By: Jamie MacDonald
With the increase of, and dramatic improvement in, mind mapping software and its emergence as a value-adding toolkit conveniently available for use on our computers, laptops, tablets, etc. signifies that mind-mapping can be used within an every-day working environment. Jamie MacDonald takes a closer look at six uses for mind mapping in business situations that most of us engage in on a frequent basis.
There can be little doubt that most of us strive to carry out our job roles in the most productive ways possible. Our responsibility to our customers, to our organisation, to our colleagues and even ourselves, drives the need to ensure we optimise our time and efforts in all aspects. Many books and other material have been published on the subject; we’ve been on the courses, we’ve “worn the t-shirts”; we’ve possibly heard it all before; and there are a whole plethora of tools, techniques, methodologies available to us on efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.
Mind mapping was seen as a specialist methodology and not really in the mainstream of productivity-enhancing techniques.
In the past, not many of these resources pointed to mind mapping as an aid to personal productivity. To some degree mind mapping was seen as somewhat of a specialist methodology and not really in the mainstream of productivity-enhancing techniques.
This misconception has in recent times been very much addressed and re-aligned – more so with the increase of, and dramatic improvement in, mind mapping software and its emergence as a value-adding toolkit conveniently available for use on our computers, laptops, tablets, etc.
There is no doubt that adoption of mind mapping software within an every-day working environment adds a unique dimension. Such use underpins all of our key processes and approaches for planning and delivering our tasks, activities and deliverables. The real value and undoubted productivity-enhancing values sits right at the core of these activities – let’s look at a selection of 6 uses for mind mapping in business situations that most of us engage in on a frequent basis.
Mapping out tasks, priorities and deadlines provides the ideal format to capture, sort and categorise your own or your team’s workload. The mapping exercise allows you to visualise everything and arrive at decisions on workload levels, importance, priorities and what needs to be delegated.
Additional functionality enables categorisation, allocation of resources and timescales, filtering and other mechanisms for tracking and reporting.
We all subscribe to the adage that “failing to plan is planning to fail”. The use of mind mapping software to organise objectives, tasks and general workload really does help you to plan, organise and work smarter to be that bit more thorough, efficient and effective.
2. Thinking skills
In practically everything we do, we almost subconsciously take our ideas and knowledge through an information journey process – capture, understand, analyse and decide. We all embark on these information journeys continually in most of our business activities. We don’t always process ideas, creativity, knowledge and experience in the most effective or efficient ways, the result of which is misunderstandings, misconceptions, missed opportunities and missed deadlines (to name but a few).
Too many times we miss things; we don’t utilise our creativity as much as we should; we don’t have the right tools and techniques for thinking things through.
Too many times we miss things; we don’t utilise our creativity as much as we should; we’re not thorough enough; we don’t have the right tools and techniques for thinking things through.
Mind mapping software is one of the best enablers for visualising data and facts. We can take any problem or opportunity and run it through any technique that involves drilling into the detail of who, what, where, why, when and how? Mapping is an excellent way of brainstorming, idea generation and generally capturing knowledge, experience and creativity.
Everything we do involves thinking. Most situations require in-depth and thorough thinking. I can’t think of a better way to improve on the shortcomings of traditional methods such as whiteboards, flipcharts and post-its to capture, sort and prioritise my thinking, saving time and effort and providing clarity and focus through the highly visual, engaging and intuitive interface.
3. Effective meetings
Meetings are usually unsuccessful or ineffective because of poor planning, inadequate agenda, lack of focus during discussions, poor timekeeping to fully explore items, lack of proper recording, no proper focus on required actions, post-meeting actions and requirements not implemented on time or at all.
Mind mapping software ensures meeting requirements and content are thoroughly thought through and focussed.
The map then acts as a highly visual and engaging format for conducting the meeting, as well as heightening engagement and collaboration. Mapping provides a structure and focus as well as the time-saving and efficiency of recording inputs and outcomes live.
The resultant map is a clear and accurate recording of the meeting which can then be converted into a full meeting report through instant export into MS Word.
Further added value is the ability to allocate resources and timescales to any required actions and tasks. No more ineffective, boring, unfocussed meetings and more sense of involvement, collaboration and action-centred approach!
4. Task management
Modern mind mapping software provides us with the ability to map out a clear visualisation of tasks and actions that need to be done – from mapping each action, through to allocating resources to each task and onto monitoring the timely completion of these tasks.
Mapping, particularly live in a group situation, really does help with “joined up thinking” and clarity on what needs to done, by whom, and by when, resulting in communication and buy-in to the whole picture as well as appreciation of each individual component part.
The use of mind mapping software allows us to take task management to a whole new level of visibility, monitoring and meeting priorities and deadlines. The functionality of filtering on various task ownership and progress status allows us to track and manage tasks on a proactive basis. The ability to export task details and properties to MS Outlook and ongoing synchronicity helps ensure tasks are kept in view and increases the chances of tasks being attended to and completed on time.
5. Information overload
More often than not we are required to research or examine and evaluate lengthy or complex pieces of information. It is that sense of being faced with a mass of information to interpret it and make sense of it all that can sometimes be a daunting prospect.
We can spend a lot of unnecessary valuable time and effort pouring over information in our efforts to sort, organise and understand what it all means. Another challenge we face in those situations is separating out the key data or facts and the need to visualise them in a way that we can gain better understanding, easily recognise themes and patterns and be able to generally “separate the wood from the trees”, in order to gain better clarity on the key facts. We also invariably need to be able to present the information in order to share and communicate it effectively.
Mind mapping software saves us time and a whole lot of effort in the way we can capture key words and phrases and quickly de-clutter chunks of information. The visual aspect appeals to the way we naturally “chunk” information to reduce complexity and gain better insights into what it all means.
The fact that we can group, move, sort, colour-code, categorise and/or filter on mapped information gives us various options of working with and interpreting information quickly, effortlessly and in a less labour-intensive way than some traditional methods.
6. Project management
The area of Project Management covers a wide and varied spread of project types and sizes – from relatively small projects covering short timescales, through to complex multi-faceted projects involving many people and covering months, sometimes years of work. The size, type and nature of any project will dictate the amount of time, resources, methodologies and processes.
Our experience and research indicates that, regardless of size and type, many projects fail due to poor or inadequate planning. This is the pre-scheduling stage, the crucial up-front capture of the project requirements and the project work breakdown structure (WBS) – the stage that everything else hinges on, where if important aspects are missed; project success is potentially placed under immediate risk.
The use of mind mapping software to brainstorm, capture and structure the all-important up-front project WBS enables planning to be better focussed and effective. This highly visual way of capturing project data is engaging and more naturally suited to this process than traditional static, linear methods such as schedules and spreadsheets.
The added advantage of being able to quickly and immediately convert your mapped WBS into a project schedule (e.g. externally to MS Project or using an integral Gantt view) brings real value in that the software continues as the one-stop repository for ongoing scheduling, monitoring and reporting. The comprehensive filtering and reporting mechanisms within the Gantt view enables pro-active review of any aspect of task and overall project progress and status. All through this process, momentum, clarity, focus and visibility are heightened and there is no doubt that there is increased efficiency throughout.
By Jamie MacDonald
About the author
Jamie MacDonald is Head of Client Development at MindGenius, developers of the leading business mind mapping software MindGenius. He is a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach with over 20 years’ experience in training, organisational development, HRM and performance improvement. Jamie specialises in the application of MindGenius business mind mapping software as a catalyst for enhanced personal, team and organisational performance and productivity.