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  • 6 April 2011 09:13

Map your way from chaos to clarity

Information mapping filtering throughout Australian organisations

By Cameron Ackbury, General Manager Asia Pacific and Japan, Mindjet

‘Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand’ - Chinese Proverb

The art and science of information mapping, which some call mind mapping, is filtering through Australian organisations as executives come to appreciate the benefits of working visually to assess complex data and undertake strategic projects.

Information mapping is facilitated by productivity software that is helping business professionals to organise their ideas, information and resources visually and act upon the outcomes to drive productivity, team effectiveness and innovation.

Software products like Mindjet MindManager harness information mapping with visualisation technology and collaboration to the degree where more than 1.5 million people globally use the application to their clarify thinking, analyse information efficiently, increase team productivity and make better informed decisions.

In Australia the use of information mapping software is particularly evident across the commercial sector, especially in mining and financial services, as well as Defence and many areas of government and education.

On a lower scale, authors are using it to plan books, students to track their studies, while one proud dad uses it to create risk taxonomy maps at work, then goes home to teach his five-year-old daughter to spell using a mindmap game he created and calls ‘Spiders’.

When Doug Inman began working for youi (, a provider of home and car insurance, his Director gave him a piece of advice that has since enabled him to carry out projects more efficiently, save time and money, stimulate new ideas and allowed him to become more creative. That advice from Executive Director, Howard Aron was simply: “Use Mindjet MindManager.”

As Head of Information Technology at Queensland-based Youi, Doug asserts that this counsel has paid off many times over. Howard also often uses MindManager, a visual productivity (mind mapping) application aimed at individuals, as do the company’s Chief Actuaries who apply it to risk management, and many others throughout the rapidly expanding company.

Information mapping encompasses visual mapping and free-form thinking, backed by interactive visual collaboration, is revolutionising the way in which people engage with information, ideas and each other.

Australians also appreciate the ability of products like Mindjet MindManager to import projects and information from Microsoft Office applications such as SharePoint and Project. While these are feature-rich, people often use only a fraction of their functionality. But once imported into information mapping software, projects from these applications can be visualised on an electronic drawing board which stimulates ideas and makes planning easy, essentially unlocking all the functionality of traditional programs. The output can be re-exported to MS Office, project management or business intelligence tools.

The early stages of a mind mapping project are the most critical. Each decision has a ripple effect which can impact costs, the bottom line, customers or time. Depending on the project, it can even make or break an organisation.

What does an executive do when an unclear, risky project lands in his or her lap? Do they run, or do they see it as an opportunity?

Visualise Success

Before embarking on a project journey, one of the best ways to increase chances of success is to involve the team in building a project charter ‘information map’. This visualisation technique breaks down broad goals graphically into increasing levels of detail to give everyone a better understanding of existing knowledge about the project.

More than just a visual overview, it puts a project into a dynamic framework where interested parties can discuss, document, organise and share with others. The team gets a clearer image of what is known, as well as all the gaps that must be filled in order to achieve success.

The MindManager brainstorming sequence goes something like this:

1. Setup a laptop and projector.

2. Define the topic and enter a phrase/word in the central topic. The name should reflect either the primary goal or problem that you need to fix.

3. Invite the group to start talking.

4. The laptop operator adds branches with one or two words describing what he/she hears. For example, use objectives, success criteria, issues, risks, assumptions, milestones and deliverables. At this point there is no attempt to order the information.

5. After five minutes stop, and by group discussion drag and drop branches (ideas) into groups and define any inter-branch relationships.

6. Repeat 3 to 5 for as many iterations as needed.

7. Get Creative. Don't be afraid to integrate pictures, shapes and colors into your map to highlight areas of interest. It adds new dimensions to your work and encourages creativity.

8. The operator tidies up the map and prints a copy for each person to take away.

When participants have exhausted their brainstorming and ideas, they can step back and take a look at the ‘big picture’, examine a project map, discuss and reorganise it in order to answer the following questions:

• What does the team think and know about the holistic problem?

• What areas need to be further investigated?

• Who else can help fill in the blanks?

• Is this initiative aligned with larger departmental or organisational goals?

• Continue to complete your map with additional research.

The team process involved in building a project map also builds team alignment. Stakeholders and members walk away with more excitement and sense of ownership. The next steps will be to harness that energy and build action plans. A project charter map is the perfect way to introduce and share a team's ideas with all the people who need to carry out the detailed work.

For more information

Cameron Ackbury Mindjet +1.415.229-4426 or +1.650 223-4557

John England Mindsystems (Australian Master Distributor for Mindjet) +61.3.

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