After an Idea Mapping seminar I taught at SMU’s Cox School of Business, one of the students drew an map and sent it to me. He’s going to use it to evaluate business opportunities. Notice how many images and pictures he included. That doesn’t mean your Idea Maps have to look like this, they just have to work for you. That means that yours could be mostly, or even all, words. Yours could be colorful, or monochromatic, depending on what your goal is for the map. Since he’s obviously got some experience and skill with drawing, it’s only natural that his map has a lot of images. But anyone can learn to draw these images with some instruction and practice. Pretty cool huh?
One of the benefits of Idea Mapping and Mind Mapping that initially attracted me almost 20 years ago was its ability to simplify complicated issues. I’ve just started a new Idea Map that I cannot share with you because it’s of a legal document. Short of the story line for “Lost,” there aren’t too many things more complicated than a legal document! I sometimes wonder if legal documents’ complexities are just to inflate lawyers’ fees!
I’ve started mapping a legal document just to help me understand all of the details that are obfuscated by all of the legal jargon. While this won’t help me understand the legal field any better, it does help me comprehend what the document is really saying. If you’ve got a document/paper/article that’s difficult to “digest,” you may find that an Idea Map breaks it down into more manageable, bite-size pieces.
Given the current economy, many organizations are eliminating professional trainers from their salary rolls. While I understand the decision (not agree with, but understand), I worry about it. Too many SMEs are unskilled as presenters and facilitators at best, or unwilling participants at worst!
They’ve become SMEs by focusing on their chosen fields and not on the fine art of message delivery. When it comes time to present their content, they rely on what has gotten them where they are; their technical skills. At times they can even hide behind their erudition which further disconnects them from the audience they should be concerned about.
Unfortunately, the people who pay for this decision are the employees who need the training to do their jobs well. Good training content poorly delivered is no better than poor content well delivered. It ends up being another example of organizations looking only at the “cost” side of cost/benefit and not enough time looking at the “benefit” side.
One of the powerful benefits to Idea Mapping is that it allows us to grasp ideas or concepts that seem overwhelming. This was reinforced to me after I spoke to a Career Connection gathering in Dallas TX this week. After my presentation (fun and learning for all!), a woman told me about how she had used Idea Mapping to prepare for a job interview. The hiring company’s job requirements were extensive and very detailed. The woman I spoke with wanted to make sure that she could match her experience to the job requirements, so she Idea Mapped the role. Unfortunately, she did not get the job, but she was well prepared for the interview. With her whole-brained approach to her job search and preparation, I’m sure her next job is just around the corner!
Holy holiday shopping batman! It’s that time already. There are some people that might be easy to shop for, but we all have someone on our list who is difficult. Here’s a whole-brained way to start working on them – Idea Map them.
Draw a central image that represents that person and start branching out everything you think of when you think of that person. Add in everything you think of without thinking about gift ideas yet; that comes later. Idea Map you can about that person. Give yourself multiple days to add to the map since you will think of more ideas over time. Each time you stop a mapping session, finish by drawing in four or five blank lines, this incompleteness will keep you thinking about it.
When you feel you have a really good map (you can never be “done”), it’s time to start adding to the map gift ideas. Add in all gift ideas that you think of without regard to costs as this can artificially limit your thinking. Add gift ideas to the ends of related branches in a different color. If an idea occurs to you in many different locations, write it in all those places and highlight it. An idea recurring may be significant. Allow yourself plenty of time (days or weeks) to add gift ideas.
During the gift ideation process you may also think of some other things about the person, make sure you also add those in. Eventually you’ll have a number of ideas – then you can start thinking about cost. If you really like an idea or two but they are out of your price range, come up with at least four (I just randomly picked that number) ideas that approximate the original but are more affordable.
If you’re looking for a good reason to start (or continue Idea Mapping), here are 7 of them (top ten is too passé):
7. People will now wonder what you’re doing during business meetings instead of wondering why you’re sleeping
6. Drawing pictures can be considered a part of your note-taking and not just idle doodling
5. You’ll be seen as “creative” because … you use more than one color!
4. You can flatter your boss’s boss by telling her that you are using an accelerated learning/memory tool to take notes on her presentation
3. Organizing your ideas can happen in real time (sorry, nothing witty here, just fact!)
2. You can really confuse people by telling them that you’re “I.M.ing”
1. You can write off those cool colored markers as a business expense
If you’ve ever done a tele-presentation (or something similar) during which technology prohibits you from getting feedback from your audience, you may have found yourself doubting your effectiveness. You may have even started feeling like the presentation is going horribly. I know that’s how I felt during my first tele-presentation!
The fact of the matter is that the presentation like this is set up to force you to make an assumption about how it’s going. You can’t get immediate feedback. Since you have to make an assumption, you might as well assume that it’s going well. When you make that assumption, you have more energy and exude more of your natural personality. You also gesture more frequently, which adds more inflection to your voice! So go ahead and make that assumption; I promise that when you “assume” you don’t always make an “ass out of u and me.”
Last Friday, August 28, I had the opportunity to be a guest on FamilyNet’s TV/Radio simulcast morning show. FamilyNet is a family-friendly network and can be found on Sirius radio (channel 161) and many cable, satellite and broadcast TV carriers.
We talked about how we can tap into our own creativity. It was a fun and interactive 12-minute segment. At one point we went over a technique I commonly use in workshops and we referred to the photo I’ve attached in this blog. Give the interview a listen by going to their website or you can go to www.familynet.com, click on “Mornings Home” (Lorri and Larry) and got to “Featured Guests and Podcasts.” Click on RSS and you’ll find my interview (it hasn’t yet posted on iTunes).
Collecting sea shells is a lot like Idea Mapping! I just spent several days at the beach with my wife and two young sons. When we first went to the shore, my sons started grabbing all of the whole shells they could find and took them back to our room. Each day they would grab even more shells. As we got ready to come back home, they kept only the ones that were worthy of “Show and Tell.”
Idea Mapping is the same way. When you are making your first draft, include all of the ideas that occur to you. Make sure that you allow yourself “several trips to the shore.” This will give you a larger universe from which you can select your ideas that are “Show and Tell” worthy. You may find that you also need more than one evaluation sessions to trim your map. That’s good – better to have a lot of ideas to choose from than not enough! To paraphrase Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, “The best way to have a good sea shell is to have a lot of sea shells!”
Unfortunately, many of you reading this are interviewing for jobs. Idea Maps should be an integral part of your preparation.
Start your map with questions you have been asked in past (recent or distant) interviews. Then start adding questions you might ask of yourself. Allow yourself to be a little crazy and have some fun with questions you might be asked. Add in questions you hope the interviewer won’t ask! Finish by including questions that you want to ask interviewers.
Once you’ve got an exhaustive map of interview questions, start generating responses to those questions. Don’t write out complete sentences; write down “trigger” words. Those are words that will trigger your memory to what you want to include in your answer. Now for the key to all of this … practice your answers several times. Your answers should be a little different each time; this ensures that you are being natural and conversational.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to be interviewed on a radio show about creativity. I’ve already started my map!