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Have you used mindmapping as a communication tool? Mindmapping is not new (in fact it has been used for centuries), but it is becoming increasingly popular in business as a tool for organizing thoughts and ideas for personal use and more increasingly in teams over the enterprise. What’s more, the output of mindmapping tools are no longer just used as a transitionary medium to be converted into verbose documents, but they’re also becoming accepted and encouraged as communication documents in there own right.
Mindmapping tools are software packages that help their users to create mindmaps – diagrams that represent words, tasks, people, organization components and data in a structure based on semantic and logical connections between its entities. For example, a mindmap could be created to capture a shopping list – you might start with listing vegetables, dairy, frozen foods and toiletries. You might then attach potatoes and cabbage to vegetables, milk and cheese to dairy and so on. You might then capture a ‘value’ item and a ‘luxury’ item and link the products on your list that you want to spend the least on to your value item, and the products you want to splash out on to your luxury item. What’s great about mindmaps is they allow their creators to ‘dump’ a large amount of information into a concise document that represents an entire domain of the issue in hand.
So it’s no wonder that mindmapping has taken hold in the IT industry as its simplicity is its beauty and it helps IT professionals to convey complex information in a way that makes it easier for non-technical people to read and understand.
I surveyed 80 IT professionals on their use of mindmapping tools. And over 60% of them regularly use the tools in their work and just less than 20% used mindmaps across their teams. This was more than I thought as I hadn’t seen many teams use it in my own experience.
The accepted use of a mindmap as a standalone business communication document, however, is still a little way off I’d say. Only 10% of respondents said they used the mindmaps by themselves. I think the tools are still quite immature in the corporate environment – not because they’re difficult to use, and not because they’re expensive, but I think there is still a ‘fear factor’ associated with them. So maybe using a tool isn’t necessary? What if we just used paper, to start with?
Julian Knight,an Information Systems Architect and Technical Project Consultant based in Salford, England commented:
I suspect that the use of mind mapping is quite personal and may people are more than happy doing it on paper. After all, they are really only meant to get you started with a problem and to help spot patterns. A mistake that many people make is to fiddle with them long after they should have moved on.
The essence of leadership in IT is to convey technical subjects in an accessible way both inward and outward from the department. I think mindmaps and mindmapping tools hold part of that key! They are the future. It’s up to us to help their penetration by using them as a communication tool with our colleagues. If we don’t, it won’t happen.
Here is a list of popular mindmapping tools I found:
One you won’t find in this list, but it was way ahead of any other in popularity, is Freemind. It’s a free mindmapping tool available from Sourcefourge . I downloaded it and tried it and I found it to be really easy to use and simple to install. It’s fast (some of the tools can be memory hungry and therefore slow) and therefore very usable. If you haven’t tried mindmapping, then why not give it a shot?
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