Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ConceptDraw Office 2.0 and Solution Park released

CS Odessa Delivers Single-Click Access to Business Productivity and Project
Management Solutions with ConceptDraw Office 2.0

New ConceptDraw Solution Browser Gives Business Professionals Unprecedented Ease in Using ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PRO, and ConceptDraw PROJECT Productivity Software

SAN JOSE, Calif., December 8th, 2010 – Visual productivity software maker CS Odessa today introduced an industry first with ConceptDraw Office 2.0, which now gives business professionals single-click access to integrated solutions for project management, brainstorming, report writing, and much more. The latest ConceptDraw Office suite release is being launched in tandem with the new ConceptDraw Solution Park online resource center. ConceptDraw Solution Park features integrated business productivity solutions that bundle ConceptDraw software, templates, and “how-to” guides to get business users up and running quickly.

Central to the $499 ConceptDraw Office 2.0 suite is the new ConceptDraw Solution Browser. Through the browser, users can view available solutions on ConceptDraw Solution Park and click on the solution they want. ConceptDraw Solution Browser then automatically loads any software, templates and guides supporting the chosen solution. Version 2.0 also significantly enhances seamless integration of the suite’s ConceptDraw MINDMAP for mind mapping and brainstorming, ConceptDraw PROJECT comprehensive project management software, and ConceptDraw PRO for business diagramming and scoreboard development and display. For example, a user can brainstorm in ConceptDraw MINDMAP and then click once to automatically generate a project chart in ConceptDraw PROJECT. Now users can focus on the business need instead of integrating technology.

ConceptDraw Office 2.0 is the only visual productivity suite that includes support for the latest versions of Apple Macintosh OS X and Microsoft Windows in the same package. As a result, individual users only need one ConceptDraw Office license to run the suite on both systems.

“Visual productivity solutions are powerful tools for enabling creativity, efficiency and collaboration. However, their value is often overshadowed by the complexity of integration,” said Gregory Zhukov, CS Odessa CEO. “With our new ConceptDraw Office 2.0, we’re changing the game. For the first time, business professionals have a seamless, cross-product workflow and single-click access to solutions for common individual and team tasks. Add to this ConceptDraw’s ability to output to widely adopted office products, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and business users have a complete workplace productivity solution with ConceptDraw Office 2.0.”

Alain Mathieu, executive vice president of Werner International, said “I use ConceptDraw Office because of its capabilities to integrate a project scheduler and a mind mapping tool in one productive, efficient, and user friendly way. ConceptDraw PROJECT is an indispensable tool for scheduling and optimizing consultant time, and I use it on a daily basis. ConceptDraw MINDMAP is a great software program that is simple to use, and produces results that never fail to impress our staff and clients. The combination of the tightly integrated ConceptDraw Office 2.0 along with the ready-to-use business solutions in ConceptDraw Solution Park will further enhance our ability to deliver world-class management consulting services to our clients.”

New ConceptDraw Office 2.0 Features
ConceptDraw Office 2.0 is the flagship product for CS Odessa. It includes ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT, and ConceptDraw Solution Browser, which are integrated through CS Odessa’s INGYRE 2 technology and extended by the new ConceptDraw Solution Park. The integrated visualization products and document exchange technologies provide all the tools essential for generating business diagrams, mind maps, project plans, dashboards, presentations, schematics, and any other business visualizations. In addition to the new ConceptDraw Solution Browser, Version 2.0 also includes several new features and enhancements to ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PRO, and ConceptDraw PROJECT.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP: is a powerful business and personal productivity software application that provides visual organization and access to information for individuals and organizations. The newest release is the first mind mapping product to support collaboration through many-to-many communication. New features include the ability to output to virtually any format, as well as rapidly input information, with a single click; the availability of five presentation styles to accommodate any situation, from informal to formal presentations; and a new map template to provide maximum visual impact for brainstorming, analysis and presentations.

ConceptDraw PRO: is a powerful business and technical diagramming software tool for designing professional-looking graphics, diagrams, flowcharts, floor plans, and much more in just minutes. The latest release adds more than 10,000 new drawing objects, plus the new Rapid Draw feature, which dramatically cuts drawing times for complex flowcharts and diagrams. It also features ConceptDraw’s Live Object technology for a level of sophistication unavailable with other drawing packages, including the ability to build dynamic dashboards that are updated from external data, such as desktop applications, enterprise data sources, and Web sources. Mind map data also can be quickly rendered in ConceptDraw PRO as a fishbone diagram, organizational chart, and UML diagram, to name a few.

ConceptDraw PROJECT: project management software enables project managers to analyze the progress of projects and optimize the utilization of available resources. Used within ConceptDraw Office, it also manages all workflow tasks and provides powerful dynamic dashboards that clearly reveal the state of any project, including any associated key performance indicators. An innovative dashboard describes project readiness by displaying the documentation that is associated with each task. The latest release extends reporting capabilities through enhancements to tools for managing tasks and resources, expands the dashboard support, and improves export and import functionality.

CS Odessa Addresses Need for Increased Workplace Productivity with New Online ConceptDraw Solution Park

ConceptDraw Solution Park Works in Concert with ConceptDraw Office Suite to Provide One-Click Access to Business Productivity and Project Management Solutions

SAN JOSE, Calif., December 8th, 2010 – Visual productivity software maker CS Odessa today announced ConceptDraw Solution Park. The innovative new online resource center features integrated business productivity solutions that bundle ConceptDraw software, templates, and “how-to” guides to get business users up and running quickly. ConceptDraw Solution Park is being launched in conjunction with the ConceptDraw Office 2.0 suite. Together, they give business professionals single-click access to integrated solutions for project management, brainstorming, report writing, and much more.

ConceptDraw Solution Park extends the value of ConceptDraw Office 2.0, which includes the seamlessly integrated ConceptDraw MINDMAP for mind mapping and brainstorming, ConceptDraw PROJECT comprehensive project management software, and ConceptDraw PRO for business diagramming and scoreboard development and display. Through the ConceptDraw Solution Browser in ConceptDraw Office 2.0, users can view available solutions on ConceptDraw Solution Park and click on the solution they want. The ConceptDraw Solution Browser then automatically loads any software, templates and guides supporting the chosen solution. Now users can focus on meeting business goals instead of integrating technology.

The initial release of ConceptDraw Solution Park features solutions in three professional areas: Project Management, Universal Diagramming, and Business Productivity. Each solution provides instant access to task-specific software tools, templates and guides for business activities—for example, create a team assignment calendar, run a brainstorming meeting, plan project phases, and create a project PowerPoint presentation for management, to name a few. All of these solutions are based on the real-world use cases of hundreds of thousands of business professionals already taking advantage of ConceptDraw software. Additional professional areas will be added in subsequent updates, and third-party solutions will begin joining those from CS Odessa in 2011.

“Visual productivity applications present a tremendous opportunity for resource-strapped business teams to work smarter. Unfortunately, users’ lack of knowledge about these valuable tools too often leaves them underutilized,” said Gregory Zhukov, CS Odessa CEO. “ConceptDraw Solution Park addresses this issue head on for the first time by providing an easy-to-navigate online resource center for pre-integrated solutions. Now with bundled tools and templates just click away, business professionals can begin improving their productivity in minutes.”

“As a professional business user of ConceptDraw Office software for some time, I’m finding that the addition of ConceptDraw Solution Park to my project management practices has raised the bar to a whole new level,” said Wallace Tait, information management consultant and founder of Visual Mapper, “Not only have the solutions helped to restructure my current project management activities, but the single-click access to ConceptDraw-based solutions has enabled me to create, manage and continuously improve more effective processes within my business practice..”

