What you can use mind maps for

When dealing with different members across your organization, it can be tricky finding an efficient way to gather and properly understand their different ideas and inputs regarding any specific topic.

During pre-pandemic times, you might see these very same scenarios being played out over several workshops in order to better gain an understanding of each individual’s input while ensuring everyone stays on track.

While there might be many tools and strategies that can help you streamline this process, one of the best ways to get a visual representation of ideas is through mind maps. What’s more is that with Klaxoon, you can utilize this incredibly useful brainstorming technique through different channels that fit perfectly within our now hybrid working environment.

How Do Mind Maps Work?

To those who are unfamiliar with what mind maps are, you might be surprised to know that the concept isn’t necessarily a new one nor is it something that was created for business management in general. The concept of a mind map actually started way back in Greek times, when the great philosopher Porphyry of Tyros was looking for a structure in which to organize Aristotle's many different teachings and musings.

The concept itself is fairly simple. Mind maps, which some would classify as falling under “radiant thinking” is a collection of ideas and concepts that surround a central topic, presented in a visual form. The central topic or concept would lay the foundation for other related concepts that it is connected to, visualized via connected “branches” or lines.

The thinking with this tool is that our brains work off of association; in that, ideas are often unleashed through other related concepts that can motivate thinking. Additionally, having each new idea mapped out visually can help you keep track of ideas already put forward, as well as develop a narrative that you and/or your team might be leaning towards.

Further applications of mind maps include the identification of other key concepts that are integral to whatever goal or context you are using the mind map. This means that you can start off with one central idea but end up with several key topics that have their own branching ideas attached to them.

Business Cases for Mind Map

While we’ve attempted (to the best of our abilities) to describe the process of developing a mind map, it’s often much better illustrated when applied to actual scenarios. Even concepts that might be operating within the same industry can have vastly different mind maps depending on how you frame the exercise.

We’ve outlined a few common business cases below to give some mind map examples as well as better showcase the power that a simple method of organized thinking like this can be powerful in different settings.

Developing New Marketing Strategies

One of the most common ways you’ll see a mind map in a work setting is often in the commercial departments, such as sales and marketing. Whether it’s a new product launch, an adjustment of your go-to-market strategy, or just a release of new promotional material, a new marketing strategy is likely a task that commercial business managers and leaders will face.

There’s already a litany of different tools and models that can help you develop a marketing strategy, from the 4 Ps to even McKinsey’s suite of organizational tools. What keeps mind maps relevant for marketing strategies when compared to the rest of the tools is how generally free the process is for different tasks and contexts. 

Certain management tools face hurdles in trying to translate business aspects into some of the more rigid tools, such as value chain mapping or Porter’s 5 Forces. With mind maps, the content and overall direction you choose to go with in regards to your planning will be based entirely on you, all you’ll need to adhere to is the general flow of generating connected ideas and concepts.

This is especially important for new marketing executions as these often need some forms of creativity that might not be so easily brought out in large meetings. With mind maps, you can safely just start jotting down ideas from every member and utilize the visual connectedness shown to develop a more actionable plan. For example, if you’re looking to create a new promotional material, you can start off with the product or campaign idea itself as a starting point and develop ideas that branch from that.

A candy manufacturer developing marketing strategies for a sour candy might want concepts surrounding fun, eccentricities, energy, colorfulness, and even specific demographics like teens and kids. Compare this to a manufacturer of a high-end chocolate line, where interconnected concepts might be romance, richness, gift giving, luxury, and a demographic of customers that are more refined and selective.

Analyzing Competitors and Markets

Developing commercial plans for marketing is only a part of the entire plan when tackling business development for a particular company. Often the decisions you make internally are largely molded by movements of outside forces such as the overall market state, the economy at large, and even competitor strategies.

With limited access to competitor intelligence at the best of times, mind maps can help your team identify aspects of competitors and markets that you might not have exact information on but can develop based on your own understanding of these aspects.

Even with an incomplete set of data, mind maps can help unlock thinking that your competitors might have similarly undertaken for their own strategy. The general free association methodology that mind maps have allows you and your team to develop concepts and topics that surround the external factors that can affect your business.

