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

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Ultimate Parents Christmas Map

Yep, this is pretty much the only map you'll need for your Christmas shopping. (And let's face it, lots of us are not finishing up their shopping but just starting out.)

You can add branches to capture such things as how he or she was bad, maybe how bad they were on a scale of 1-10, and what kind of present might be suitable (along, of course, with links to the appropriate website, whether that be or

You can make a master map, and attach your annual maps so that you can track behavior over time.

Or, you could just forget the whole thing, remember that Christmas is for kids, get something that shows how much you love them, wrap it up nicely, and put it under the tree! :o)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How much do you pay for team communication? Look at Skype and ConceptDraw MINDMAP as low-cost highly-effective tools

With growing demand for support of virtual teams, the presence of ubiquitools with omnifunctions on platforms for everything from a phone to a computer has exploded in the past decade. Consultancies, small businesses and virtual teams have their pick from a wide range of options to assist in the management of remote staffers.

One low-cost service that has seen increased use since its inception to improve communication is Skype®. With over “250 million active users each month [and] over 115 billion call-minutes logged in quarter 2 (of 2012), alone,” Mark Gillet, Skype’s Chief Development and Operations Officer Skype is a clear leader in cost-effective communications. Now, CS Odessa has capitalized on that popularity and released a new feature for ConceptDraw® MINDMAP that instantly shares and opens presentation documents for each attendee before the presentation begins. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to communication tool-sets, many developers miss the mark when it comes to cross platform applications. Often, the practical solution is a piecemeal of software, email, and phone services that can result in an adequate level of communication; adequate, but not ideal. If some users are not using the preferred platform, a meeting can get congested with dissemination of information, as users can’t all read the same documents.

Since both ConceptDraw MINDMAP and Skype are Windows and Mac compatible, all users have the freedom to access and edit documents mind map documents on their own system while a presentation is underway. Furthermore, even if a mind map was created using other ConceptDraw products, such as ConceptDraw Project, the users can still view the entire document using just ConceptDraw MINDMAP and Skype.

One of the best features of ConceptDraw MINDMAP its cost-effectiveness. For $199 per license, you get a powerful mind-mapping and presentation tool. Using MINDMAP with Skype Presentation, MINDMAP delivers empowering interoperability features that can support meetings, briefings, and brainstorming sessions from across the world with heretofore unseen accessibility, ease-of-use, and power. Combined with Skype’s low or no-cost, Skype Presentation Solution for ConceptDraw MINDMAP gives users a high-powered efficiency tool raises project success-rates dramatically.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Attention Marketing Professionals: Get Ready Now for 2013

I blog about all kinds of things. But lately, after working with a number of marketing companies, I'm going to try to put a little more focus on using MINDMAP for market campaign planning.

I've touched on this before. But mind mapping is such an exemplary way to plan that, with the New Year fast approaching, I hope to convince at least some of you that a modest investment in ConceptDraw MINDMAP will transform the way you plan your campaigns.

Mapping enables you to visually see your entire marketing or PR campaign on one screen. This is so helpful to strategic thinking. Try it once, and you will wonder how you ever did it before with spreadsheets, lists, or project management software. And with mind maps you see the big picture--and still have immediate access to all the nitty gritty details upon which success hangs.

So if you're in marketing, public relations, or communications, stay tuned to this blog for the next couple of weeks to learn about some interesting ways to work with your clients to get 2013 off on the right foot!

Make Holiday Gifts Decisions Wisely

More on living a retro life
My wife and I decided to buy our daughter a new camera this year. Originally, it was because she's going to take a photography class at school. I started looking at all kinds of digital SLRs, was overcome by the selection, and called the photography teacher to see what kind of camera she recommended.

"Well, it just needs to be a film camera," she said. I did a doubletake. A film camera? Why?! "Because I'm going to be teaching the class some darkroom techniques." In fact, she said, the entire first semester will be spent learing about cameras and darkrooms. The kids won't shoot any pictures at all.

A short rant about dank darkrooms
I think it's great to spend time learning about the camera itself. But it seemed/seems odd to me that people are still using darkrooms. I didn't even know companies made film anymore. I can appreciate that there is nothing like actual film for getting the best image (Ansel Adams et al). But these are young kids--middle schoolers. It seems to me like the appropriate thing to teach at this age is how to compose a picture, not how to develop film. And to make them wait an entire semester to shoot one frame?