Pricing and Availability
ConceptDraw Office 2.0 is available today for $499. It includes ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT, and ConceptDraw Solution Browser. ConceptDraw Office 2.0 can be downloaded at http://www.conceptdraw.com/office2. For users who wish to purchase standalone products, pricing is $219 for ConceptDraw MINDMAP, $249 for ConceptDraw PRO, and $219 for ConceptDraw PROJECT.

About CS Odessa Founded in 1993, Computer Systems Odessa supplies cross-platform productivity tools and graphics technologies to professional and corporate users around the world. With headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine and North America operations in San Jose, California, CS Odessa sells products internationally through resellers in over 25 countries. The ConceptDraw Productivity Line of products has won numerous awards and is used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. For more information, visit www.conceptdraw.com.

ConceptDraw is a registered trademark, and ConceptDraw Office, ConceptDraw Solution Park, ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PROJECT, and ConceptDraw Solution Browser are trademarks of CS Odessa. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Top 10 Mind Mapping Uses for Students

A guest post by Toni Krasnic

Mind maps graphically organize and represent relations between ideas and concepts. Because they’re visual as well as verbal, mind maps play a key role in harnessing the full range of our brain skills within one framework.

Although still relatively little used is school, students who have discovered mind mapping find it a fun and engaging approach to enhance thinking and learning, and a great tool to manage information and increase productivity. Below are the top 10 uses of mind maps by students.

10. One-place repository of information and resources

Mind maps are great in helping you overcome information overload. Not only can you integrate key concepts into mind maps, but you can also link images, charts, and files in any format so that you have all pertinent information in one place. Mind maps also allow you to attach notes, include spreadsheets, hyperlinks, and prioritize all information. This way, you have access to all important information and resources from one map.

9. Holistic integration of information (personal information management) and knowledge (personal knowledge management)

Mind maps are great for integrating vast amounts of information from multiple sources in a personally meaningful way. Mind maps require much less time to compose and less time to read because they place emphasis on key concepts and clarify their organization and associations in a way that makes sense to you. As a result, you can process a lot more information into personally meaningful knowledge, better and faster. Furthermore, mind maps can expand or collapse to give you a focused view (details) or a bird’s eye view (general overview). By showing everything — the trees and the forest — in a single view, visual maps help clarify thoughts and tackle complex topics. The accuracy, depth, and cross referencing afforded by mind maps are hard to match with any other tool. Visual representation by mind maps allows for development of a holistic understanding that words alone cannot convey.

8. Personal dashboard to manage tasks and goals

Many students use mind maps to manage their busy lives with a personal dashboard mind map - a one-map summary of your personal life. You can create different branches for different parts of your life, such a school, personal, extracurricular activities, etc. Within this map, you can then add to-dos, with start and end dates, descriptions, and color coding. You can also add goals and subgoals to keep you on track to where you want to be in the near future. With the recent advances in technology, you can now easily access and edit those maps with you smart phones.

7. Note taking, research, and writing

One by one, old traditions are changing with technology, but note taking by students in schools hasn’t changed yet. Pen and paper note taking in classrooms needs to be reexamined because it still exists out of tradition, not because it’s the best way. The active process of note taking with mind maps eliminates the redundancy of just copying information on paper, which, unlike mind mapping, doesn’t encourage interaction, thinking, creativity, or learning. Once students become familiar with mind mapping, they can use it to take notes in lectures, synthesize lectures with non-lecture information, organize and summarize research work, and prepare for writing assignments.

6. Exam preparation and review

By having all your notes in one place, you no longer have to scramble the night before exam to your class notes, book notes, practice problem notes, and other miscellaneous notes. They’re all in your mind map, organized and connected in a way that makes sense to you, enabling a productive and stress-free review.

5. Transparent thinking

Mind maps are a diagram of your thinking that you can share with your study partners and teachers. For example, students can meet after each chapter to share and compare their mind maps in study groups, which is a great way to share what you know and find out what you still don’t completely understand. Students can also share mind maps though mind map sharing portals and web-based mind map interfaces to collaborate with other students from their personal learning networks outside of school. Students can also share their mind maps with teachers, who can quickly glance over them to provide detailed feedback on students’ understanding of the class material.

4. Improved memory and recall

Mind maps are very effective at bringing together logical, visual, and creative thinking to help you organize and link information, a process that improves memory and learning. When you learn a new concept, you add it to the appropriate place in the mind map, and in order to do that, you have to analyze the patterns, structures, and connections of concepts within your topic. This promotes better understanding, memorization, and recall, as well as the ability to apply knowledge in new situations.

3. Increased creativity through free-form, non-linear thinking

Like your thinking and understanding, mind maps are not static constructs. Rather, they are inherently flexible and constantly changing, encouraging refinement of thinking. Mind maps help you break the habit of thinking linearly and encourage flexibility. This means making use of more visual thinking to link concepts in relationship webs rather than in sequential order. Non-linear thinking enables you to jump around ideas and explore connections between ideas in pursuit of a big picture that is personally meaningful. Non-linear thinking not only helps make sense of existing ideas by finding the missing connections between them, but also helps identify gaps in understanding, and just as importantly, triggers new connections to seemingly unrelated ideas and helps generate new ideas altogether. With non-linear thinking, one can see possibilities that totally elude the linear thinkers.

2. Problem solving, decision making, and taking action

Mind maps are a way to develop logical thinking by revealing connections and helping students see how individual ideas form a larger whole. Their flexible structure encourages new ways of thinking about concepts and ideas and allows for the personal manipulation of information and testing of different scenarios. Mind maps enhance the problem-solving and decision-making process by generating alternative solutions and options, revealing a previously unseen but appropriate action. This will help you get unstuck by helping you generate different perspectives on the problems, resulting in a different state of mind, leading to novel, creative solutions.

1. Transform rote studying into self-directed learning

Through mapping concepts and ideas, students become better learners and thinkers. Mind mapping is a powerful tool because it turns complex information and problems into simple and clear diagrams through a visual representation of key concepts, facilitating comprehension and learning. When mind mapping, students whole-mindedly filter and break down unprocessed information to key concepts (analysis) and then organize and connect key concepts back together (synthesis) in a personally meaningful way. Mind maps enable students to see the connections between ideas they already have, connect new ideas to existing knowledge, and organize ideas in a logical structure that allows for future modification. This is the basis for meaningful learning. This active, self-directed process of learning eliminates the redundancy of most students’ approach to studying, which relies on simply copying and repeating back information. Mind mapping offers enough flexibility to maintain interest and encourage curiosity, and enough structure to keep the learner on track.

What are some of your favorite mind mapping uses? Let us know in the comments.

Toni Krasnic is the author of CONCISE LEARNING: Learn More & Score Higher in Less Time with Less Effort. He is a student success coach, visual mapper, and an educational consultant. He also publishes the free, monthly Student Success Newsletter. His Web site, www.ConciseLearning.com, has many free, useful resources on mind mapping for students and teachers. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

On November 15 at 11AM EST, Toni will host a session on Mind Mapping in Education at the Global Education Conference. Join him for this FREE, 1-hour webinar.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The commercial use of Mind maps

The commercial uses of mind maps are rare; aren’t they? Take a flow chart; it’s certainly used and seems to be in the mainstream than rather than Mind maps. Why has Mind maps struggled to be used as a commercial graphical communication tool? I believe the answer is rather simple; even professional graphical practitioners struggle to see the value of using Mind maps for everything. And if the professional graphical designers, such as involved within the Information Architecture and User Experience arena’s, hardly even use or even see the value in the commercial use of a mind map; well what chance does it have?

