News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Life Span of a Mind Map

I've mentioned this in the past. But I continue to be fascinated by people's different interpretations of the "life span" of a mind map. (And by life span, I mean: The amount of time you actively use a given map.)

Annuals versus Perennials
Thinking about maps this way reminds me of plants. There are some plants, like... I don't know... marigolds, that people plant just to add some color to the yard, then yank them up and chuck them in the trash once their bloom is gone. Other plants, like... shrubs... represent more of an investment and usually stay where they are for years.

For some people, a mind map is as ephemeral as a marigold. They create it just to get some ideas clear in their minds, and then file it away somewhere, probably to be never used again.

For others, a map might be something they work on over a period of time, maybe to plan and even manage some kind of project or campaign.

But when the project ends, the map is once again consigned to oblivion. (Savvy map practitioners will keep these maps in a special file to help them plan another similar campaign in the future.)

And then there are maps, like the Master Map I talked about yesterday, that become a part of daily life, constantly updated to reflect the activities of the moment.

Have a Better Idea?
I personally need to find a better way to manage all of my maps. I have a tendency to create a map, put a bunch of information in it, then forget where I put it or what I called it.

Then, when I need that info I put in the map, I have no idea where to find it. (That's happening right now on one of my projects and it's really aggravating. But it is, after all, user error.)

If you have a better solution, let me know... please! :o)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ode to the Master Mind Map

Like most of you, I wear a lot of hats. And it would be much harder to keep track of those hats--and which ones I needed to wear at what point in the day--and at what jaunty angle to put them (I'm tempted to continue and beat this metaphor to death, but I won't)... it would be much hard IF it weren't for my Master Map.

Perhaps like you, I have tried to find the best way to keep track of background information, contacts, history, and planning for different clients--AND what I have to do next... the unique tasks related to each client.

For a while, I tried to gather all of them up into a kind of master map. But I found that as time went on, I would just keep turning my master map into a map where I kept everything. This defeats the whole purpose of the master map because before long the map becomes so clogged with information that you lose the high-level view you wanted in the first place.

So now my master map is just a hub I can use to navigate to other maps where I do keep all of the above info, plus all my To Dos, highlighted in yellow.

This approach is helpful because it helps me keep track of how many clients I have, along with the other thing that are vital to my work: The meeting I have planned--and attended, the professional organizations I belong to, and the organizations I am actively involved in.

For me, this is the highest function of the master map. It doesn't tell me what to do today. It reminds me all the areas I'm active in, and then lets me quickly navigate to the information and immediate tasks associated with each area.

People have all kinds of tricks for managing business and personal information. MINDMAP is mine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mind Mapping Does TED

Last week, David Hill of Consolidated Edison (AKA ConEd, the company that powers Manhattan) was invited to mind map TEDx Manhattan>. I am not aware of any other TED event ever being mind mapped. I've been to some of these kinds of events where someone makes one of those hand drawn diagrams that arelater sped up and shown with the artists hand in the frame... but never before a mind map.

It's great that David was asked to do it. Among his many and assorted brilliant ideas, he created the Rebuilding Downtown Manhattan mind map after 9-1-1 that showed all of the organizations involved in the rebuild (see it on Jamie Nast's great Idea Mapping site.

It was an amazing map. So amazing, in fact, that it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. The museum noted that:

“We all felt that the work was of such important historical interest that we should include it in the MoMA Study Collection. The Mind Map is of particular interest to us given that we hold so much material pertaining to 9/11 and the rebuilding of lower Manhattan.”

Connecting mind mapping to TED is brilliant!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Predictive Information Mapping

I remember the moment well. I was with some colleagues at an analyst presentation, when an IDC analyst came over and started talking to us about mind mapping. He didn't say what I expected him to say--what we have been highlighting in all of our presentations.

Instead of talking about what a great information management tool mind mapping was, he enthused instead over how each mind map creates a model of how the user's mind works. He looked forward to the day when machines would be able to map out a topic FOR someone. Based on what the machine had learned about how the individual built maps over time, it could build a map that would make perfect sense to the user.

I thought about that as I watched a video yesterday on Beet.TV about how the New York Times is doing predictive modeling of how its stories spread through the Twitterscape. (See The Times has found or created technology that does for a group of people what mind mapping could be said to do for an individual.

