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Mind-Mapping: A tool for Analysts, Taxonomists, and Information Architects

Following her interesting article on LinkedIn, we got in touch with Holly Tomlinson to ger her perspectives on her use of mind mapping.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My official title is 'Information Architect and User Experience Designer'. I am currently building a knowledge management program at a medical center in Sacramento, California.

No matter what I'm doing, I need to problem-solve. Mind-mapping is one of my favorite ways to collaboratively look at a process, identify the hiccups, and brainstorm solutions.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

At the end of a SharePoint conference Ruven Gotz gave me a copy of his book "Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture". An absolute gem!

Even though I don't use SharePoint 2010 anymore, Gotz' book is packed with practical tips that I still use today.

How do you use mind maps in your day to day work?

Almost any collaborative discussion can benefit from using mind-mapping. I've used it to write job descriptions, make decisions, outline communications, analyze processes, plan document management solutions, build taxonomies, and more.

A typical mind mapping session requires a conference room, my laptop with mind mapping software on it, and a projector.

I schedule a session with the subject matter expert(s).
Before we begin, I tell the participant(s) that this is brainstorming. Nothing is set in stone. It something doesn't look right, just let me know and I'll change it.
I also let them know we will re-visit the map at another follow-up meeting, so it doesn't have to be perfect or complete today.

Then we talk. I mostly just listen or ask questions, taking brief notes on the mind-map.
Mind mapping software lets you edit bubbles or drag-and-drop to re-arrange and better depict the relationships.
Almost every time we discover new topics to explore. It's a great way to take notes and guide the conversation.

[An example of one of Holly's brainstorming mind maps!]

You don't have to have software. I have done project planning sessions on a white board. It's not as pretty and typically requires typing up the results later. But manual mind mapping does allow anyone in the room to get up and add bubbles. This is best if you have people you want to participate who might not see themselves as subject matter experts - hand them the pen, then watch them come to life!

What do you think is the greatest benefit of working this way?

There is something very special about putting on the screen what is being discussed. It creates a complete feedback loop. The participant(s) say something and they can see right away whether they were heard and understood.

I love the look on a person's face when he or she feels truly heard. And even better when they look at the final mind map. I cannot describe the looks of pride, relief, satisfaction at finally getting what was in their minds onto the page. Excitement at being able to use the map as a tool to communicate with others.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to wider adoption of mind mapping?

Mind mapping is a simple tool with huge benefits. Some barriers are in not knowing about it. Not knowing about free software options. Not seeing the potential in how it can be creatively used.

Keep up the good work of spreading the word!

Would you like to add anything else?

Mind mapping can change people's lives.
I remember my sister, excitement in her eyes, showing me a picture on her phone. It was a hand written mind map. Her mentor had helped her use mind mapping to brainstorm her career goals. My sister was over the moon about the self-discovery mind mapping had helped her walk through. She said how she, as a life coach, wants to use mind mapping with her clients.

I want to make people feel empowered, heard, and hopeful for change. Mind mapping is a powerful tool to help people do just that.

Thanks to Holly for sharing her experiences with us! If you have a mind mapping use story that you'd like to share with the mind map community, please get in touch by commenting below, or via Twitter!

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Ruth manages our global mind mapping community: sharing news, stories, and updates! Community Manager de la communauté mondiale des mind mappers; je gère le contenu et marketing !
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