Ok, that was the extreme negative of the rejection or misunderstanding of the value of Mind maps for commercial use. I firmly believe though; Mind maps have an excellent usage potential within commercial arenas.

Over the years I have often been asked to create a few Mind mapped formats for commercial use. The range of use was for advertisements and for customer motivation relating to the way that information can be succinctly expressed.

This is where I believe Mind maps can excel. The mapped format is perfect for getting an advertisement or commercial product information across with clarity. The user experience is the focus of designing web pages that inform and at the same time educate the client, customer or student. And I wonder; wouldn’t it be advantageous to connect more closely with the IA/UX arena and learn from the professional designers of web communications and information management databases?

I highly recommend Jeff Parks, he has an excellent consultancy worth taking a close look at found here: http://www.iaconsultants.ca/ I've spoken with Jeff about the importance of multiple graphical formats, and I find Jeff to be very open to the potential uses of Mind mapped formats within web design and commercial use.

Here are a few examples of Mind mapped formats that were compiled with a view to being used commercially. FYI, the examples viewed below were over sized prints which were plaqued for presentation purposes.

It would be rather interesting to see how other Mind mapping colleagues are using the mapped format within their commercial communications.

The software used to compile these examples were; MindManager and Mindview

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Xmind: better mind mapping

Because of our love of mind mapping, the XMind team came together from different parts of China to create XMind. On April 1st, 2007, we released the first English version of XMind in Beijing.

To make a better productivity tool, we have a few principles that we adhere to:

• XMind must be very easy to use.
• XMind should increase user productivity with a fun to use interface and powerful functionality.
• XMind should be accessible so that more people can benefit from mind mapping.

Easy-to-use ≠ Simple

Every good tool must be easy to use. But this does not mean simple. In fact, some look-simple tools are not easy to use. Easy-to-use is a design concept that gives people a certain feeling while using a tool. For example, XMind allows users to create a subtopic with the Tab key. The result is that people can easily mind map with a shortcut keystroke that makes sense. Some users have described this feature as Enter spreads your ideas, and Tab digs one idea. It greatly enhances usability.

The need to focus is very important for building a mind map, especially a big one. Drilldown provides a perfect solution. Selecting a topic and clicking F6 brings you into a branch level, where you can focus on the topic for that branch and its associated subtopics.

Navigation is easy too. We can choose to see all topics in a classic style outline viewer or via the diagrammatic Overview viewer. Outline view shows the entire map content in a traditional linear way, which sometimes helps in digesting the map concepts. BTW, we can directly edit topic content in this viewer. Overview view offers us the flexibility to see and navigate through content on the map. Left-clicking the mouse allows us to move any part of the map into the center. Scrolling the mouse wheel allows us to quickly zoom in or out on the map.

Presentation is an easy task in XMind because of the Presentation Mode. No matter which topic we are on, clicking F5 will bring us into this special mode. All topics are hidden except the Central Topic, which is at the center and highlighted. Now, by hitting the space key in succession, each main topic is revealed one by one, centered and highlighted instead of the central topic.

In fact, we can pick out more. All of these features, while powerful, were designed with ease of use in mind.

Increasing User Productivity with XMind

When we decided to enter the mind mapping software market, we wanted to provide functionality that was not only easy to use, but fun to use and productivity-enhancing. We didn’t find a mind mapping tool in the market that provided all of these aspects, so we took on this challenge with XMind.

Since releasing XMind, we’ve received lots of positive feedback about the user interface, that it’s pleasing to the eye. We believe having an attractive interface makes work tasks more fun and greatly enhances productivity.

We’ve also received many accolades for our Multiple Sheets functionality within the main view. Similar to how a spreadsheet workbook allows you to have multiple sheets within that file; we can create multiple sheets within a single XMind file. Searching, finding and navigating content is much easier this way. Instead of having to open and close various files, or follow links and navigate away from a starting point, users can easily click between different sheet tabs for maximum efficiency in perusing various map content.

Other functionality for finding and sharing content within XMind makes it an essential productivity tool.

If we want to find something in a single map, normally Find and Replace (Ctrl+F) will be good enough. When we have many opened maps, with some having multiple sheets within them, Powerful Search view will be a great assistant. In this viewer, we can search any content in all opened workbooks. The search results are listed as a tree with a clean looking format. We can get to the content we need to find quickly and efficiently.

XMind can export map content to other file formats such as Image, PDF (Map), PDF (Document) , HTML, etc., for fast sharing.

XMind also offers another free sharing solution, XMind Share. Suppose you’re a teacher and a mind mapper. You want to share some special class content with your students in a non-public way. Just open the map in XMind and sign-in with your XMind Account (free to set up on www.xmind.net). Click the Upload button on the toolbar, select Unlisted in the privacy controls, and upload the map to XMind Share. This map will be assigned a unique URL, which you can provide to your students so that they can go and read the map online or download it to their own computers. Note that people without the URL will not be able to get to your map and it won’t be searchable in Google.

Making XMind and Mind Mapping Accessible to the World

When we started XMind four years ago, we had the vision of exposing as many people as possible to the power of mind mapping. We believe that XMind Open Source is a great way to achieve this vision.

This open source version of XMind has many features which meet most peoples’ basic mind mapping requirements. More importantly, it incorporates all of the design rules mentioned above, namely easy to use, fun to use, and productivity-enhancing.

Along with XMind Open Source, we also offer XMind Pro, which has more advanced business features such as Presentation mode, Audio notes, TaskInfo view, and Gantt chart viewer. XMind Pro is subscription-based software with a very reasonable entry–level fee.

Remaining true to our principles has gotten some results that we are really proud of. Earlier this year, XMind surpassed the half a million user mark, and our user base continues to grow exponentially as more and more people discover the power of XMind.

Finally, we want to say a big Thank You to all of XMind users who have sent feedback via email or left messages via Twitter, Facebook, and our user forums, or just support us quietly. No matter whether its praise, suggestions, or criticism, your support provides the fuel for the XMind Team to keep working hard and make XMind better and better.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Evolution of the Visual Mapper

We don’t make it easy; do we?

We mind-visual-knowledge mappers may be our own worst enemies, when it comes to establishing the tools, methods and mindset of our respective interpretations. And the interpretations are so numerous they read like a course in theology.

We more than likely use the term mind mapping as an SEO advantage, as it is the most popular term used when searching the web for Visual thinking as a whole. Maybe the term is a semantic issue for some of us too, after all, some use the term mind map and visual map as if they have the same meaning and function.

Buzan mind mapping is excellent for those who feel comfortable with using traditional buzan hand drawn radiant maps, the laws of Buzan mapping, and now the rather interesting and successful software from ThinkBuzan named iMindmap.

A note of recognition; it is accepted that Tony Buzan formalized Buzan hand drawn Mind mapping. Mr. Buzan is responsible for the Genesis of Mind mapping, and is without a doubt ultimately responsible for the motivation behind many of the visual mapping products we now use.

Nick Duffill of Harport consulting states; “My current assessment is that Mind Mappers are annoyed at software developers for hijacking their brand, and software developers are kicking themselves for hijacking a brand that comes with so much baggage that makes its reception unpredictable in a business environment. Both though have done well out of the relationship”.