But I'm not the teacher, am I? Okay. No problem. I think I have an old Nikon around she can use for the class. But I know my daughter. She loves to snap away. And there's no way we can afford to do that with actual film.

To the hunt
So once again, I started researching cameras, but this time for a camera our daughter could use until she mastered her darkroom techniques. I did some quick searching around and came up with three candidates (Click on image to enlarge it):

You can see that little paperclip icon at the upper right corner of each branch. That means there's a hyperlink attached. When I click on the link, it takes me right to the page that features that particular camera.

When I open up the next level of branches, I can see some of the detailed info I've collected on this camera: Its name an product cousins, how it's powered, its zoom, whether you can override auto and get manual control, how big the censor is, what kind of preset modes there are and, last but not least, a collection of product reviews.

Details, details...
As I keep drilling down, more information becomes available to me. I really like being able to see a photo of what I'm thinking about buying. Yes, it's good to make decisions based on what's under the cover. But come on, you want it to look nice too, right? And then there is a list (again, with hot links to the actual sites) of some product reviews.

Comparing apples to apples
The hardest thing for me when trying to make an intelligent buying decision is keeping track of the main variables I want to track: Which camera(s) needs special batteries? How long is each zoom? What is the size of the sensor? What does it cost? Are there any rebates?

MINDMAP is a great way to keep track of these variables. By capturing each individual feature on its own branch, I can easily drag and drop branches to quickly compare each of these features side by side.

Make your Christmas a little calmer this year
Once I have a good sense of what I want to buy, I print out the map and take it with me to a local store--in this case, a local photo store. Having this information with me makes it much easier to ask the right questions, and to make sure the salesperson isn't blowing smoke up my... wallet.

Think Global. Buy Local.
I like to do research the internet, then buy locally--giving the local vendor a chance to match or beat online prices. But if they can't, I usually go with them anyway unless the price is just crazy high. I paid $30 for a 3-year, no-questions-asked warranty on my daughter's camera. If it breaks, I drive right up the street, drop the camera off at this same store, and it goes to the front of the repair line.

Supporting local businesses means that you help them stay local so they'll be around if and when you have a question, need a repair, or are ready to upgrade. The difference between online prices and local retail prices can evaporate when you consider all of the benefits of having stores in your immediate area.

Alas, you can't buy ConceptDraw MINDMAP at a local store, so we're the exception to that rule. But we like to think that we treat each customer as if he or she were our neighbor. So drop on by our website and see what you think!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Create a Content-Rich Blueprint of a Website

What decade is this anyway?
For all the years I've been involved in mind mapping, I've never heard very much talk about using maps as part of the web design process. I've never understood that. Having designed more than a few websites myself (and I mean "design" in the sense of my role in the process, which is usually "information design"), I can tell you that mind mapping makes web design insanely easier.

By their very nature, mind maps immediately capture the sense of layers that is the backbone of every web site. You have a home page with its own content. And then the home page links out to layers and layers of other pages. This layering a very tough concept to convey with the kinds of business tools most clients use.

Creating a visual picture of something visual: What a concept!
I use MINDMAP to create guide to the site--a kind of blueprint. A while back, one mind mapping company developed a way to go directly from a mind map to a fully functional website. But it was a pretty crude process. So I stick to using the map as simply a guide--but a very good guide.

The nice thing about using MINDMAP to do this is that you can map out not only the links from one page to the next, but the actual content that will appear on each page.

Think of what this means to you as a web designer. Imagine if your client could send you ONE SINGLE DOCUMENT that clearly communicated:

  1. How each page is linked to the next.
  2. What text goes on every page (along with notes about how and where the text should appear, what color it should be, etc.)
  3. Whether there should be links to documents, images, sound or video files.
  4. All of those text, image, audio, video, etc. files, added as attachments or links to the map.
(And remember, this is all in one, easily reorganized, easily added to document-- produced with software that is very affordable and ridiculously easy to learn.)

Every mind map tells a story, don't it?
So what you would have before you is a complete, self-explanatory, self-contained guide to how the client wants the site to be organized, and the content for each and every page.

Call me crazy. But when I've seen how other people try to communicate information this complex, the results are usually... scary. We're talking pages of notes, Dropbox folders full of documents with instructions on what goes where--but in yet another document. At best, we're talking Visio diagrams that contain some--but not all--of the information you need to understand the information architecture. At worst, you're on a conference call taking notes, trying to understand what in the world the client is talking about.

