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Map Like Magellan
Mind mapping is not new, but it’s become a popular project management tool. Because of the visual aspect of these useful maps, team leaders and members can create, discuss, explore, and widen these maps for use in analyzing, problem solving, and ideas or avenues to take in a project.
Remember the days of your youth when you learned to draw stick people? We usually started with a round circle for the face, added the torso, then the limbs, and if we really wanted to be unique, we explored hair, face, and extremity features—but it all started with that circle head.
All mind mapping examples follow the same principle—the idea or problem to be solved is drawn in the center and from there, subtopics and note taking fringe and extend the inner element upon revelations or ideas.
Early examples of mind mapping as offered by MindMeister and seen in the upper screenshot at left is from Da Vinci. The baby in the womb in the center was his idea and the explorations of how the birthing stages and process takes place are contained in the outer notes and drawings.
Image Credit: Notes from Da Vinci courtesy of MindMeister
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Tools for Mind Mapping
Project managers can utilize all sorts of tools from the very simple to the very complex. Centrally located whiteboards can be the simple; and mind mapping software, the complex. On a smaller scale, mind maps can even be used as a one-person tool utilized to look at team dynamics or team development.
In project implementation phases, mind maps are often created before the writing of the project scope or charter. This can offer a visual of the project to the team to help determine every resource that will be needed to complete the project.
The screenshot to the upper right shows a mind mapping example of time management offered by MindTools (see http://www.mindtools.com). The center of this example of a mind map shows the idea, “time management," and then very simple extensions such as “need more time," and “time wasters," and “assessing time." From there, more subtopics are explored such as Pareto charts or using the Quantum Leap Management Approach.
Image Credit: Time Management Mind Map courtesy of MindTools at http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newISS_01.htm.
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Useful or Time Consuming?
The above typical examples of mind mapping are great tools for project managers and their teams. Think of how your ideas or those of team members are expressed visually instead of using verbal or other communication methods to explore them. Proponents of mind maps say visual tools are better; and beyond that, they are fun to create and develop compared to utilizing standard project management software for analysis and brainstorming.
Basic as they are, mind maps have been around a long time in many forms and will continued to be utilized in the future. Think about when someone asks for directions—before Google Maps: We grabbed a piece of paper and started with the “you are here" sort of map-drawn directions.
Explore mind mapping in your projects—think of your youth. It all started with those tiny stick figures that were enhanced and developed to be a unique representation of inner thoughts and ideas—so go ahead, brainstorm and map like Magellan.
Image Credit: Example of Mind Mapping courtesy of Litemind at http://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/