Within business at industrial and corporate levels; the graphical formats used to model data, information and knowledge are numerous. Flowcharts are standard along with value-stream maps, Gantt, statistical graphs, PERT and Six sigma control charts to mention but a few.

The rather surprising fact is; we very rarely come across mind maps being used as a standard within business. I usually get someone looking over my shoulder wherever I may be consulting to, and while mind mapping. The almost standard line is; “wow that looks cool; what’s it for?” I must sound like an old recording by now when I go through the (admittedly) rather monotone delivery of what a mind map is.

Though I do believe; with the deluge of data within corporations and information management systems, “mind maps” that can scale to accommodate data aggregation are critical. This problem of information overload is what gives raise to the whole field of knowledge management and more specifically data visualization, a close corporate cousin or big brother if you will, of conventional mind maps.

I however call myself a Visual mapper, and not a mind mapper. While some of our colleagues may be confused as to definitions and terminologies, I firmly believe visual mapping to be a more expressive designation for the graphical toolbox available to us.

Visual mapping includes but is not limited to mind, concept, flow and argument mapping. Of course there are more tools included; but for the sake of argument (pardon the pun), these tools adequately cover the graphical capabilities of Visual mapping. Visual mapping may be a useful term to bridge the gap and emphasize the common goal of both mind maps and other data visualization formats.

Mark Wogan of Crystal Mapping states; “From an evolutionary point of view it, might help to view the term Visual Mapping as the next stage in Mind Mapping. Furthermore Visual Mapping 2.0 (VM2.0) could start to be a representative term for the aggregation of tools which utilize the cloud as well desktop software”.

If I say “this is a visual map” while pointing to and using a flowchart, argument map, concept map and even a mind map; I believe this would be correct and accurate. Conversely, if I point to a flowchart, argument map and or even a concept map and say “this is a mind map”, I believe this would be incorrect and inaccurate.

Shelley Hayduk (PersonalBrain) would differ and states; “it is fine to call these latter items mind maps, and Buzan-like conventional mind maps should not define what a mind map is”.

Shelley goes on to state; “These conventional maps don’t allow for associative connections or the scalability necessary to truly reflect the complexity of human thought and interaction. So perhaps this term “mind map” needs to evolve… in the same way a phone at one time meant a rotary dial… it now means a touch screen with apps”. This may be an important analogy to remember".

“In fact the very market confusion that this article points out might very well indicate the evolution of the “mind map” itself”.

While I understand my colleague’s argument, I firmly believe there are obvious differences between mind mapping (single format) and visual mapping (multiple formats). Are you with me?

Software products which find their origins in the mind mapping genre, have developed into excellent visual mapping products offering multiple formats of graphical expression. Apart from the generic radiant format, we now have the ability to toggle between organograms, input/output trees, and strictly linear formats that would lend themselves to flowchart type of outputs.

MindManager, ConceptDraw, MindGenius, Visual mind, MindMapper, MindView, NovaMind and Xmind are but a few of the leading products that have had their genesis within the Mind mapping genre. The obvious use of the term “Mind” is a remnant of the past influence of Mind mapping upon some of the mapping products that have evolved past the radiant format.

And it would be misleading not to mention cloud computing as the potential driver for future information management trends. There are a growing number of graphical mapping services currently available for the discerning cloud user. MindMeister and Comapping are two notable leading SaaS mapping products.

I agree with many of my colleagues who say; visual mapping and mind mapping genres may become rather passé, with regards to the continuous evolutionary processes of mind to knowledge mapping.

Visual mapping is apparently developing into the knowledge mapping arena. Note; using the term arena, it’s merely convenient to do so. It’s clear we cannot identify an actual arena based on mind and visual mapping; apart from what software developers produce.

We can however state a good case for knowledge mapping, or to be more precise, the move into Personal, Academic and Business knowledge management (KM). Many of our colleagues have continuously dialogued regarding stating a case for Personal Knowledge mapping for many years.

Roy Grubb however states; “I think KM needs to be divided into two camps: Personal knowledge management (PKM) and Business knowledge management (BKM). The reason is that: (PKM) is alive and moderately well, aided by many products like Evernote, PersonalBrain and Topicscape. My discussions with KM professionals however tell me that BKM has not been an overwhelming success".

"The reason is apparently a societal one. Extricating, recording and organizing the knowledge is too time-consuming on the one hand, and it goes against human nature to reveal knowledge that staffers may feel represent a significant part of their value to an employer. And getting people to use the stored knowledge is difficult. This is why Personal Knowledge Management is not suffering the same inability to get widely established".

"The tools are not the problem. There is some excellent repository software, great library software, and even visual based software like Brain EKP”.

Maybe by now you see where this is leading; knowledge management (KM) is the area covering the aggregation of data (numbers, words and images), through the information contextualization process, and ultimately through and into knowledge; see here. The knowledge portion of this process is rather interesting. This is where we develop a mindset that can be practically applied.

The mindset is the culmination of the data aggregation and information contextualizing processes, and this is where knowledge is realized; and applied.

John England the founder of Mindsystems and the developer of the product named “Amode” is quoted as saying; “Information is the centre of the universe”. In context Mr. England was stating that, a mind map or single format is not the central function of any information management process or system, as some would have us believe.

Mindsystems developed term called “Method Neutral”. It’s defined as: “Multiple modes of information expressed within a flexible workspace”. Mull that definition over in your mind for awhile, and I’m convinced the light will go on at some point for you; as it did for me.

Many of our Visual mapping colleagues speak of the business application of KM within the constraints of software currently available. KM will surely evolve as all things do in the scale of development.

We haven’t yet arrived at some kind of nirvana regarding information management, but it is clear we’ve come to a point of realizing mind and visual mapping is aligning with knowledge management.

BrainEKP and Topicscape are good examples of this: products combining data visualization, content management, multi-user collaboration and search. These solutions may be viewed as a hybrid of the best and most relevant knowledge management features but with a visual interface. The visual map being the centre piece of the application and the other content management features support it. This solution illustrates how visualization/mind /or visual mapping can take center stage at corporate level.

Both PersonalBrain and Topicscape are excellent Knowledge management products; offering a relational database approach to graphical knowledge mapping. They provide both new visualization interfaces and importing options. These products provide a more agnostic view as to where the solution fits on the visual mapping spectrum. While some PersonalBrain and Topicscape, and even Mindsystems Amode users will still use conventional mind maps, even store and launch them from their respective programs; and other users may simply replace mind maps entirely with one of these dynamic visual interfaces.

Below is a collage reference to a choice of mainstream mapping products.

Quite overwhelming isn’t it?
Whether you use any of the referenced tools; you’ll more than likely evolve from being a rudimentary information mapper, and into a personal, academic and/or business knowledge mapper.

This article is admittedly incomplete and awaits additions from many other more capable colleagues. It must end though where we should really be seed planting.

Let’s laser focus on academia; infusing and integrating the tools, methods and mindset of visual mapping.

Recently Toni Krasnic; the creator of the Concise Learning Method and author of Concise Learning stated; “Student success is my passion”. It is within academia where the thought leaders of tomorrow are nurtured, developed and released into the mainstream of industry and corporate business.

Closing the gap between what academia produces and what the business world requires may be a prime directive. Academics do a great job, yet there is however a gap that exists between academia and business. Some of our colleagues see this as a chasm. This divide must be bridged with an understanding of the needs and wants of the industrial and business world in relation to knowledge management.

Corporate business may be best positioned as a partner with academia. Business leaders understand the value add and usability of knowledge management. It may be practical for visual thinking business leaders to indicate their needs more clearly; in terms of what is required of future employees.