Here's just one simple image of what a map like this might look like. I think your imagination can fill in all the blanks:

Christmas is coming (hint hint)
So here's an idea: Get your clients the gift that keeps on giving: Get them a copy of ConceptDraw MINDMAP. It will take the each of you about 5 minutes to figure out how to do all you need to do to create a map like this (create branches and sub-branches, insert notes, and attach hyperlinks). From that point on, it will be so much easier to communicate information back and forth that you'll feel as if you've jumped ahead a couple of decades.

And compared to the way most people plan websites, you have.

Behold, Ye Timid Mindmappers: Integrated Marketing!

I comped a license of ConceptDraw MINDMAP to a business acquaintance of mine, Jenn Neal of Kane & Associates, a marketing company here in Boise. It was good timing. It just so happened that she was in the middle of rethinking her marketing model.

Sometimes when someone tries mind mapping for the first time (and this was hers), the create some very simple maps. And that's great! I do that all the time. I'll just open up a map when I just want to think a couple of things through. Just getting them down on the page always help me think more clearly.

But Jenn isn't like that. She is, in fact, a maniac. Here's the very first map she showed me, having tried mind mapping for the very first time (click on map to enlarge):

How impressive is that?! I asked Jenn why there were so many relationship lines. Because, she said that that's how she looks at a marketing campaign. Everything Kane does for a client is integrated into everything else or... integrated marketing.

When Kane send out an email for a client, they make sure that the same content gets onto the client's Facebook page and goes out as a Tweet. They put the copy on the company's website--and post about it on their blog. It seems to me that doing it this way really adds a multiplier effect to the message they client is trying to get out.

As you peer closer at the map, you get more of a sense of what she's trying to convey with the map:

Maps like these revive the discussion of a map's intended audience. I think some people believe that a map--any map--should be immediately intelligible to anyone, simply by virtue of the fact that it's a mind map. But maps like this make it pretty clear that while some maps are, indeed, immediately understandable, some have meaning only for the person who made them.

If, for some strange reason, you haven't tried mind mapping yourself, go to and get a free trial. See if it makes sense to you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I Use MINDMAP for My Daily To-Do List

I keep trying different ways to keep track of the things I need to do each day/week/month. But I always seem to come back to ConceptDraw MINDMAP. I think it's because MINDMAP is unique in allowing me to keep track of not just tasks, but the content that usually accompanies the tasks.

At the moment, for example, I am serving as the editor of a local organizations's website and newsletter. Part of my responsibility to it assign writing tasks to board members, and to write a new member profile each month.

The CCC section of my To-Do list looks like this:

Keep Track of More than Just Tasks
Focusing on the Newsletter branch (below), you can see how I can use Callouts to keep track of the actions I've just taken. There's also a "Notes" Icon on the "Schedule blog post..." branch. This Note contains the language I use to ask the board member for the content. I leave this language in a note in the map so I'll know right where to get it when I have to ask again next month.

In this way the map, which I created to manage tasks, is becoming a repository for content that I need to accomplish tasks. This becomes more evident when I open the branch one more level:

Does Your To-Do List Help You Understand Context?
At a glance, I can look at the map and see which months are set (the ones that have a checked box next to them) and which ones still need more work. I can immediately see contact info for the people we hope will present the program. If they send me content, I put it in a Note window for their month.

Having all this information in one place makes it really easy for me to create my To-Do list for this organization--and to actually accomplish the tasks on the list. Everything I need (contact info, the context of what information I need and why, dates, times, etc.) is right at my fingertips. (Hidden in this view, but just a click away.)

Dabble around. But Settle on MINDMAP!
Yes, there are many ways to keep track of your tasks. But not many ways make it so easy for you to keep track of all the information, ideas, and context that helps you make sense of and accomplish the tasks you have set for yourself.

So go ahead and try different ways to do this. But when you find that they approach you're taking isn't giving you the kind of information you need, try ConceptDraw MINDMAP!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do Your Spouse/Family a Favor: Get Your Financial House in Order

We recently had a death in the family, and it brought one thing (among many) into a harsh spotlight: The necessity to leave behind a clear picture of your financial life.

People often say that they have this picture in their heads. They know where all the documents are. They know the passwords and locations of all their accounts. They know the names of their financial and tax advisors. And they know--to the penny--how much they have in each account, when the bills are due, and where all the income comes from.

