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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Software And Mind Mapping

Dave Pollard, writes, "There's something about a quickly-produced yet elegant, legible, organized and flexible 'picture' of your thoughts that just seems to evoke more, faster, from both sides of the brain". In a business and social culture that is increasingly oral, and aspires to become more collaborative, the current explosion in use of mind mapping is likely to continue, and the ability to use these tools will probably become a skill you can add to your résumé. Excerpts:

Mindmapping not significantly different from 'outlining', except that, for some reason, the graphical layouts of mind maps are more comprehensible, easier to grasp and follow, and aesthetically superior to the linear, multi-layered indentation of outliners. Dave reviews software applications like,Mindmanager, Inspiration and Inspiration. A good scribe with the right software and an overhead projector can capture a group's consensus, clarify areas of disagreement and misunderstanding, and document the collective intelligence and ideation of a collaborative group. These are seen to be working wondrously on several recent occasions focused on completely different classes of problems. The scribe needs to constantly clarify, reiterate, and question the group, and needs to learn to listen for what is not said as carefully as what is said. In addition to building and documenting consensus, this tool is useful for some other things:
-Taking notes from oral presentations, conversations or broadcasts, and written reports and books
-Brainstorming and analytical problem-solving and decision-making
-Individual and team learning
-Project management
-Organization of material prior to publishing or presentation
-Creating a story ("story-boarding")

Some of the applications are left-brain, deductive processes while others are right-brain, inductive, creative processes. I've often used pencil and paper to sketch out cause-and-effect (systems thinking) and process diagrams (which are more linear), but recently, Dave adds, I've started playing with mind maps as a personal 'thinking out loud' tool, to organize my thoughts and think creatively all by myself. I've always learned best by writing, synthesizing and distilling books and other voluminous materials down to their essence: the message, the meaning, and the necessary actions. So perhaps this 'learning by writing down' style is the reason I find mind maps useful.

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