Saturday, December 26, 2009

From Fringe to Mainstream

Why after almost 40 years; do we have to explain what Mind mapping is to almost every colleague, client and potential we meet?

Most (not all admittedly) who look over my shoulder while I am graphically mapping out information, invariably ask, “What is that”. It does become rather tedious after a while; doesn’t it?

But, as a consultant and trainer, I persevere with this question numerous times, and I go through the same old same old process of taking some through a discovery, which undoubtedly changes their perception of how they may create, manage and exchange knowledge.

But it’s true; after almost 40 years we still have to actually explain away Mind mapping. And, the truth of the matter is; we’ve moved way beyond Mind mapping since its inception and have been exposed to the tools, methods and Mindset of multiple format Visual mapping. For some; an evolution towards Knowledge mapping has been the result of exposure to many Visual mapping approaches.

“Visual mapping includes but is not limited to Mind, concept, flow and argument mapping” And of course; there are many other tools that enhance our graphical expressiveness.

A generational shift is taking place regarding current perceptions of how data, information and knowledge processes are handled in associated with, the nature and implications of systematic and systems thinking. Mind mapping can, has and does assist with this generational shift.

As much as we haven’t experienced a wholesale adoption of Mind mapping at even the base level outwith the enthusiasts within focus groups, I firmly believe we may have missed the point of the range of Mind and Visual mapping products. I'm absolutely sure it was never the intention of Mr. Buzan to enable people to perpetually visit a graphical framework, making it look even more colorful and pleasing to the eye.

“Information Management” is the core of the tools, methods and Mindset of Information and Knowledge mapping. If we accept that Data (which is made up of numbers, words and images) when aggregated becomes information (when contextualized), eventually becomes relevant Knowledge; we are somewhat on the way to realizing the true nature of process and system.

So as we move forwards, I encourage you to consider expressing your thoughts, feelings and desired actions for taking the full range of Visual mapping tools, methods and mindset to the mainstream. Please consider joining us at a growing LinkedIn group named Visualmapper; here you’ll find many professional Visual mappers from varied backgrounds, ranging from consultants, to Academics through corporate business and software development. Your opinions matter, so please jump in a make your voice heard.

As much as I refrain from making any predictions for this arena, I firmly believe we’ll see a few products make their mark and many simply fail.

Apart from the cloud seducing more users into giving up their IP to remote servers, I firmly believe the following tools shall become more notable and used by the forward thinking information manager.

The collage viewed below was used in a previous post to indicate software choices for the information manager. It shows a viable range of tools that delivers the needs and wants for the information manager now and in the future for sure. There's actually a few within the collage that are questionable as to their future viability and success within the software development arena for mind/visual mapping.

In particular keep your discerning eyes on Mindsystems, Mind mapper, ConceptDraw, NovaMind and the deserved leader of the pack Mindjet MindManager. The cloud is developing exponentially and I certainly see applications such as Comapping, Mindmeister and Webspiration delivering more mobile functionality for those of us who’ve had enough of being chained to desktop reliance.


Andrew Wilcox said...

We need two new words in 2010:

1. To replace mind (I think the first thought of those who are not aware of the context is "reader")

2. To replace map. Yes, my maps do get me from A to B - from thought to publication but they are dynamic not like the updated once in a blue moon maps of the Ordnance Survey.

What are the alternatives:

Anonymous said...

I find this as well, however whenever you are doing anything other than linear notes or writing people say 'what are you doing?' I don't think it has anything to do with Mind Mapping, just anything graphical. ;)

Wallace Tait said...

Tim, you're right; I agree with you when you say you don't think it got anything to do with the mind map. I believe graphical expressiveness is more than likely going to intrigue the viewer first, hence the "what's that" Q.

Great point Andrew regarding creating a new name for the Mind map. I use the term Visual mapping to include but not limit my graphical expressiveness to Mind mapping.

It really is a conundrum of sorts to re-define a supposed term that really should be in the mainstream by now. But, I do agree with you that we do need a term that encompasses more than mere Mind mapping.

I actually really like the MindSystems Amode "Method Neutral" approach; maybe this is a starting point for the multiple formats we now express within our graphical mapping (OOPS I used that term again).