Give your loved ones a fighting chance
That's great. If only people could see into your brain when you pass on or are incapacitated due to illness. And building off of Toni Krasnic's post yesterday, a ConceptDraw MINDMAP is a great way to capture all this information. This one isn't quite a fun as a vacation map, but it can still relieve your stress--and the stress of those around you:

(You can download this My Earthly Possessions Map for free at

Protect your most important information
Your life may be a lot more or a lot less complicated than what is represented in this map. But you get the general idea. It is, of course, critically important that you keep this map secure, both digitally and if you keep a paper copy. Just be sure that those who may need access to it know how and where to do so.

The mind map format enables you to put in all the information your survivors will need to put your affairs in order. Contact numbers, access codes, hot links to your account pages...

Include notes to help others navigate your accounts
In addition to this "macro" information, you can also add notes to provide more granular information on any element in the map:

Your legacy as a thoughtful, organized person will live on!
Creating a map like this really is one of the more considerate things you could do for your family. Yes, it will take maybe an hour or two. But then you can rest easy knowing that, in the unfortunate event that something happens to you, those you love will not have to rummage through file drawers, emails, and random piles of paper to piece together your financial life on earth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reduce Travel Stress with the MINDMAP Trip Planner

The Mind Map Trip Planner
With the holidays fast approaching, many will take a vacation to go visit family or just get away from work. For most of us, the few days before traveling can be quite hectic. Checklists help but they are often too busy and too long.

An alternative is a mind map trip planner. With a mind map trip planner, not only can you capture to-dos, but you can also incorporate all the important information and resources within a single mind map.

Here’s an example mind map trip planner:

Download this mind map from Biggerplate.
Download the mind map image file.

Notice how the mind map, unlike a checklist, presents an uncluttered view of your to-dos. More importantly, it also serves as a trip dashboard from which you can easily access copies of airline tickets, web links to Embassies and travel sites, notes on contact information and phone numbers, and more, all in one mind map.

I hope this mind map trip planner helps make your travel planning more fun and less stressful.

How do you use mind maps when traveling?

Guest post by Toni Krasnic. Connect with Toni on Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Makes Companies go from Outsourcing to Insourcing? The Need for Innovation!

Was Outsourcing a Mistake, or Just a Blip?
The December 12 Atlantic Monthly has a couple of great articles on the rise of insourcing. In The Insourcing Boom, author Charles Fishman makes a pretty stunning assertion:

What is only now dawning on the smart American companies, says Lenzi, is that when you outsource the making of the products, “your whole business goes with the outsourcing.” Which raises a troubling but also thrilling prospect: the offshoring rush of the past decade or more—one of the signature economic events of our times—may have been a mistake.

People Working Together IN THE SAME PHYSICAL LOCATION to Innovate a New Product

The gist of Fishman's article is that markets move too quickly now for manufacturers to outsource production. To evolve a product at the speed consumers expect, companies need to draw on the skills of all the people involved in the production process--from engineers to line workers to sales people.

And as great as web collaboration software is, as helpful as Skype calls can be, companies are seeing the most benefit by putting people together physically--not virtualy--to reeeningeer old processes and innovate new products.

Fishman has some great examples of how this works in the real world. He tells one story of how a team of GE employees in the U.S. got together and reimagined how to build a dishwasher. When they were finished, they had eliminated 35 percent of the labor required to build one.

Less, but Smarter, Use of Labor
That's pretty amazing. But what is even more stunning is what they did with that extra 35 percent. GE management asked the team to pick a dishwasher part they thought they could build better here in the U.S. They chose a part, reinvented and improved it, and then went on to try to improve other parts.

And that, Fishman says, is how "the outsourcing cycle starts to turn. Once you begin making the product itself, you get the itch to make the parts, too."

How cool is that: The turn of the cycle from outsourcing to insourcing. This change points to the importance of innovation, of real-time collaboration across teams. I can't help but imagine one of these teams in a room, with MINDMAP up on the wall, brainstorming how to "build a better mousetrap."

Can Your Company Do Better Through Cross-Team Collaboration?
This global turn of events is pretty exciting for companies like CS Odessa, which has always believed in the power of creative people working together to solve business challenges.

