Vern Burkhardt from IdeaConnection.com recently interviewed me about mind mapping and mind mapping software. We start out discussing what mind mapping is, and then focus on its value as a business tool. To read this interview, please click here.
"We're approaching a perfect storm of information complexity. The only possible way to deal with it is for us to become much more visual in the way we do business. Here's what I mean. Due to globalization, it's becoming increasingly likely that an entire project team won't speak the same language. That's storm number one. Storm number two is information overload. If, 50 or 100 years ago, the greatest decision-making challenge someone faced was not having enough good intelligence, the problem today is the opposite; we have too much information. That's only going to continue to get worse. Storm number three is more complicated communication, due to global supply chains and true global integration of business processes: more channels, more people, more participants, more formats. Combining those three storms... makes getting even the simplest message across to someone very difficult. The good news is that visual thinking presents a way to address each one of these issues. Visuals are independent of language.
"On the information complexity side, visual thinking provides us an incredibly powerful set of tools for looking at complex sets of data... If we use some of the basic tenets of visual thinking, suddenly we find ways to visually triage our way through too much information. Patterns start to come out and we get better at intuitive pattern recognition so that we can more effectively interpret the data."
"Visual thinking is the universal problem-solving tool kit."
I love the concept of "visual triage." It speaks to the idea of sifting through the ideas and information you have collected, determining which elements are the most important, and rearranging them within your map accordingly.
As you know if you've been reading this blog lately, the relationship between information overload and mind mapping is the core theme of my latest e-book, The Mind Mapping Manifesto. Click here to learn more.
In a recent blog post, Brett Bumeter took Mindjet, the developer or MindManager 7, to task for not keeping pace with users’ changing needs. That, however, is not the focus of this post. Rather, what I’d like to do here is take some of Brett’s key points and issue a challenge to all developers of mind mapping software. I believe that he has identified some real needs here that ought to be addressed by them. Here are some examples:
Web 2.0 awareness: Recent developments in what is popularly called Web 2.0 (social networking, blogging and user generated video) are not yet reflected in today's mind mapping software. Mind mapping software needs to be able to interact with a variety of popular tools, including Digg, Linkedin, blogs and YouTube. Improved RSS support would be a big plus, too. Brett points out that MindManager’s RSS capability doesn't interface with FeedBurner, the largest and most dominant feed management system on the Internet.
Improved Office integration: Integration with Microsoft Office applications is sometimes troublesome; most recently, several bloggers have reported that Microsoft's most recent update to Outlook has broken MindManager's Outlook linker.
Integration with corporate databases: Integration with databases has remained at rudimentary levels. With much of today's corporate data residing in ERP systems, CRM and other high-end databases, it is impossible to connect this data into visual maps today. Imagine if you could query your corporate database from within your favorite mind mapping program, add the resulting data set into your map and then maintain a live connection to it. This would take the idea of mind map "dashboards" to the next level!
Improved collaboration: In the last year or so, a whole new genre of web-based mind mapping tools has emerged, which make it much easier for users to collaborate on visual maps. Other than Mind Technologies adding a client/server version to Visual Mind 9, very little has been done by software developers to enable real-time collaboration on mind maps. According to the surveys I have done, collaboration is of great interest to users of mind mapping software. Clearly this is a need that should be addressed by developers.
More innovation: Innovations in the world of mind mapping software need to move beyond the realm of cosmetic changes, such as adoption of Microsoft's fluent UI (the love-it-or-hate it ribbon toolbar).
Help in managing large maps: Brett also points out that users need a more effective way of managing large, complex maps. Perhaps developers need to consider rendering maps in 3-D, or some other tech make could be developed that would help users to work with complex maps more effectively.
I think there's still plenty of room for innovation in the world of mind mapping software. What do you think?
Dr. Brian Friedlander recently posted a screencast in his Assistive Technology blog that briefly and simply explains how to use MindManager's new "show branch alone" command. Why is this important? This feature is one that many users are likely to overlook, yet it may be one of the more important additions to MindManager. You see, I'm slightly ADD (as are most creative people, I suspect) - we're easily distractible (Oh, look - a butterfly!).
Anyways, "show branch alone" enables people like me to focus in one one particular branch, and make the rest of a map upon which I'm working "invisible." With only one branch left on screen, I can then focus on fully developing the ideas and information related to it. Then, when I'm done with that topic and its sub-topics, I can "focus out" and show the entire map again. In MindManager 7 for Windows, this mode can be toggled on and off using the F4 key.
Several other mind mapping programs offer similar functionality: Inspiration was the program that pioneered it years ago, and XMIND also offers it today. It's a very useful capability, in my opinion, and I'm glad to see that it's now available on MindManager 7.
I recently wrote a review of NovaMind 4 Platinum on my InnovationTools website. What I discovered was a solid, well-designed mind mapping program with a few cool surprises. Gideon King and his development team continue to push the envelope with cool "how did I ever get along without that" features, which include:
Live previews of map formatting,
Show/hide map elements,
The color mode wheel,
A simple, elegant presentation mode, and
The Suggesterator, an optional brainstorming tool
You'll have to read my review to learn more about these valuable new features.
My new e-book, The Mind Mapping Manifesto, is now available! It aims to help business people to understand what a powerful business tool mind mapping software is, and how it can help them. Here is a brief summary of the valuable insights and advice it contains:
The true cost of information overload and multi-tasking (it will open your eyes to a looming crisis)
What research proves about the benefits of mind mapping software in business (the productivity impact is substantial!)
Perspectives from 10 mind mappers on the impact this type of software has made on the way they think, plan and work.
