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Mind Maps in Action: Mind Mapping in the Department of Health

In this Mind Maps in Action blog post we hear from Robin Herbert who shares his experiences of using mind maps in his work for the civil service, as a tool for managing his own workload, project planning, presenting and more!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I have had a varied career in teaching, education and health. I have worked in the civil service since 2003 in the Department for Education and currently, the Department of Health where I work in the research information and intelligence team as the coordinator of the National Institute for Health Research website, editing source material provided by others or draughting new content. I also support the development and implementation of branding and corporate information management policies and processes.

When and how were you first introduced to mind mapping?

From small acorns! My daughter was taught to Mind Map at primary school and I thought the concept looked interesting and read a couple of the more well known books on the subject but I still couldn’t quite see how mind maps might be used for work. At around the same time, I discovered, aged 43, that I have a dyslexic profile that means I find it difficult to process and manage the plethora of information around me. I was advised to look at things in a less linear fashion and in particular consider mind mapping.

With that steer in mind, I did quite a lot of further reading and research on the internet which ‘opened my eyes’ to the possibilities of mind mapping at work - not just to help ameliorate a cognitive disorder but on the impact mind mapping and mind mapping software can have on every part of the business process. The Biggerplate website, along with its videos of the annual conferences and hangouts etc were a particularly useful and inspiring way to begin my journey. Attending the excellent Biggerplate business productivity course clarified my thinking further and was a fantastic way to put everything into context.

It has been a fascinating journey that I know will evolve - it is the cry of many a mind mapper, but I wish I’d known about them earlier and now I am not sure how I ever managed without them!

How does mind mapping fit into your working world now?

I use mindmap software extensively to effectively manage my time, prioritise and process information. Areas I have used mind map software include:

  • Workload management - using a mind map dashboard to capture and organise the smallest to the largest tasks
  • Meeting management
  • Note taking in meetings
  • Document production
  • Event planning
  • Project planning
  • Capturing survey responses
  • Presentations - people have been impressed (it's not PowerPoint!)
  • Website planning and page design
  • A quick way to marshal my thoughts on particular issue

What do you think are the greatest benefits of using mind maps?

For me, mind mapping and particularly mind map software have transformed the way I work - it’s a bit like having an external brain with all the information I need right in front of me. In fact, I find it quite difficult to single out benefits as I would say that mind map software as a whole brings a unique level of visual flexibility, functionality and easy access to information that can have a powerful effect on many aspects of business productivity.

For me, I guess one of the best and most unexpected advantages is the way a mind map can help me break down a complex process into something that suddenly becomes more straightforward. For example, I recently organised a conference for 120 people - a task that, “pre mind mapping”, would have filled me with dread but ‘post mind mapping’ proceeded without a hitch and was virtually stress free.

What do you think are the greatest barriers to greater adoption of mapping?

Firstly, I think it’s a bit of a ‘hearts and mind’ issue. Many people seem to have fairly set views and attitudes to mind mapping and mind mapping software - ‘Never heard of them’; ‘it looks too complicated’; ‘I’ve never understood them’; ‘I don’t get it’; you need to able to draw’; ‘they are just useful as assistive software for people with dyslexia’;’ it’s something you do at school’ etc etc.

And trying to suggest, perhaps to your IT department, that mind mapping software can make a real and positive difference to productivity can be a frustrating process for the reasons I stated above; and then, when organisations do to get hold of mind mapping software it’s provided with very little explanation. So whilst Mind Mapping software offers a deceptively simple approach and is pretty easy to use, it does need a context to ensure users get the best from the software.

To mitigate barriers, enthusiastic mind mappers constantly need to bang the ‘mind map drum’ and use every opportunity to show that mind maps are a simple but really effective tool for a wide range of issues.

Would you like to add anything else?

I think it’s important to play around and experiment with mind maps in order to find ways that best suit the way you work and not get tied down with the idea that mind maps have to adhere to certain rules and formats - for me, this is where mind map software comes into its own.

In terms of the journey, Biggerplate is a brilliant place to both start and continue learning about mind maps and mind mapping software. It’s also important to keep an open mind to the large amount of online content, including YouTube videos, webinars and courses that can also contribute to a constantly evolving mind mapping journey.

Thanks to Robin for sharing his experience with us! If you have your own Mind Maps in Action story and would like to share it with us and the mapping community, get in touch via Twitter, or by commenting below!

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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