In the apparel retail industry, where trends and competitor designs can have a significant impact on how you strategize for the future, using mind maps can help you use the publicly available information to your advantage.

Facts around trends and competitor products can be used as your central idea node and your team can begin speculating on some key aspects that will likely populate around these items by association. Through this, you may be able to anticipate future movements in the market and with your industry competition to adjust your thinking accordingly.

Aligning Internal Initiatives

Not every mind map application has to be sales and marketing motivated. With every business, what happens internally matters just as much as (and some would argue even more than) what happens externally. Without a solid foundation of how you and your team work with each other (as well as other cross-functional stakeholders), any plan you choose to move forward with will inevitably hit stumbling blocks.

Any good manager also knows that a good plan of action is needed to be developed between internal team members, ranging from how they are expected to approach work to how they are encouraged to even take breaks here and there to ensure they are rested enough to tackle each project.

As these many different aspects of work can be wide in breadth, it can be challenging to hone in on specific things you can do with your team to improve their efficiencies, productivity, and general disposition at work. The mind maps framework helps in this situation by developing a cohesive understanding amongst your team members on which aspects of work they want to improve and change, which ones they want to retain, and which ones they believe need to be removed.

This mind map can look different from the previous mind maps discussed as it can utilize more than one central idea, which, for this example, can be the three main idea concepts discussed in the previous paragraph. With each central idea of improve, retain, and remove, equipped managers can get a better understanding over their team’s input in a flowing and inclusive way.

Providing Growth Opportunities

Expanding further into the internal framework capabilities that mind maps can give you, the tool can also assist you in delving into aspects that can further an individual’s growth in any specific capacity, whether you or anyone else you might be managing currently.

A field that many human resource experts have acknowledged as key to retaining talent is the importance of developing each employee’s personal growth journey within the company. Ensuring that the organization at large provides as much opportunity for movement and learning within their environment is tantamount to their continued success in whatever position they are currently in (as well as positions they are aiming for in the future).

For newer recruits who may not be fully aware of their professional goals just yet, you can start your mind maps around their general thoughts on personal growth and see which aspects of your company you can associate within each central node. Similar to our internal initiatives mind maps example, this will likely utilize more than one central example as a starting node in order to capture as many different avenues of growth as possible.

For more seasoned roles, employees can better outline the development goals they will need to get by associating specific skills and milestones associated with a target role or project to ensure that the individual can better identify the concrete actions they need to take. For example, if you have an employee who is aiming for a senior managerial position, you can utilize the specific role as a central node and begin listing associated skills that can be expected from the position, such as specific communication skills, product knowledge levels, and more.

Using Mind Maps today

While we’ve spent a good portion of this article discussing the capabilities and different applications of mind maps, the actual execution of the tool can still be a hurdle that most people unfamiliar with might find difficult to surmount. As mind maps can be very broad in how you can approach it, this can be rather a complex thing to facilitate this exercise, not knowing exactly where to start, and how better to make ideas concrete.

Virtual, Hybrid, or In-Person

As we briefly touched on at the start of this article, many changes have occurred in the general working environment. The pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have changed how we generally approach work, with the most evident change being the generally accepted remote practice that most companies have had to adopt.

These changes, while important and necessary for safety and continued productivity, have definitely shifted how people collaborate. Recorded meetings, video calls, digitally shared documents, and other such office tools have been utilized as a way to bridge the gap that has been created in this new remote and hybrid environment.

As such, the mind mapping platform or tool you choose to use needs to be fully equipped with the different features that can enable you to take your collaboration efforts across different mediums. 

Keep Your Progress As You Go

In regards to mind maps, such broad applications of the exercise can lead to multiple sessions of noting the different associations with any one particular central idea. In days past, these workshop elements can be muddied with the passage of time, either through lost notes, mistaken transcripts, or just general disorganization.

It’s key, then, to ensure that any and all progress you do on a mind map is properly documented in some form. Many of the developments that occur within a mind mapping session can be used for further planning down the road, even if those ideas seem less fleshed out than other ideas. 

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