A list of over 20 business applications where mind mapping software can be used to increase your efficiency
Ten tips on how to select the right mind mapping program for your needs
A checklist to help you identify your needs
Reviews of 5 top mind mapping programs that I personally recommend
My “best of” list of the programs that offer the greatest performance in 8 key areas.
A collection of over 50 resources where you can discover the best tools, resources and advice about mind mapping software
Recently, I hinted in this blog that I'm about to launch a new e-book, entitled The Mind Mapping Manifesto. It aims to help business people to understand what a powerful business tool mind mapping software is, and how it can help them to:
Conquer information overload,
Make better decisions,
Reach clarity faster on key issues,
Become a more creative problem solver, and
Supercharge their effectiveness.
I'm really excited about how it has come together, and I think it will really help to build the business case for mind mapping software. I hope to launch it some time next week. If you would like to be notified as soon as it is published, please click here.
Thank you to all of the visual mappers who submitted entries for the opportunity to win a free copy of my popular e-book, Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software. The stories were so good that it was hard for me to choose just one winner. That’s why I decided to choose three:
Lee Gilbert, a retired businessperson in Singapore who has begun a second career teaching business students (tomorrow's visual mappers!)
Anthony White, who is working for a legal aid agency in California, a firm that helps people who can’t afford an attorney to have legal representation in court.
Lisa Metzer, who is spreading the word about mind mapping at her employer, National Geographic, an amazing organization that teaches more about the fascinating world that we share.
Congratulations to the three of you! I hope my e-book helps you to take your visual mapping skills to the next level!
Mind mapping has been evolving very slowly, with no real breakthroughs in recent years, according to Mark Salamango, CEO of SpinScape, the developer of a powerful new web-based visual mapping tool that is now in private beta testing. He thinks it’s about time for Mind Mapping 2.0, a new era in visual mapping characterized by an increased focus on information discovery, real-time collaboration, tagging and enhanced publishing. If he has his way, SpinScape will take visual mapping in some exciting new directions.
Salamango recently gave me an exclusive first look at SpinScape. Here are my first impressions of it:
The interface: SpinScape features a large central work space. Just about the workspace, set to the left, is a simple set of five toolbar buttons, which give you access to file, node, connect, find and layout. Two more buttons on the right top of the workspace enable you to invite others to collaborate with you and to utilize the application’s “plug-ins” (more on what those are and what they’re used for in a minute). To the right side of the workspace is a map overview pane and a set of tabbed dialog boxes for tags, hyperlinks, annotation (notes), icons and chat.
Creating nodes: SpinScape enables users to do some fairly standard mind mapping things, such as entering new topics (called "nodes" in SpinScape) and rearranging them by dragging and dropping. Each node can be tagged with keywords, can contain notes and annotations, and can have multiple links per node. Nodes display icons that indicate if they contain annotations, links and tags. Nodes appear to be quite large, and take up quite a bit of space on the screen. But Salamango says his development team is working on a more compact way of displaying them.
Collaboration tools: SpinScape’s well-designed collaboration tools enable users to easily invite other people to collaborate on maps or nodes in real-time. This could be really useful if your map contain some proprietary information, which you don't necessarily want to share with others, or if one section of your map contains some background information that really is of relevance to the people with whom you need to collaborate. When you share nodes with others, they can add comments to them.
Map ‘n’ chat: Another real plus is how the application integrates real-time chat into the whole application interface. It’s another tab, well integrated into the overall interface. It’s very cool to be able to chat with a colleague, while both of you are looking at and annotating the same map.
Want to change your central topic? No problem: Another unique thing about SpinScape is how it handles the central topic. Most mapping applications don’t give you the flexibility to select a different central topic - you’re stuck with the one you started with. SpinScape makes it possible, with the click of a mouse.
Plug-ins - where the real power of SpinScape resides: Where SpinScape gets interesting is in its use of "plug-ins" to enable you to conduct searches from within the application, and to automatically add items from the search results to your map (click image at right for larger view of Google search results). At the time of this demonstration, SpinScape included plug-ins for Del.icio.us bookmarks, Google web search, Google Docs, Wikipedia, MindManager and X drive (an online file storage service). These services represent a combination of your personal files, no matter where they are stored (online or off-line), plus popular online repositories of knowledge and information.
During the demonstration, Salamango showed how easy it is to add external information to your map. You simply click the “plug-ins” button, select the type of search you want to conduct and how many search results you want SpinScape to display. Search results are displayed in a pop-up window, with a check box next to each item. You select the ones that you want to add to your map, and it automatically does so. It also inserts their descriptions into the notes/annotation tab of each node - nice! As with any other node in SpinScape, you can add your own comments or notes to the content that it has automatically captured for you.
You can also import content from any other SpinScape map, whether it's one that someone has shared with you or one that is part of the public repository of maps on the SpinScape web site.
When SpinScape launches at the Web 2.0 Conference in April, Salamango hopes to have many more plug-ins available. He says that SpinScape will launch with a public API, which means anyone can will be able to write plug-ins to enhance its functionality.
What's next for SpinScape? Salamango cautioned that the user interface that I saw during this demonstration will change significantly before it goes public in April. The way that the application displays nodes (which currently take up a lot of space) will be improved, to make more efficient use of screen real estate. The tabbed interface on the right side of the screen will be removed, to make more room for users to work with maps; he didn’t say what alternate form of navigation will be used to access these functions. Also, more plug-ins and import and export options will be added.
With SpinScape, Salamango and his development team hope to usher in a new era of mind mapping. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think they’re off to a very promising start, especially in the area of information and knowledge discovery!
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