Within his Book “A Whole New MindDan Pink indicated the need for whole brain thinking. We shall accomplish much by enabling whole brain thinking information managers, who use the tools, methods and mindsets of graphical thinking. We live in exciting times where the whole brain thinker has the ability to distinguish between, and use the power of both linear and non linear thinking.

Professional associations, Bodies of Knowledge and certification processes are worthwhile initiatives, yet these initiatives may belong as a subset of established bodies such as Quality, Project and Knowledge management institutes.

Creating a relationship with these institutes may be an ideal approach, as they already have their respective systems in place. The existence of established BOK’s and certification offerings may be where we mind-visual mappers find a welcoming home.

The lack of professional cohesiveness and peer recognition within our so called arenas is problematic. We should solidify and validate our professional standing before considering and presenting a case for visual mapping inclusion to the mentioned bodies.

This all sounds rather presumptuous; doesn’t it? Many of our colleagues, who are graphical thinkers, agree on one thing though; we simply have to associate with other institutions. This may preserve and continuously improve the use, infusion and professional recognition of our skill set and the visual tools we use.

Having had a long journey of involvement within information management; it’s great to have apprenticed to a few of the thought leaders of the past 25 years. Much has been learned, and the learning process never ends.

All in all, I believe there shall be a consensus to the intentions of this article.

Giving credit where it is due. There’s been so much input and feedback from fellow colleagues listed below; this article has developed into a collaborative piece.

Wallace Tait: Visualmapper

John England (Mindsystems)
Nick Duffill (Harport Consulting)
Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D (Assitivetek)
Nigel Goult (Olympic Ltd)
Roy Grubb (G&A Management Consultants)
Shelley Hayduk (Brain Technologies)
Professor Toni Krasnic ( Concise Learning)
Leandro Meinhardt (Oracle)
Professor Pascal Venier (Digital Emergence)
Olin Reams (CS.Odessa)
Hans Terhurne (CreaMatics)
Mark Wogan ( Crystal Mapping)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The DropMind advantage

How to manage your information more effectively?

Every company is in constant struggle to improve 2 attributes above all; productivity and efficiency. These attributes can have a wide range of activities depending on the company and the industry they’re in, but let us talk about the meaning of those attributes in an office environment.

There are many different strategies to approach these attributes, but I believe that productivity will increase by increasing motivation and minimizing confusion, and effectiveness will increase by increasing creativity.

Given a normal work day at the office, people are prone to deal with many different ideas, challenges, meetings, assignments and I can only keep going if I am to form a complete list of activities. This brings to mind a vision for an application which makes an informational base.

Seavus DropMind™ allows for better control over information and allows you to:

• Form a base and create a visual database,
• Organize and collaborate,
• Present and start a project,
• Save time,
• Keep yourself up to date and think for the future.

Now let me go into more details

(1)Think about every time you come across something that you think might serve you well in the future, you usually write the stuff down. You jot it on sticky notes or write it on a blank sheet of paper, then it ends’ up being lost.

(2)I have also learned that having many applications to work with, no matter how great they are, the situation proves to be prone to generate a long array of confused moments.

(3)Meetings, assignment due dates, we all try our best to perform the best but sometimes that isn’t enough.

This is why it helps to have one, base application, in which you record your information, from which you access your information, from where you manipulate with your information, and most importantly the base application needs to be as user friendly as possible.

Seavus DropMind™ is developed in a way to help you capitalize on the effectiveness of information management by using the aid of visual perspective. This enables users to work with greater ease in a hasty manner by quickly locating the needed information, and generating the needed documents. DropMind’s look and feel is relaxing and smooth and it uses the popular top of screen ribbon in order to preserve simplicity. Additionally the application allows you to:

• Place attachments of any file type,
• Use organizational charts to help you place your thoughts and ideas anywhere on a map ,and organize them in an format pleasing to your eye
• Enter notes which briefly describe a topic, or note recent changes made in the same
• Add hyperlinks if you have gotten the info from the web
• Use tasks and alerts to help you prepare yourself for important activities and due dates
• More benefits for using Seavus DropMind are the integrations, of which most notable are:
o The MS® Word integration.
o The MS® PowerPoint integration.
o The MS® Project integration.
o The MS® Outlook integration.
o The Basecamp integration.
o The Google integration, which allows users to upload and attach Google Docs, and also allows importing Google Contacts in the mind map community; through which by using an advanced search allows searching the content of their Google Docs.

Seavus DropMind™ has extensive options for export/import into another file type and they let your work become much more versatile in the way it gets handled. Imagine the freedom which you can enjoy.

Let’s say that you have a map full of tasks, topics, attachments, notes and other info you may have placed. In other words, let us say you have an idea/project where you’ve organized your info on a map, and now you have to make few copies of the same content on a different format.

For the sake of this example, let us assume you need to hand out a hard copy of the material, and you have to make a presentation of the same. Seavus DropMind™ lets you use many options in order to customize your export from within the application. This advanced approach to export/import (as shown on the screen shot) also applies for other file types.

Among many, other notable feature is the advanced filter. This is a benefit which saves you time. You can use this filter to show or hide all your content which is related to a specific group of attributes (tasks, attachments, hyperlinks, notes and other) to save you on searching time. Also, you can summarize all the tasks on one topic along with all the tasks of its subtopics. Using this feature, a Project Manager can just come in to work and see today’s due dates for the team and themselves as well.

I believe that creativity is what has brought us all to a level at which we are now, and from my professional perspective the top ranked information management applications are lacking the ability to trigger people to open up their minds. Instead of looking at a linear fashion, as I mentioned before, Seavus DropMind™ is displaying the information in a more dimensional and visual manner. This allows you to quickly recognize the priority level of a topic along with all its connections and dependencies and its current position status.

Additionally, by saving you on searching time along with the benefit of visual perspective, Seavus DropMind™ has proven to force people to be more inventive, and has resulted in opening up people’s minds to fresh new ideas for solving a given problem.

Handling a large load of sensitive information can get quite overwhelming. Also when working on the details of a particular project for an extensive period of time can sometimes result in a fading memory of the bigger picture. I think it would be good to be able to choose and switch between your points of view of your work. Look at the whole project from a “bird’s point of view “in order to grasp the bigger picture and minimize confusion, or look closer into the details to focus your work on a particular task or topic.

I’d like to quote Chuck Oldman (writer), one of DropMind’s creative users. In one of his blogs he has written “DropMind is a lot of fun to use; it most certainly allows you to treat your work as creative play. The design is friendly, just about everything is customizable, and what was once a daunting task seems to have become a welcome challenge.”

Think about having one visual map were all the info you need is easy accessible saying “My Work”! Wouldn’t that be great!?

This concept is a way of thinking, a visual thinking, which is not so widely spread but it keeps on positively surprising people in the business world.

Our DropMind team prides itself in excellence, and we try to maintain that goal by always striving to deliver great customer service, and working on developing the application according to our user’s needs.

We love every opportunity to listen to their wishes for improvement. You would have to experience Seavus DropMind™ yourself to know what I’m referring to, and to see the advantages. I am convinced that once you have placed your work on a DropMind map, and have it organized the way you want to, your work will become more creative and enjoyable!

As current Product Sales Manager at Seavus; Angel Tanev is a technology driven, sales professional, who motivates his sales colleagues and clients. Seeking and finding an intuitive and inventive approach to spreading the voice and news of the Seavus organization is his forte.

Angel has an advantage of being a success within product sales, and strives to expand DropMind’s presence and exponentially grow its sales.

