Earlier postings have mentioned the importance of having a clear purpose for a software mind map. In this posting we will look at three basic "types" of map. Although this might seem at odds with the divergent thinking and creativity that characterises mind maps, it is important when sharing maps with others that they understand what you are trying to achieve. There are more than three basic types, but these are the scenarios that occur frequently in business life.
A Library map is a collection of reference information for the purposes of
- transferring information and knowledge
- storing and recovering useful materials
- understanding or learning something
The focus of a library map is the subject. Topics can be sub-headings or statements that are expanded, and the position of a piece of information represents its relationship to the bigger subject. A common issue with Library maps is that the same piece of information "belongs" in more than one place - chairs can be classified as both furniture and as things made from wood. Not all Furniture is chairs, neither are all Wooden Things chairs. Do we put chairs under Wooden Things or furniture, or both? How do we decide? Or do we use a database instead? One solution is to decide on a major classification scheme where everything appears once, then identify other groupings with colours or icons. Other users will typically navigate the map themselves by following signposts to the resources they seek.
A Presentation map is a story or an argument, designed to
- Inform an audience in a directed fashion
- Argue a proposition or case
- Make a call to action
The focus of a presentation map is the audience themselves, although you would not necessarily write that in the central topic. The positioning of information is relative to the audience's viewpoint, and the deeper it is in the map, the more involved they are. The development of arguments away from the centre builds on inductive thinking that justifies or amplifies higher level statements, and if your audience is still with you, then you are well placed to add more detail to the foundations you have laid. Topics near to the centre are major statements that easily connect to your audience's world view. You can see this kind of architecture in most marketing materials - the opening gambit is usually to get you to identify with a problem or issue. Presentation maps should use statements rather than headings, and should retain their integrity when viewed at different levels of detail. You can then use the same map for the two-minute briefing to the board of directors, or the two-hour version for the technical nit-pickers. Presentation maps will also need to follow a sequence, for example clockwise.
"Tunnel Timeline" maps
A Tunnel Timeline map is a map that is designed around delivering an outcome. The primary purpose of this kind of map is to visualise success. You are drawing a picture of what success looks like, and showing the actions on the path or paths to reach it. Use Tunnel Timelines for
- Project outlines and plans
- Problem solving
Topics at or near the centre of the map represent the successful outcome, and topics near the edges are the next actions to take towards those outcomes. The relationship with a "tunnel" is that the map shows your project as the light at the end of the tunnel, with your next actions around the walls nearest to you. As you make progress towards the centre, you complete the actions and decisions along the way. Major milestone topics in the map should be written as outcomes to keep you focused on achievement, e.g. "reject rate is 3%" or "client has renewed contract". This is the key benefit of visualising projects in software mind maps - you stay focused on your objective and keep your eye on where you want to go, not on your short-term direction. Responding to changes and obstacles is easier if you are focused on the big target, and a continual visual reminder of objectives is a positive force. Participants in your project or strategy can see where it is headed, and can understand how their contribution takes it forward.
"Brainstorm" maps are intermediate maps ("rough working") on the way to the above structures. We will talk about brainstorming and development techniques in the next posting.