So what about you? Does your company outsource? What would happen if you started manufacturing your products right here in the U.S... if you put your U.S. workers together to help them innovate the next product. You would be in some very good company if you gave it a try!

Note: Fishman's article provides a number of other very tangible reasons why the insourcing trend is gaining strength here in the U.S.

Visit to see how our products can help your teams innovate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brainstorming is Great--When It's Tied to Action

If you've ever been in a corporate brainstorming session (and I've been in more than a few), it's easy to get pessimistic. Yes, we've spent all this wonderful time together, filling up giant sticky notes, using different color markers--maybe even playing with slinkys, modeling clay, and yo-yos. But what do we actually accomplish?

Too often, months go by until you or one of your coworkers asked that inevitable question: Whatever happened to all those ideas we generated way back when? Is there a new service in the works we haven't heard about yet? Is our tagline changing? Or have all those flip charts ended up in someone manager's bottom drawer?

What if those "Big Idea People" had to take ownership of their ideas?
When was the last time you started with a brainstorming session and ended the session by assigning tasks to each participant to help make those new ideas become a reality? Have you EVER had a session that ended like that? The beautiful thing about ConceptDraw MINDMAP is that it makes this transition from brainstorming to concrete action easy to accomplish.

The general flow of a brainstorming session like this actually starts before the session itself. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion lately about how to conduct brainstorming sessions. I won't go into all that. Suffice to say that I think a really good way to prepare for a brainstorming session is to tell everyone in advance what you are going to be brainstorming about, and give them a chance to get some ideas together before the session starts.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Lean, Clean, Effective Brainstorming Machine
Once you've done that, then the session steps are:

  1. Conduct the brainstorming session by getting input from each participant. Take the ideas they've come up with prior to the session and add them to a mind map projected for everyone in the room to see. If you have more than one topic on the agenda, address each topic one at a time.
  2. For each topic, have the participants discuss and debate the merits of each person's ideas. People should be respectful of each other. But they don't need to be overly polite: If they don't like an idea, they should be encouraged to say why; to be honest--and maybe to offer an alternative.
  3. Hopefully, with honest, creative exchanges like these, you can come to a point where everyone agrees on some great new ideas. But now, rather than simply congratulating each other on your brilliant thinking, go one step further: Have everyone is the session take personal responsibility to move one or more ideas forward.

    Enter their commitments right into the map. If one ideas is to gather research, write down who will do that, and when they will do it by. If someone else needs to be brought into the discussion, make sure someone is assigned to do that--along with when they will do it by.

  4. Instruct people to record the actions or information they were responsible for right on the map, like they have in the following map image (Click on it to enlarge it.)

One Seamless, Efficient Process
Now with this last step, something interesting has happened: Your Brainstorming Map has just turned into your Meeting Map. The next time this groups come together to discuss this project, you simply open up the map and you instantly have at your fingertips the kind of information that can sometimes takes the larger part of a meeting just to find.

I'm sure you can see where this leads: Ideas once lost in the bottom drawer are now front and center, with resources and due dates assigned. This is a big deal. Because companies are nothing more than the ideas of the people who work there--put into action.

Give ConceptDraw MINDMAP a try the next time you want to go beyond brainstorming and right into action to make your ideas a reality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take Your Teaching to a New Level: How to Brainstorm a New Course Fast!

Rule #1: Don't Let Yourself Get Overwhelmed
It is a fact of life that many of us just keep doing the same thing over and over because we don't feel like we have the time or the energy to do it any other way. This is particularly true for teachers.

One of my daughter's middle school teachers, I have been assured, has taught pretty much the same lesson for the past ten years--the same old videos, the same old study sheets, the same old tests. I'm all for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But after ten years, it's got to be hard for that teacher to put much enthusiasm into his work.

This is a situation Pat Foltz facing all the time in her work as a professional trainer. “For a lot of the teachers I train, the thought of building a new course is just too much to think about,” she says.

“They ask me things like ‘How do I even begin when I'm going to build a new course? How do I take all this information that I have—all these ideas in my head, and put them in some sort of order? How do I make sure I'm covering every detail?’ They think it would take weeks to make sense out of all this, and they just don’t have that kind of time. So what do they do? Nothing. That’s not fair to the students. And it keeps the teachers stuck in an unfulfilling rut.”

Chunk it up!
Part of the reason it all seems so hard, she says, is that most "thinking tools" make it really hard to break down something big into manageable chunks--to, as they say, eat an elephant "one bite at at time."