Prior to Seavus Angel enjoyed a successful position as a sales manager for Qwest Communications for 5 years.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A 3rd edition publication from Chuck Frey

Chuck Frey of The Mind mapping software blog is offering an expanded 3rd edition of Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software.

Recently received a copy directly from Chuck, and it's a rather good improvement upon his previous editions. Keeping his study, analysis and professional approach to writing, always with a critical eye on the mind-visual mapping genre.

Worth grabbing this edition, as the developments within the graphical information management arena has grown exponentially since Chuck's previous edition.

No one else writes quite like Chuck Frey, and his unique way of approaching the mind-visual mapping genre is a stable for many new and established Visual thinkers who feel the need to be informed of current practices and future trends.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

As Visual mappers: what should our approach be?

I am somewhat challenged with my thoughts regarding the viability of continuously attempting to pushing something mainstream that has and continues to struggle for a wholesale adoption.

Mind mapping as a single radiant process has failed miserably to become a mainstream method globally. 40 years after the formalization by Mr Tony Buzan, and here we are still trying to justify its use and infusion into the mainstream.

Many of our colleagues are even confused as to the designations and distinct differences between Mind-Visual and Knowledge mapping.

Visual Mapping on the other hand is more descriptive of the multiple formats available for graphical expressiveness of information.

Knowledge mapping/management seems to be the future key with connectivity to back end data bases; namely relational databases. Some are using tools such as Mind mapping and flow charts as rather good front end applications in the vein of dash boards and master map configurations.

I would suggest that we are more effectively positioned as Information Managers and facilitators, who understand the value of Whole Brain information management.

The Mind mapping arena, whilst an excellent format for initial exposure to more effective Information management processing has failed to capture the generations proceeding the initial formalization of hand drawn Buzan Mapping 40 years ago.

It is rather amazing yet embarrassing to view the landscape and see some claiming Mind mapping to be the great panacea for the ills of current information management practices.

I firmly believe we should debate an approach for this portion of this century; as we shall be passing on this initiative to future generations for further development and improvement.

The potential strategy may be one of a focus on information management rather than a focus on the tools. The methods are important; yet the application of the mindset is IMO most important. Very few of our colleagues actually speak of the association with a mindset.

I firmly believe the Body of Knowledge proposal made some years ago by Arjen Ter Hoeve and Wallace Tait was and remains to be an initiative that would solidify, verify and validate our purpose, Mission and Business model. At this time Pascal Venier and Wallace Tait are pro-actively seeking to prove the viability of such a venture; using current academic and business management system standards as benchmarks for establishment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scenario Mapping: Hans Terhurne

In 2009 I was asked to develop and facilitate a scenario planning session using the tools and methods of visual mapping. The board of directors of a Dutch training organization showed interest in the development of graphically mapped out possible future scenarios, so to be better prepared for future business opportunities. In the meantime I facilitated many of these sessions with other organizations and individuals, and the results were rather interesting!

Fundamental changes are occurring in the ways in which we understand and solve problems. They influence most aspects of our personal and business life. Former tried and tested formulae of the past no longer fit to the future needs of problem solving and planning.

Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them”.

What is Scenario Mapping?

Scenario mapping is a robust strategic method which can be used in diverse ways. Scenario Mapping is a method where (after finding out what the core questions of issues are, together with the people and groups involved) in a mini workshop is explored what the driving forces and trends are. This is done with the help of mind mapping (by hand and/or with the help of software).

The grouped results are the basis for a second follow-up mini workshop where 2 – 4 less or more possible future scenarios are developed in the form of mind maps and discussed. Thus the participants (at all levels of authority) know what’s going on now and in probable future scenarios within their organization …

The result of this form of Mapping is a set of ‘Scenario Maps’ which graphically express an alternative look at possible and/or impossible (?) futures – they are however not predictions! With the assistance of these scenarios an organization can react faster to current and probable changing business conditions and opportunities.

Participants are often surprised by the speed and impact of Scenario Mapping sessions!

What is the purpose of Scenario Mapping?

Scenario Mapping helps to improve the performance of organizations by:

• Stimulating creativity focusing on the future
• Discover new possible opportunities for improvement
• Find new perspectives

… And can be done when

• We lose our ambition and sense of urgency
• We perceive issues different than the most important stakeholders
• Current situations are uncertain
• We are more reactive rather than proactive
• We’re not so good at lateral thinking – and need to be graphically inspired
• We want to be more sure about the planned and probable futures
• Plans are written by a small people in a small room and don’t seem to correlate with current realities of the majority
• We would like to involve more people in strategic themes
• We seem to go off at a tangent – there is no common sense for what we see.

Who should be involved with Scenario Mapping?

It is important that everybody is invited who has a picture of the possible future. Just invite everybody whose interest can be stimulated to invest in the future of the organization. Apart from senior management; the inclusion of passionate employees, volunteers, customers, competitors (!), local authorities, suppliers and partners are essential.

Hans Terhurne is a facilitator, trainer and efficiency coach using the ingredients ‘dialogue’, ‘visual mapping’ and ‘creative problem solving techniques’ to generate involvement and commitment for the next step in business management items. The name of his organization is CreaMatics – active in a systematic way and finding new solutions for today’s challenges.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Musings of 3 powerful principles

A few principles for the information manager to consider

1. Correspondence
2. Polarity
3. Cause and Effect

Linear thinking is integral with non linear thinking and processing (correspondence).

The human makes decisions based on thoughts that produce data, which is made up of numbers, words and images. This data, when aggregated, becomes information, which when contextualized becomes relevant information. Information feeds the concept of knowledge, and depending on the specific management and application of knowledge, it makes us more valuable, which may be results oriented and in turn may be a measure of success.

It has been said (flippantly IMO) we humans have a left and right brain (but of course there’s more); in fact we have a single unit brain that has a left and right hemisphere connected with some heavy duty tissue (wiring). Science has proven that when we use our brains to make a logical decision, we visualize the outcome first.
Equally it has been proven when we visualize a scenario; we are calculating a degree of logic associated with the imagined scenario.

Looking at a thermometer we see the measurement of temperature (polarity). We see a series of horizontal lines that express measurement, this indicates hot and cold. Depending on the higher and lower levels, we understand temperature. Where does hot and cold begin and end? For some this is questionable, the same may be expressed with sharp and dull, high and low etc.

The poles of understanding are an expression of the choices we make according to the correspondence of the data/information/knowledge processes.

Arriving at an understanding of why things happen (cause and effect) is crucial IMO. The inter-connectivity between the two previously mentioned principles is evident.

Causes have effects and effects have causes. The forward thinking information manager of this century is neither a left or right oriented thinker. This person is a visual mapper, a whole brained thinker who understands there is a process approach to expressing system using the tools, methods and mindset of visual mapping.

There is indeed a greater understanding of the implications of the monetized aspect of what we may call the information economy, and I firmly believe it is prudent to entertain the three principles mentioned.

“Information becomes knowledge, and did you know; it makes you more valuable when you apply it”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MindManager V9 has arrived

MindManager Version 9 Demonstrates Business Productivity Benefits of Mindjet’s Next Generation Software

Tight Integration of Visual Information Mapping with Microsoft Office, Web Services and Core Business Systems Helps Business Professionals Work More Efficiently

San Francisco – August 10, 2010 – Mindjet®, the leading provider of software and web- based applications for visually organizing and managing information and ideas, today announced the general availability of version 9 of its visual information mapping software, MindManager.

