The many uses of Mindmapping

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Mindmapping is a two-stage technique, first mind dumping, then critical analysis. Mindmapping is useful in planning an essay, in business meetings and business analysis, or just when collecting thoughts on a theme. Apply mindmapping to problem-solving, in defining projects, a presentation or for gathering data for a new project.

Mind-dumping and Sorting

Need to get your thoughts together on a subject? Mindmap it. The process involved two stages. First ‘dump’ everything related to the central subject, as it comes, onto the page or into the software. No filtering or judgement, just right brain, creative, having ideas.

Left Brain Critical Sorting

The two go together. In software, this process is natural because you can rearrange whatever you ‘ dump’. On paper it’s more about standing back, colouring in, highlighting the important things. But the management process is about making connections and moving those new ideas into action.

Ayoa mindmaps are useful because they can be linked directly to actions.

Applications – planning an essay

You may need to clarify your thoughts on an area, whatever it may be, whatever the context. Perhaps you are writing a blog post, an essay, or identifying species of grass for a scientific study. You can make a list, but to get the whole story, allow your mind to ‘wander’. Fire up the different connections that it is so good at making and get them down quickly. You can go back later to fill them out.

A mindmap holds something magical over a list. You can work on several ‘fronts’ as you open up subjects, you will think of multiple avenues. The evolving mindmap structure is there to welcome all new ideas and will help you generate more.

Lateral Thinking and Scoping

It might be about planning an essay or a presentation, collecting together all the relevant thoughts. But to write, you need to prioritise things into sequential order in the second left brain, critical stage. Let your discerning left-brain help you rule out the ideas that are out-of-scope, too far from the central theme.

The above mindmap fraction was created with Ayoa

The lateral thought process might produce many connections, some of them are to put aside, others developed. So this two-stage process is efficient. You have generated a wide range of data, and then filtered it to the most relevant items to manage.

Mindmapping in Business Analysis

It is useful in business analysis to find all the items which affect a business area, a business system. It’s brainstorming and then structuring all the possibilities into a project. Sorting:

  • ideas into must have and nice-to-haves,
  • tasks into must-dos and should dos,
  • options into important and not, urgent or not urgent.

It can help an analyst quickly collect feedback on changes that users would like to see in a business area. And then go over it, sort, analyse, without dumbing down. Quickly captured ideas may initially be expressed poorly, it’s worth going into the detail to see what they represent.

Mindmapping in Problem-Solving

Problem-solving depends on the information collated relating to the problem. Mindmapping and UML can be used to look for connections.

The key to solving problems is defining the problem and collating the information relating to it.

Initially, try to identify all information without trying to determine too early what the solution might be or what sources are irrelevant. It is impossible to know what is essential before assessing all sources.

problem-solving

UML and mindmapping are useful because both allow simple associations between components of a problem.

Below is a model which recommends storing problems and potential solutions in a database. We recommend Evernote as a business memory which allows free-form expression of a problem. It also provides the easy creation of links to other sources of related information.

problem solving

Mindmapping in problem-solving

Mindmapping is most useful in problem-solving because it encourages focusing on a domain. A mindmap can thus help identify valuable sources of information or solutions by lateral, open thinking.

focus on a problem

Issues database

This is an example form from a legacy issues management database to set up as a template in Evernote.

  • Identifies a problem by its symptoms
  • Distinguishes cause from symptom
  • Encourages looking for solutions rather than focus exclusively on the problem
  • Invites you to search for useful external resources.
issue management data record

Business life is perhaps one long string of problems to solve – the essence of problem-solving is data collection. What is the problem, the observed phenomenon? What problem does it pose, and what are the consequences and the potential solutions?

UML use case diagram created with Enterprise Architect from Sparx Systems.

Finding the answers solves the problem. The way out lies in making an inventory of and connections between the less obvious things.

Mind mapping has great applications in problem-solving. You start with the problem, you focus your mind on it. You let it flow, openly discharging all that you know about the theme. And all the more efficient with several people, as ideas from one can stimulate others and obtain a balanced view.

Mindmapping in meetings

Mind mapping is very useful for taking meeting notes. Many people ‘traditionally’ take meeting notes sequentially, perhaps were taught this in school. It may seem logical to note down one item after another in the sequence presented. But you may have thoughts about the material which are unlikely to be sequential. If a meeting breaks out into a discussion, themes and solutions are even less likely to be sequential.

The above mindmap was created with Simplemind mindmapping software.

So a mindmap helps you latch on to nodes, as subjects come up, or as they return. You end up with a functional map of the topics discussed rather than just the sequence of the meeting.

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