Nick Duffill from the Beyond Crayons weblog has just posted part 1 of a 2-part essay on how to “put an edge” to your mind maps. He uses the analogy of a chisel, the type used to cut wood (which represents the project you’re working on) and a grindstone or other sharpening tool (the mind mapping software you’re using to manage the project). So how does this unusual analogy apply to business mapping?
“First and foremost, understand that you don’t shape wood by grinding it straight on the wheel. You can try, but it’s not very satisfactory. Instead, you use the wheel to create a tool sharp enough to carve your workpiece with. Software mapping tools are not directly applied to business problems, despite their marketing claims. They promise beautifully carved wood, and sell grinding wheels. The cutting edge is on the map, not the software tool. The final results you get are related to how sharp or blunt your map is. The better the underlying software, the better chance you have of producing maps that slice effectively into business problems.”
“A beautiful map is not always a good measure of achievement towards a business goal, and can seem to be just a distraction when seen in isolation. You have to show them what the map does… It’s the effect that the map has that counts.” In other words, does it help you and your team to define the challenge at hand clearly, so that you can brainstorm practical solutions to it? Does your map persuade your boss to invest in your team’s proposed new product initiative? And so on.
I see what Nick is getting at. We can’t view our mind mapping software, or the maps they produce, as the ends. They are means to an end. I can’t wait to read more in part 2 of this thought-provoking analysis of business mapping.