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Problem Solving with Mind Maps

Our good friends over at MindMeister recently published an awesome blog post on solving problems using mind maps. It was so good in fact that we thought we'd share it with all of you and write our own blog post, about their blog post...!!

In their article, they outline a 4 step process designed to help you set goals, identify problems that could stop you achieving those goals, brainstorm potential solutions and then focus in on the necessary actions needed to enact the solutions, solve the problems and reach the goals. Like we said: awesome!

The Story...

Using a hypothetical dog walking business as an example, the blog's author, Laura Jonson, sets 2 goals for the business:

1 - Stay profitable all year round.
2 - Keep dog walking rates (the price the customer pays) low.

Next, we identify the potential problems that could stand in the way of us achieving those goals. In the case of our dog walking business, the main problem faced is that the distance between the pick up locations of the dogs and the nearest dog parks is so great that employees and dogs need to travel by car to make the journey feasible.

There are a number of inherent, smaller problems within this, relating to the need for vehicles and the associated costs, and the need for employees to have driving licences. These are all neatly captured in our map.

To address these issues, we now drill down into each problem and begin to brainstorm potential solutions. The key here being to not censor yourself or worry about to trying to come up with the right answer immediately; we want to "get the creative juices flowing" and start throwing out whatever ideas come to mind. We can hone and refine later on.

Our dog walking entrepreneur, having gone through this process, soon realises that the solution to her problem begins with car sharing between her dog walkers. This throws up another realisation, which is that large vehicles would be needed to carry multiple people and multiple mutts, at the same time. Finally therefore, our entrepreneur realises she must invest in vans for the business that can then be shared by her dog walkers and their furry clientele.

For more detail on the 4 step process and its applications in this example, head to the original article on the MindMeister blog by clicking here.

On reflection...

Reading the MindMeister article got us thinking (a scary prospect!), and started a discussion in the Biggerplate office, which we thought we'd share with you:

Why is mind mapping such an effective tool for problem solving?

At the top of the MindMeister article is a great quote from Einstein that says, "“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.” Is it perhaps the case therefore that the real value in mapping in this context comes from the ability of the user to commit the problems to a mind map, allowing them to clearly see the issues they face and drill deeper into the specific components of those issues. By "formulating the problem", with the help of a map, the solutions naturally become clearer. It is impossible to find the correct solution to a problem we don't understand. So, by allowing ourselves the time and the tools to fully realise and explore the problem, we improve our chances of appropriately solving it.

In what other scenarios could a mind map's ability to help clarify and explore thoughts & ideas prove particularly useful?

In our many years in the mind map arena, we've seen hundreds of examples of people using mind maps as a means of developing thoughts & ideas. From authors using maps to overcome writer's block, to governments using maps to explore, scrutinise and plan potential infrastructure investments. The possibilities are genuinely, it seems, endless!

Do you have an example of mind maps being used as a tool for exploring and developing thoughts and ideas? If so, get in touch on Twitter (@Biggerplate) and let us know!

Should Biggerplate start a dog walking company?

A good question raised by one of the team that caused us to paws for thought. Ultimately, however, we realised that the dog walking industry can be ruff at times. Imagine if one of the dogs got away! We wouldn't know how to retriever them and would inevitably be hounded by their owners. In the end, we had to pull the pug on the idea before we barked up the wrong tree...

For the original MindMeister blog post that inspired this post, click here!

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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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