MindManager gives information workers the resources they need to see the big picture and all the relevant details needed for analysis and planning, within a single, easily edited view.

MindManager, already used by over 1.5 million business professionals worldwide, is taking a quantum leap forward with this new release of its flagship product.

This latest version greatly enhances the usability of Mindjet’s award-winning application, allowing it to integrate more seamlessly with users other MS Office applications, web services and collaboration platforms.

Key Features in MindManager Version 9 for Windows:

• Microsoft Outlook® Integration – Features more powerful integration with Microsoft Outlook tasks, emails, notes, calendar items and contacts to easily bring relevant information from Outlook directly into your MindManager maps for greater access and visibility into your projects and work. Synchronized branches of Outlook tasks can be added to maps and visualized in MindManager’s integrated Gantt chart.

• Microsoft PowerPoint® Integration – Users can now easily use MindManager to research and map out presentations and then export their ideas from MindManager directly into PowerPoint slides to accomplish more, faster.

• Interactive Slide Shows – Unlike ‘broadcast’ presentations, MindManager introduces a new way to present and collaborate on concepts, strategies and plans. Users can launch interactive slide shows directly within MindManager to review selected portions of their map, solicit feedback and update their map content directly in each slide.

• Gantt Chart and Resource Views – Individuals can view task and project plan timelines in MindManager’s integrated and synchronized Gantt chart. Updates can be made to maps by adjusting the Gantt chart or by making changes directly into a map. The resource views highlight when individuals are over or underutilized in both your map and the Gantt chart.

• MindManager Explorer for SharePoint (sold separately)– Visualizes SharePoint content in MindManager’s easy-to-use dynamic maps. With bi-directional SharePoint integration, users can more easily discover, aggregate and update their SharePoint content from one or more SharePoint sites.

Download Version 9 HERE

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What's your elevator pitch?

I'm often in a situation where I meet someone and they ask what I do and inevitably what Visual mapping is, After I bore them to death with the information management consultant thing, I present my elevator pitch regarding Visual mapping.

Here's mine:
Imagine a flexible framework that supercharges your information management skills.
I call it Visual mapping: which utilizes Mind/concept/flow/argument and project mapping. When you adopt this framework, you’ll improve the way you generate, handle and exchange information.
Become a superior information manager who creates with clarity, manages effectively, delivers on time and improves continuously.

Yes I know, it can sound a little manufactured and almost presumptions, but it does get inquisitive reactions and leads to some interesting business contracts.

What's your elevator pitch?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mapping out the landscape; Guest post

I am pleased to be associated with fellow professionals who inspire, motivate and encourage me to be all I can be, and Roy Grubb does all of this and then some.

His work at www.informationtamers.com is fantastic; being IMO, the most extensive “FREE” wiki containing a database of information and knowledge of all things relating to the tools, methods and Mindset of Mind-Visual and Knowledge mapping/management. Roy is the go to guy of Visual mapping.

It is my pleasure to make Roy’s guest post available to you here at visualmapper

Wallace Tait: Visualmapper

This is a guest post from Roy Grubb.

Visual thinking is slowly gaining recognition and traction. Slooowly. Much too slowly. Those of us who have used visual methods for decades, know the scope, depth and sheer fun of the many techniques and we know the advantages missed by the many people who aren't using them yet.

One of the reasons? The words we use: Mind maps, visual maps, information maps, mindscapes, concept maps, idea maps, visual thinking - there isn't one that really fits all needs, though I've seen a few collaborative attempts to run one down.

Want another reason for slow adoption? The mapping fundamentalists who boldly assert that theirs is the only form that's worth considering.

There's a broad landscape of visual methods and mapping styles -- and I believe nearly all have value in the right circumstances.

Click the above image to see the map in Mindjet's Player (Flash). Other versions available: Full-size PNG image - Mindjet's Player (PDF - Acrobat only) - MindManager .mmap file.

So I decided to map out that landscape, challenge some of the myth-makers and set up some pointers of where to go for more information. There's a lot more to visual thinking than you'll find here, but this post is just about maps, because they are powerful tools.

For details you'll have to go to WikIT , the wiki dedicated to all forms of information mapping with a visual slant. This is accessible to all, no subscription needed, no long sales page, not even a request for your email address. That's because the purpose of WikIT is to make knowledge of mapping techniques available to as many people as possible, without reservation.

In this post, I've added links to specific pieces there so that you can explore for more detail, but to see its full scope you can peek at the contents list.
Mind mapping
Mind mapping seems like good place to start, because it's one of the better known. Tony Buzan claims to have named them first. He has published rules that he says a map should follow before it can be called a mind map.

Buzan mind maps

But maps that don't fit the Buzan formula are now often called "mind maps". Maybe they have straight lines, use boxes or bubbles for nodes, have a lot of text in each box, or do not use color or images. Spider diagrams, idea maps, bubble charts and others are widely referred to as mind maps. Buzan-qualified instructors are often jump in with tweets or comments on blogs to say that these are not mind maps. Too late: The term is out in the wild (btw although 'Mind Maps' is indeed a registered trademark, it applies only to training courses).

It is useful to be able to distinguish the types of mind maps. WikIT, the mapping wiki, makes the distinction by referring to "Buzan mind maps" and "common mind maps".

What identifies all of these is that they start with a main topic and everything hangs off that in a hierarchy. Usually, the main topic is in the center.

Mind maps are good, amongst other uses, for breaking a topic into its parts - those parts into smaller ones and so on. Say you have an idea for a new business. You put a working name for the business in the center of a large sheet and you can quickly sketch in the services to be offered, radiating out around that. Against each service you can add items for needs, sources, differentiation from competitors, market research and niches to target, funding ideas, and costs.

The radial form makes it keep an overview and the focus on the center. It also makes it easy to make insertions at the right point. These are very appealing in comparison with a written list. Lists work well when planning is complete and the plan is being executed, but at the open-ended, thinking stage, an open diagram can help to bring out new thoughts. This is true for many people - it's not guaranteed, but unless you have tried seriously, you may not know you're missing an opportunity.
Mind maps are good for arranging information for learning. Again the hierarchical breakdown appears, this time for organizing notes and grouping related topics together. The mental process of organizing helps with understanding and remembering.

In a Buzan mind map, each node will comprise just one or two words. Many Buzan advocates say "only one", but the examples that come with his own software (iMindMap) include examples with as many as five words.

The reason given for this rule is that writing a phrase can finish the thought while breaking the phrase into keywords and then looking for intermediate junctions can suggest other lines of thought and open up your thinking. In my experience it works very well in some cases. My argument with it is that it is presented by some of the gurus as the only way to make mind maps.

Here is an example of the benefits of bypassing the guideline in very different circumstances taken from a mind map summarizing the basic commands for editing Wikipedia. At the third level and beyond, substantial editing guidelines are given. Breaking these into single words would get in the way for readers trying to use this is a quick reference source.

For more about mind maps: WikIT has What is a mind map? / Buzan mind maps / Buzan's mind map guidelines in practical use / Common mind maps / Large mind maps and more.

I use mind maps of all types and find them stimulating to use. I had a great time making the mind map "Mapping: So many options" that was the starting point for this article.
Concept mapping
Then there are concept maps. These describe relationships between things - ideas, abstract concepts, places, substances or names of a material object.

If you want to be sure you understand a subject, or have a student prove to you that she has a grasp of a topic, they do a great job. And they have been widely accepted in the field of knowledge management, where groups work together to create knowledge on concept maps.

