Have you ever looked at mind mapping from the outside (i.e. not being an advocate or practitioner) and passed it off as the momentary visual representation behavior of a team building workshop?
I am not about to say you have got it wrong because that artist’s version of mind mapping has a place and it is in the connection of thoughts and ideas into a logical, though not necessarily a linear thought capture.
Why Care about Mind Mapping?
Mind mapping is amazingly constructive and efficient, and mind mapping software is the single most effective workplace productivity tool that aids decision making. In saying that, I would add that it is possibly the worst marketed and explained critical thinking software launched into the world.
No other tool supports all of the uses in the opening diagram above, but more than extensive functionality, it inherently encourages dialogue. The capability of this communication tool spans the loose and unstructured forum of brainstorming to the building of presentation or proposal outlines and content.
However, as with many tools, they are not all made equal and this is so in the world of mind mapping software.
Mind Mapping Software
If we start with an acceptance that pen and paper are the base level for producing mind maps, I will share my experiences with three applications that I have used with team members across a wide variety of tasks:
There are a lot more in the marketplace, but I will summarise my likes from these apps.
Simplemind is a fundamental tool and works across multiple platforms. I use it on my PC, Android mobile and iPad and it is easy to maximise the benefits. The pricing is at an attractive point, and the link above will take you to their site (no affiliate link here or with the other two apps).
While it is an effective tool, it doesn’t go far beyond capture, publish and present.
iThoughts provides tools with some comparison to the Simplemind app and has launched a Windows version to build out its multi-platform coverage. A fantastic aspect of iThoughts is the “doodle” function. It allows the live and freehand drawing from within the mind map. I have found this especially useful when presenting, as I can “doodle” onto the iPad and capture the free form annotations precisely as expressed in a discussion.
MindManager is a standout by way of functionality, integration and sophisticated inbuilt capability. It does come at a higher price point than the other apps introduced above and does deliver significantly more productivity levers.
In addition to the necessary capture, collaborate and publish, MindManager provides the following:
- Create project Gantt charts, process flows, concept maps, flowcharts, timelines and more
- Zapier Integration
- Advanced Project Scheduling: advanced Gantt chart and resource views, project scheduling tools, and reporting
- MindManager Server and SharePoint Synchronization
- View maps stored in SharePoint in your browser
- Query and synchronise SharePoint tasks and more
The following mind map example is how I have used MindManager to build my blog posting schedule and outline. Taking complex information and distilling it into a clear and actionable sequence. It is worth noting that I don’t rely on the overall being a complex project, but I do rely on this process to give me a clear picture of the steps ahead.
However, more importantly, I used the “notes” functionality where I select a branch of the map, and an associated text window opens. The window is now my capture point for all text associated with that branch and in this case, it is the post you are reading at this time.
The notes-linked-to-outline is an approach to building out a more substantial document such as a business proposal once you have used the flexibility of mind mapping to brainstorm the flow and structure of the text before the earnest writing begins.
As may seem clear, I am a massive fan of the mind mapping tool – built on enjoying the benefits for personal and team planning plus communicating with clients.
I do use a range of apps, but mostly I use MindManager due to its depth and breadth of functionality. There is much more to the app, and I will go into some of the more critical business value aspects in future posts.