“You can't do a project,“ Foltz says. “You can only do tasks. So, if that big project is out there, it's just this huge, monstrous thing for me to avoid. But the minute I can put it in the middle of a circle and start saying, ‘OK, let’s see, how I develop my class is…’ then I’m moving forward.”

Here's the map Foltz made to start thinking about how to create a new Speech class (click on the image to enlarge it):

Foltz counsels people to put the "elephant" right in the middle of the map and then say, “OK, what do I have to do here? What do I have to think about?” You begin a project, she says (whatever that project may be), by using mind mapping to break it into big tasks.

Then you break the big tasks into smaller tasks, and then even further down until you have those discrete, doable things you can take action on to move toward your goal.

Good Thinking is a Horrible Thing to Waste
Foltz notes that whether working individually or in groups, we often come up with some great ideas: a course we want to create; a new way to communicate information in an existing course; how to combine two different courses to creat something greater than the sum of the two. But what happens to those ideas?

One trainer Foltz spoke to talked about how a group of well-paid people put aside their normal work load, assembled in a conference room, and started brainstorming. They ran around from flip chart to flip chart, thinking of all these great ideas.

But when the trainer asked the participants what happened to the flip charts—and the ideas—after the meeting, he got answers like, “I don't know,” or “They're on somebody's desk,” and even, “They threw them away.”

For Foltz, the real crime is the loss of ideas (plus the money it takes to generate them--and the stale teaching that happens without putting those ideas into action).

So if you feel the need to freshen up your teaching, use mind mapping to capture your ideas in a way that you can continue to interact with them, to develop them step by step into the kind of course you'd like to teach. It might not be nearly as hard as you imagine. And think of the joy you--and your students--will feel when you stand up in front of the room, filled with new energy and new ideas.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shout out to Assistive Technology

Brian Friedlander, Ph.D at Assistive Technology (, has been a constant and enthusiastic supporter of mind mapping for years.

He's platform agnostic, finding good things about many of the more popular mind mapping technologies on the market. In a recent post, Brian found some good things to say about ConceptDraw's new integration with Skype and Evernote.

The focus of his assistivetek blog is how technology can help the learning process. He's particularly interested in assistive technology, eLearning, mind mapping, project management, visual learning, collaborative tools, and educational technology.

He uses all of these technologies in his graduate courses at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. In addition to teaching, Brian also consults to many school districts and business organizations in N.J. and is available for workshops, training and presentations.

If you are an educator interested in finding new ways to help your students learn--and learn HOW to learn, consider subscribing to Dr. Friedlander's blog! (He has more than one, as you can read in his Blogger Profile.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prepare Now for the Next Hurricane Sandy: Communicate Critical Information Faster, Clearer

"MINDMAP's visual interface gives the emergency planning team and our front line hospital staff a clear picture of what needs to happen in each emergency." Jill Collins

A Southern Hospital Creates Rapid-Action Planning
Jill Collins is an emergency management coordinator for a not-for-profit hospital in South Carolina. Part of her job includes managing the protocols, procedures, and policies put into place to deal with threats to the delivery of quality patient care. Collins uses ConceptDraw MINDMAP to manage and communicate planning and preparations for all of these potential problems.

Hobie: You missed the brunt of Sandy, but you still feel motivated to create an emergency plan?
Collins: Our hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission, which requires that we have a comprehensive emergency management program. Thankfully, true emergencies are infrequent... things like bad weather, chemical events, utility failures. Any one of these can compromise the hospital’s ability to function. Keeping staff prepared for events like these is an ongoing challenge. Hobie: Planning your response to emergencies like these must be very complicated. How do you manage it?
Collins: For each hazard, there are four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Within each of these four phases, the Joint Commission identifies six critical areas: communication, resources and assets, safety and security, patient management, staff responsibilities and utility management.

Inside of that overall planning, I need to be able to communicate specific plans for dealing with hazardous drugs and materials, medical equipment, utility safety, and the near-constant construction projects going on around the hospital. Then I have to explain each of these in relation to the five most likely emergencies, lay out planning for the four phases, and then show how we're prepared for the six critical areas in each phase.

Hobie: I can see how mapping would help. But how did you come to use it?
Collins: I first saw MINDMAP at a Fred Pryor professional training seminar and decided to see if it could help with this presentation. I opened up the program and just jumped into some really complicated brainstorming.