Defining characteristics:
  • Concept maps sometimes start with a "focus question" which tells you what the concept map is about - the question it was made to answer;
  • The main subject is usually at the top;
  • Nodes are boxes containing an idea, object name or concept;
  • Associated nodes are connected by a line with a "linking phrase" between;
  • Any node may be connected to any other node (it is a graph), so a concept map need not be limited to a tree topology.

If you want to organize files, notes and web shortcuts, allowing "any node may be connected to any other node" is particularly useful because you are not limited to placing a link under one parent. Multiple paths may lead to the same item and this reflects a basic reality of documents: They often relate to two or more topics.

The value of concept maps in demonstrating knowledge is that they are made up of propositions that may be verified. Each triplet of concept - linking phrase - concept can be extracted and discussed. So if a tutor found this on part of a student's concept map: A node "Sydney", connected to a node "Australia" by a linking phrase "is the capital of" she would know that the student had not mastered this aspect of the topic. The proposition can be read as "Sydney is the capital of Australia" and this mistake would show that a student had not grasped the difference between a financial center and a capital.

Concept maps are used in business to collect and record knowledge where subject experts discuss much more subtle propositions than the example just given.

For more about concept maps, WikIT has Concept maps, and Concept maps or mind maps? the choice, which are good starting points.
Skimming through more map types
Tree diagrams and organigrams (organization charts) are used in business to represent business functions and units and show the hierarchy of reporting. These are one of the most familiar visual forms. Tree diagrams on WikIT.

Mindscapes are unlike mind maps in several ways, but they share attributes like color, images, visual expression of ideas and organic or natural feel, all aimed at inspiring creative thinking. WikIT has an extensive and stimulating article by Nancy Marguilies, the noted proponent of Mindscapes.Mindscapes

ClusteringCluster maps are one of the early forms of graphic organizer used in schools and still work well for beginners. Using clusters of Post-It tags on the desk or wall allows for continuous change as the map develops, and can be drawn up as a mind map when the beginning mapper feels confident. Clustering on WikIT.

Visual thinking aids are used in teaching thinking in schools. A superb collection of these aids is at Exploratree, a website with 23 mind-jogger diagrams. Many of them will be useful to creatives and critical thinkers of all ages. More about visual thinking guides on WikIT.Exploratree

Flowcharts, swimlane charts, control flow diagrams and other step-by-step diagrams are used to document and envision behavior, decisions and processes. These are often prepared in black and white, but purposeful use of color, shading and shadows can enliven them and improve their ability to communicate. Flowcharts on WikIT.

Southbeach notation is a visualization and extension of TRIZ in map form. It's for problem solving, innovation and product improvement. The visual components of Southbeach notation help in analyzing details of a problem: What might be changed, the negative and positive aspects of the present situation and of the proposed changes, and the causes and effects of elements on one another. This is another whole post, though. The example is from Jangan Dabla and here is Southbeach notation on WikIT.Southbeach notation

Annular mapsAnnular maps maintain a strong focus on the central subject. In concentric rings around that, subsidiary thoughts or goals are arranged. Annular maps on WikIT.

Isomaps If you have time, patience and the skill, you may want to try these technically-advanced isometric projection maps developed by Arnaud Velten. As far as I know there is no application developed to make these, you'd have to use image manipulation software.Isomap

Why map?
Thinking, learning, organizing, problem solving, presenting, analyzing. planning, managing, creating, innovating, … there's no end to ways of using these maps.
WikIT has an article on this - "Uses of information maps".

100-reasonsand Paul Forman (Mindmapinspiration) has an entertaining list (yes, a list) of 100 reasons to mind map. He uses "mind map" in the Buzan sense.
The tragedy is that few appreciate just how many uses there are.

How should you make the map?
The options are hand-drawn maps, computer-based maps and maps made on smart-phones. Oh, and Post-It tags (see Cluster maps above).

I started back in the 1970s when making maps by hand was the only way - there was no software for mind maps then. My experience has been that hand-drawn maps are better for personal creativity, reinforcing memory, and if you have some artistic talent, for inspiring others. They are limited when the map is expanding rapidly, or has changed a lot over time, but the flexibility of layout is enviable when compared with most mind mapping software.

Map changes and expansion are not always a problem, because re-drawing a map that has become too big for its paper, or too messy, can bring out new ideas.

If you are an artist of limited ability your strained drawings and messy writing may be inhibiting if you're working in front of others. Working with a projected computer mind map may then be quicker and more comfortable.

Making maps on a computer is good when the map will expand and change continuously. It is better for readability, and allows something that is impossible with hand-drawn maps: Organizing attachments, notes, computer files and website links. Images are easy to find and add as well.
Organizing your thoughts on the computer gives you more freedom to move sections round as the thinking develops.

Computer based maps may limit your ability to express yourself when creativity is what you aim for. WikIT has a list with screenshots of free mapping software of many types.

Making maps on smart-phones has become popular because of the convenience of mapping anywhere - even standing up. The screen size makes it a limited, but most software allows exporting maps for later work on your computer. WikIT covers mobile mind mapping applications as well.

So keep your options loose - a hand-drawn mind map, computer made one, smartphone, iPad, ... your needs and resources will change from tasks to task and suit different purposes.
Mobile apps for Mind mapping
Some people even add hand-drawn map sections to computer made maps and find it useful.

Do read the comments here for a variety of opinions on hand-drawn maps.
Who is the map for? Who will make it?
Unless it's just for you alone, the audience for your map will affect the tools you use, the style and type of map.

If it is for a scattered group, then one of the collaborative tools like bubbl.us or Mindmeister may be helpful. If it is for a group gathered together, your options will be wide open and you can consider the next section.

How long have you got to make it?
In a meeting, a flipchart or whiteboard may be quickest and it will certainly be best if you are able to own the room, work the meeting, and inspire the group with your brilliant sketches and color.

If you can type quickly and are familiar with the operation of specific software, then a laptop and projector will beat handwriting for speed and may be more suitable in a conservative business setting.

How will you make it exciting?
For memory, inspiration and creativity, color, pictures, sketches and icons make a real contribution. Just take a glance at Nancy Margulies Mindscapes to see that. Even if you are involved in a business planning or knowledge management project, icons and colors can make finding what you want on the map quicker, but do pre-arrange a coherent color plan and make sure everyone involved knows what the colors represent.

The One Map Guys
Some will try to persuade you that only one type of map works, and that type works best in all circumstances.

Sometimes this is because only the type of map they promote can be produced by something they have to sell.

Sometimes it's because they have only ever used one type of map and never seriously explored others.

Often it's because their background means that they view maps through a particular lens: They are in knowledge management and believe that only concept maps work. They give seminars on creativity and value colors and pictures highly without regard to other uses. They only use maps for business analysis and think colors and pictures are frivolous. They are project managers and believe that only maps made with software with added task information are useful. They are teachers and believe that only hand-drawn maps work.

Be skeptical of claims that "there's only one way"!

Know the options, know what is best for which circumstances and be willing to try new methods. And happy mapping!

Roy GrubbRoy Grubb FBCS CITP MCMI is a management consultant specializing in the visual organization of information, knowledge, ideas, information systems and business projects.
He founded G&A Management Consultants Ltd. http://www.gandanet.com.hk/ in Hong Kong in 1981 and has undertaken assignments in USA, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, France, Scandanavia, Ireland and Hong Kong. His company was responsible for the development of 3D Topicscape and Roy was project manager for this mapping-based information organizer.
He has used mind mapping and similar techniques since the 1970s in his business and his private life and is the principal editor of WikIT.