Map It Out

An innovative productivity tool promises to boost performance

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As CEO of Impulsive Profits Inc., Stephen Pierce wasn’t interested in learning a new software program. But when an employee promised that it would make meetings more efficient, he gave the program a chance. Today, three years later, Pierce is a disciple of the mind-mapping software. Taking graphic organizers to a technological level, the software boosts productivity and enhances creative thinking. Pierce has improved his organizational skills, from taking client notes and outlining presentations to managing staff meetings and reducing paperwork. Now Pierce can’t imagine working without it.

So how does the mind-mapping process work? “[A mind map] is like a spider web,” explains Pierce. “When something flies into it or crawls across it, it sticks. So when I create a mind map, I’m putting together a kind of web of thoughts or notes. The key ideas will stick, and later I’ll associate them with [more detail].” Begin in the center of a page with a word or image that symbolizes your primary thought. Then brainstorm by drawing lines that branch and sub-branch from this central focus. Put everything down, even if it’s unrelated, so that your mind doesn’t get stuck thinking about what to do with this unrelated information. Essentially, the software uses this same process but turns the map into a powerful communication tool and strategic plan. Team members can brainstorm together. When the session is over, everyone is on the same page because the map is a PC or Mac document each can access. Use it to draft communications, create project plans, or enhance company planning.

Robert Gordon, former CEO of Mindjet Corp., which creates the popular MindManager software, says mind mapping fully employs the analytical power of the left brain and the intuitive nature of the right brain, tapping into 99% of unused mental potential. “At first glance, a mind map might look complicated,” says Gordon. “However, it actually simplifies complexity by enabling users to interact with information and ideas the way our minds do naturally.” Mindjet’s revenues have increased by 50% yearly over the last three years; 2006 revenues are projected to exceed $40 million.

Adds Joyce Wycoff, author of Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving (Berkley Publishing Group; $12.95): “It’s a very normal way of thinking. It’s emotional. It’s intuitive.”

Mind maps help foster a common view of a team’s contributions and, at the same time, encourage full participation in the planning process. “They literally see their ideas coming together before them,” says Gordon. “They can use the same document to assign tasks, due dates, and other parameters to make sure ideas don’t languish on a white board in some conference room.”

For a demonstration of mind mapping, check out sion/workout/mindmapping_intro.html. For a free MindManager 6 trial, go to