Once I finished that, I went back in and organized everything and added some additional information. Then I pushed a button and exported the whole thing into a PowerPoint presentation. I’ll tell you, seeing the PowerPoint presentations suddenly appear was the coolest thing since sliced bread. And I was just so tickled, because that was my first time using MINDMAP.

Hobie: So you use MINDMAP as a planning tool, then share it as PowerPoint slides?
Collins: No, no. That's just when I need to share an overview with management. Our hospital uses HICS, Hospital Incident Command System, a planning framework that assigns specific job tasks for each staff person’s role in the emergency. MINDMAP's visual interface gives the emergency planning team and our frontline hospital staff a clear picture of what needs to happen in each emergency.

It can also help me get buy-in on the planning since it clearly lays out each person’s role and the impact that role has in our overall handling of the emergency.

Needless to say, being able to confirm their role with a quick glance at a visual map is much easier for staff than having to plow through a text document or decipher a spread sheet.

Hobie: Do you use MINDMAP in any other ways at the hospital?
Collins: We use it when we need to put our heads together and make sure we’re considering all the angles. "Is this one response recovery mode the duty of one nursing only? Or is it nursing and maybe respiratory therapy too—and maybe radiology." MindMap gives us the ability to collaborate on these questions and leave meetings with clear action plans.

Hobie: What would you say is the one big advantage MINDMAP offers over other ways you've tried to communicate complex information to people?
Collins: In any business situation—especially ones when tension can be high, the less wording and more action-oriented items you use to convey information, the better people can focus on the job at hand. The visual display ConceptDraw MINDMAP presents helps everyone focus in on the big things, and helps make complex things much easier to understand and act on.

Learn more about how to use ConceptDraw MINDMAP to solve your business challenges.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Collaborate Globally with MINDMAP and Skype

Watch videos on how to use ConceptDraw MINDMAP with Skype.

Hopefully you've heard the news about ConceptDraw MINDMAP's new integration with Skype. This new integration opens up the advantages of mapping to the estimated 250 million monthly Skype users. Our little, lovely pearl just got even a little smaller.

English is the Lingua Franca: Take Advantage of It.
The thing that continues to shine through is that mind mapping is simply the most effective and, really, the most pleasant way to convey information--across the office or across the world.

I talked to an in-house education specialist at a global firm who told me how effective mapping is at improving communications among people with different native languages. It's a pretty amazing concept--one that I doubt the creators of mind mapping ever contemplated. But it makes so much sense--especially in this age without national borders.

As this person pointed out, much of the confusion between languages has to do with how each language constructs a sentence. In one language it's subject, verb, object. In another, its the opposite. Some languages use articles. Some, like English, have a staggering number of irregular verbs and homnymns. The solution? Keep the key words of the sentence, but lose the sentence. This is exactly what mapping does. Using a combination of mapping and English as the common tongue, this company was able to significantly improve communication and participation with mapping.

Simple is Better, Clearer, Faster.
When you communicate in maps with single words or short phrases--rather than in sentences and paragraphs, it's easier for all participants to get the meaning. This is all the more true because of the way the maps put each piece of information in context.

You simply have to put yourself in the shoes of someone from another culture trying to deconstruct a text-filled page of information written in English. Think about what a challenge it would be. Then think about that same information captured in a ConceptDraw map. Your foreign colleagues and clients will love you for making their life easier.

With the combination of MINDMAP and Skype, you can hold global meetings centered on a map you can walk through slowly and deliberately--making sure all participants understand each point as you move around the map.

Do Faster, More Productive Meetings
Two big advantages of mapping are clarity and speed of communication. This new integration makes it possible to be quick and clear with your colleagues--whether they're located across town or across the ocean.

Monday, November 5, 2012

See Your Sales Data Graphically, Updated Instantly

CS Odessa has a lot of interesting videos on its website. This one, called How to Connect Dashboard to Data, shows you how to connect data to any of the various visual dashboard tools available in ConceptDraw Pro.

The cool thing about this is that it's very easy to do. Some of us like nothing better than to see spreadsheets of data. But for the rest of us, this video shows how easy it is to take any data stream and connect it to a speedometer-type visual object, or different kinds of live bar graphs as shown in the image above.

ConceptDraw PRO reaches into your data source every 5 seconds and refreshes the visual object.