What we output when we either Mind, Concept, Flow or even Argument is a map and I believe we either have to accept this term and move on, or re-invent the wheel again (This might be scary, time wasting and probably unnecessary). Just my thoughts (Where's that other Canadian beer?)

MsTechArt said...

I am amazed as well at the comments I receive after all these years. I was exposed to mind mapping so many years ago I don't even remember where/when! Yet today if I mention it or someone see me in MM they as that question.
So my question is -- what do all these people do when they try to brainstorm?
Uh oh -- maybe they don't brainstorm??? egads!

Michael Gerochi said...

Hi Wallace,

Good topic and write up as usual.: ) Andrew suggests to deviate from "Mind Map" as a label and as a limiting concept. I have observed this same theme over and over again, but I feel it's either an academic endeavour OR a marketing strategy to broaden your product/service/value offering. Let's just ignore what it's called, and use whatever the "industry" has accepted/adopted/tolerated and move on. Why rock the only boat we have based semantics? You may just open another religious debate in the middle of the boardroom. I would rather hear discussions on innovative ways to solve "popular" business problems using a visual mapping approach, from either a presentation/communication perspective or a data gathering/analysis perspective.
However this discussion goes, I believe it's all healthy.

Wallace Tait said...

Yes Michael,

I do agree, it may just be mere semantics. As much as I believe the term Mind mapping is passe and almost non descriptive of what information mapping has become; it's very clear the term Visual mapping may indeed eventually become passe too.

But, it is rather difficult to come up with a term that defines what tools such as MindManager and other similar products actually do.

The scope is very wide, but I agree with our fellow colleague John England of Mindsystems when he states; "Information is the centre of the universe, not the map itself".

It is a conundrum we are presented with, and maybe we should be concentrating on the information management capabilities of the products rather than the branded name of Mind mapping.

Is there another more suitable term that would define Mind mapping more succinctly? I struggle with this question.

Michael Gerochi said...

Hi Wallace,

I think the evolution from mind mapping to Visual Mapping will suffice. You have done a great job, marketing "visual mapping" to the masses, so it's up to other consultants to leverage this momentum and continue the path of "value added" consulting using visual mapping.

Wallace Tait said...

Thanks Michael for your encouraging comments.

We'll see how things pan out regarding Visual mapping.

I certainly find many Mind mappers are now using the term Visual mapping as a substitute for the term Mind mapping. Maybe they are using this to get more buy-in to the "Mind mapping arena for new users.

Visual mapping is merely a term I use to define the tool set enveloped within the Visual mapping arena.

I am confidently hopeful though, that Visual mapping will gain more momentum with our fellow information management professionals.

Mark Wogan said...

Hi Wallace

Very perceptive article and I think you're point about how long it takes for an idea to move from fringe to main stream is an extremely valid point and exemplifies the degree of effort needed to make new ideas 'stick'. However, while mind mapping is an extermely useful methodology for undertaking numerous information management tasks and processes it strikes me that one of the problems in getting it into the mainstream space has been its almost ubiquitous use as a general tool for everything that might fit into the 'visual mapping' space.

On the basis that a "man with a hammer sees everything as a nail", most of the people I talk to (well, those who have looked over your shoulder and have, at least, some understanding of mind, concept, network and argument mapping) automatically revert to seeing a mind mapping hammer as the most likely solution. Consequently as mind mapping is not always the most appropriate solution, potential users can be left feeling a bit underwhelmed by the eventual experience.

I think this is because the term 'mind mapping' has itself become the generic term used to define the whole subject area of visual mapping and communication. I know you have written previuosly about this and I think it is something we need to address. My own company provides a cloud app in this broad sector but its not mind mapping, but when I talk to people, thats ususally how they define it. That said, I must also admit that as I have not yet come up with a better description, I also revert to this overly generalised description.

On the subject of cloud versus desktop, my view is that the cloud will help to broaden the appeal of visual information management systems. There is a whole new debate here, but in very general terms I think that as new and mainly younger users start to take advantage of the generally free cloud apps that exsist, they'll help to shift what we do further into mainstream as they themselves move mainstream in their careers and lives.

We live in hope!