critical difference. Social media is often missing interpersonal interaction and communication.

Think about why you would use a cocktail napkin to write down an idea — when you’re attempting to explain an idea to someone else.

Years ago, Oprah and Roger Ebert were on a date, and Oprah was struggling to decide between two media companies that wanted to syndicate her show. What did Ebert do to help her decide? He pulled out a napkin and a pen, “and made some simple calculations,” according to his blog post about this story. As she is discussing her options, he is sketching out a plan. As Ebert finished his cocktail napkin idea, he showed his plan to Oprah, who “studied it for 10 seconds,” according to Ebert. After those 10 seconds, because of the simple calculations on that napkin, Oprah made her decision. All it took was interpersonal interaction and a need to explain something with whatever material was available at the time, which, of course, was a cocktail napkin.

There is something to be said about the art of interpersonal communication and the great ideas that originate as a result. Social media can and should be used to leverage and spread your great idea, but if you’re looking to convince someone to embrace your point of view, there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting.

No matter where your great idea may start, it has to go somewhere. That’s where we come in. Let us help you take your cocktail napkin idea and act on it.