Pretty cool if you like to see your up-to-date sales pipeline at a glance.

Find out more about ConceptDraw PRO.

What Comes Next After Social? Or, the rise of the steam-powered smart phone.

In the following post, I'm going to do what so many of us love to do in social media: I am going to opine. I am going to give you one person's perspective on something of importance to us all. And I'm not going to try to say it all in 140 characters.

What basis to do I have for thinking my opinion is worth you stopping and reading? The short answer is that I have no such basis at all. The long answer is that I'm counting on the relationship you the reader and I the writer have established in my time blogging for CS Odessa. If that's enough of a basis for you, then read on!

Is there a better way to feed ourselves than sitting around catching ants on a stick?
I'm a volunteer board member for an organization of "communicators" here in Boise. We're not exactly the top media market in the county. I'm sure we are far less sophisticated marketers, writers, and PR people than you will find in any major city. And yet, even in our little burg, you can hear the growing refrain: "What comes next after social media?"

At first, I thought this was all generational. I'm no spring chicken, and can remember the days when you would try to reach millions of people, not by following individuals like you and me on Twitter, but by taking influential reporters out for cocktails.

Not surprisingly, most of the people I asked about this said they would much rather go our for drinks than bang away at home on Twitter.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Influencers

The problem is that there are far too many "influencers" these days--each of them wielding far less influence than yesterday's media stars. There are so many influencers now, and they are so scattered about, that is takes forever to reach a sizeable chunk of them.

Steve Wildstrom,the tech reporter for Newsweek, is clearly an influencer. One of his columns can reach millions of people and influence them favorably or not toward any given product or service. But it can be very had to get Wildstrom's attention. Bloggers and tweeters, those social media influencers, are far easier to reach, and are often actively looking for things to write about. You just have to reach a lot of them to move the awareness needle.

And even when you reach them, you realize that that's not enough. Because what is true for Wildstrom is true for these scattered influencers: Simply "reaching" them isn't enough. You have to build a relationship with them. You have to build trust and authority with them. And that takes time. Lots of time.

Is it possible to learn to tweet while sound asleep?

And this is the issue keeping both professional communicators and entrepreneurs up at night. The question I hear from so many small business owners is how can they possibly find time to build all these relationships when they're trying to run a business? Where can they find the time to tweet five times a day, to post to Facebook a couple of times a week, to create or find meaty, relevant content for their website or blog or Facebook page?

Yes, there are numbers of younger people for whom "being social" is as natural as "being alive." Staying active on all the social media platforms comes as easy to them as breathing. For many of them, social media will just continue to grow in usefullness and importance.

But for many people who are either too old or too busy for the constant act of relating to others all day long, the question becomes; What's next?

The rise of the steam-powered smart phone
If I may digress a moment... I met a man this weekend who built his own massive outdoor oven and bakes his own bread. He also grows his own wheat. And he confirmed to me that it's wonderfully satisfying to know where the grain that makes your bread comes from. But he also confirmed what you might imagine: that it's a pain in the neck to personally go from the grain in the field to the fresh loaf on your table. That's why he has a big pile of unthreshed wheat sitting on the floor of his out building.

The truth is that this entrepreneur looks forward to mastering social media to build up his baking customer base about as much as he can't wait to hand thresh that pile of wheat. To him, and to many others like him, the kind of one-to-one communicating involved in social media seems as bizzarly antiquated, as out of step with modern reality as fetching your water from a stream.

Can you build relationships locally and sell globally?
Some people talk about "deep connections" as the next step forward. According to this theory, we will not base our behavior on the passing relationships we build with the many: We will have deep relationships with the few.

Someone told me about one record company that wanted to build a following for a new artist. But instead of doing the usual--usinig social to slowly create a following, they posted a couple of in-depth interviews with people--famous people--who knew and worked with the artist. The idea, I presume, was that a couple of great testimonials would carry as much weight as the individual opinions of thousands of fans.

This idea of "deep connections" may not be the answer. How many of us, after all, would be willing to listen to 15 minutes of one person talking about another person. And how willing would we be to be swayed by the opinion of just one or two people? We tend to know who we know, to respect the opinions of a few people we deal with on a regular basis. Is there some way to magically amplify the relationships we have with a small group of people so that we reach the millions?

Where exactly do you stand?

Just as surely as the laptop is going the way of the desktop, social media too shall pass. So what do you think could or should come next?