One of the tools I've always got in my back pocket which suits almost all occasions is mind-mapping. This versatile tool and approach is a quick and easy way to break up a problem or pain point, find out new items to work on and to also plan out bigger topics. One of the fundamental benefits of the tool is that it enables all participants to gain a new perspective. Instead of viewing topics head on, you're somewhat removed from the situation and placed in a birds-eye view. The perspective enhances your abilities to break things down into smaller chunks and to identify key areas to tackle.
Tools of the Trade
The market is full of different mind-mapping tools. For me I've tried 3:
- FreeMind (Multi-platform)
- Xmind (Multi-platform)
- MindNode (Mac + iOS Only)
FreeMind // Website - €FREE
FreeMind is an open source piece of software which is very basic but provides all the functionalities that you would need to get started with. You are also able to export it in a number of formats including image files and PDFs.
Xmind // Website - €FREE to €99
Was my daily driver for over a year, not only was the free version easy to get a hold of and multi-platform the Pro (paid) version also had a lot of benefits. But what I started to notice was that any medium to high complexity maps were running very slow on Xmind and when demoing the tool and software to colleagues at work it was the first thing they said and noticed. Because of this very reason I had to stop using the software.
MindNode // Website - €10 (iOS) to €30 (Mac)
I'm currently using MindNode, and I have to admit I love it. It's soo easy to use, fast and fluid. It enables you to export it to many different mediums (including a FreeMind file). It has another cool ability which is uploading it to their cloud platform; this enabled anyone with the link to look and to use the mind-map (but not edit) which is very useful as asking someone to install something to look at a file is usually a significant pain. My only complaint is that you cannot password the could version and that there is no Windows version (I'm a Mac user, but some colleagues of mine want to use it but are Windows users)
The first thing I do is write the problem or pain point in the middle. The approach I usually take is the brainstorming one. I just get all my ideas and thoughts down; this includes every aspect which affects the topic or slightly touches it. This way I get the fullest possible view.
What I do then is to categorise the various points into smaller categories. This approach gives me the pillars to work with and helps later on with communication on the topic.
With that done you can clearly see from a zoomed out view:
- What are the action points moving forward //Right Most Points (Solutions)
- What are the fundamental problem areas // Key Pillars (Communication, Organisation and Strategy
The later also gives you the core areas which can be used in a possible next step pitch presentation to get management buy-in for moving forward on the topic.
In a work environment the mind-map is a very versatile tool that not only enables you to get a new perspective on possible issues but allows you to break down points until the smallest layer and helps to figure out where to start. You don't have to get a super fancy qualification as its straightforward and makes sense. Of course the more experienced you are with mind-mapping, the better you will be in the initial phase of creation and identifying groups. I can highly recommend the approach.