If the Times's major investment in this technology in any indication (and it surely is), then it knows or has a very good idea of what kinds of people (or maybe even which individuals) read what kinds of stories--and now they know these people's other interests (what/where/how/when they eat, wear, think, travel to, etc.) so they can push out a trending story they know these people will probably read--along with an ad package designed to appeal to them.

I know news content has always been something to fill the space between ads, but the Times seems to be taking that to new heights.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Use the Excuse of Tax Time to Get Your Financial House in Order

I posted a while ago about using MINDMAP to make sense of your financial world... Your investments, bank accounts ,401ks...everything you own that has value.

Well, it all came home to roost for my family last year when my dear ol' dad passed away at the grand age of 89. He told us before he died that he had set aside some money for us five children... Not a lot, but something. He mentioned stock that he had accumulated over 39 years at the same company. All he said was that the stock had done pretty well. (He told us what the stock was. I just don't want to divulge that.)

But it has taken our attorney months and months to figure out dad's entire financial picture. This has probably cost us a small fortune in extra legal expenses, and it has delayed the whole process of distributing his wealth.

None of us kids are mad about any of this. We were very surprised he had been able to put anything at all aside. And we all just kind of laugh--how like dad this was to be a little loosely goosed on the details.

But it is/was all so unnecessary. Now that tax time approaches, now that you have to review where all your wealth is, open up MINDMAP and just jot down all the different places you have money. You'll feel more comfortable knowing that, god forbid you were to pass on tomorrow, your affairs would be in order.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marketing Planning & MINDMAP

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Larrinaga, a really good marketer from Boise who, sadly, has moved to Montana. Not only is she good at what she does (especially in terms of helping companies do social media using advanced visual aesthetics), but she devotes a lot of time and energy to staying current with and embracing new technology.

Before I get into Amanda's comments on how she uses MINDMAP, here's her map (made for a photographer here in Boise):

If You Don't Think Like Other People, Rejoice...But Find a Common Language
Amanda talks about the struggle some creative people have of taking what's in their heads and making it understandable to others.

“When I’m planning a project—whether it’s for my own business or for a client—there are always lots of moving pieces and parts, I need to communicate a lot of detail. But I have to do it in a way that won’t overwhelm people.”

Part of the reason it doesn't overwhelm people, she says, is that you can control what the staff member or client sees:

“It’s so easy for people to get overwhelmed with information. MINDMAP allows you to show it to them one piece at a time—moving on only when you’re sure they understand the piece before them.”

Clients Got Attention Deficit Disorder?
And I liked her description of how MINDMAP can help you manage clients--many of whom seem to have ADD when it comes to following along with a presentation:

“Sometimes we’ll be talking about one aspect of a marketing plan when the client suddenly starts to fixate on something else. The map structure lets me jump instantly to that part of the plan they want to discuss. Sometimes they just want to make sure we’ve dealt with something that has just popped into their heads."

"I could assure them with words that we’re going to talk about, say, pamphlets. But it’s much more assuring if I can open up the part of the map that talks about brochures and let them see for themselves.”

And she says that when she does jump to another part, it’s very easy for her to change content on the fly to reflect changes in she and/or the client’s thinking.

Tired of Pulling Teeth? that I use mind maps, I never have to push for questions. I get them right away.

One thing she mentioned really struck home for me because I've seen it so many times:

“Even if I’m really probing for questions and trying to really create a conversation, it can just be really frustrating. And as a business owner, it can be a little stressful when the client seems to have nothing to say—because I know they’re usually stewing about something. But now that I use mind maps, I never have to push for questions. I get them right away.”

I remember interviewing someone at Hewlett Packard who told me how, when she used mind mapping with people from another country who were not native English speakers, the rates of participation were always high.

Words of Wisdom from a Self-Confessed TechnoGeek
But probably the coolest thing Amanda said comes from the fact that one of the things she's passionate about is helping her clients find tools that are easy to learn and help them do what they do.

“A big part of my business is making recommendations around implementing different technologies or processes. I pay attention to user friendliness and how intuitive something is. I’ve found that while there is always a range of people’s skill sets, ConceptDraw MINDMAP is one tool that I always recommend, no matter someone’s background.”

Thanks, Amanda!