In our office there are 2 types of note-taker. The OneNote user and the MindManager. I am without doubt a MindManager. Why..?
Like a lot of people I’ve been “brain-storming” on black boards, flip charts and white boards since I was at school. It comes naturally. You start with a central topic and build from there but it’s never been simple. Who hasn’t been in a meeting with a notepad and started writing something below the first heading when the subject changes and you find you need a new heading and then another and then you’re drawing little boxes in corners because the page looks like someone has been sick on it and there are arrows going from one end of the page to the other because that topic is actually related to that other one and frankly you’ve no hope of understanding it later.. Not just me surely?
Then you launch Mindjet’s MindManager there it is – A blank page and one Central Topic. Several clicks later and you have the headings, a few more and you already have a useful “Map”. It’s easy and not only does it encourage you to be more organised but also concise. No one taught me how to use MindManager. It’s as so obvious. I have used OneNote many times and I still don’t know half of its features and I don’t really want to, I know it’s not for me.
When I realised I could no longer read my own handwriting, I started writing my notes in Word.
The problem with both Word and OneNote is that you end up doing exactly the same thing as you would do on a notepad. Finding half way through that your headings are wrong, you cut and paste or create a new heading which is actually the same as another already on the page but frankly the other people in the meeting are too fast and you can’t keep up anyway so you just keep typing. With MindManager if you find that your topics are under the wrong heading just drag them to a new location. No formatting issues (Word users you know what I’m talking about), no clicking on the page and finding you’ve created a new “box” randomly which isn’t aligned with the others. No figuring out how to organise your Notebook’s. No untitled pages which don’t seem to even be in a notebook. Just maps. Simple, stylish maps.
So what exactly IS a “map”? The only answer is “anything you want it to be”.
My day starts when I launch MindManager. The first thing I open is my Dashboard Map to find today’s Tasks, Issues and Events as well as the deliverables the team are due to complete for my clients. This information is actually all sitting on our intranet but MindManager for SharePoint pulls the details straight into the map and updates them every time I launch or refresh the page. I can even update the values in SharePoint from MindManager.
Today’s Events show I have a workshop with a client in the morning and a meeting to discuss “next steps” in the afternoon. Maps at the ready I set off. The workshop starts off well and people’s ideas are coming thick and fast. Because the agenda was agreed beforehand, I have already created a map with headings which correlate directly to the outcomes I need. I can add sub-topics as quick as people can fire them at me and the map is slowly building. We’ve discussed objectives for their new portal, issues and so on. What next? Time to start building the Site Structure. I know how hard it can be to visualise a portal or functionality that doesn’t exist.
They’re struggling a bit so I plug my laptop into the projector and as we discuss the best options for their new Site Structure I start mapping it out on the screen. Instantly they can see their thoughts taking shape but it’s not quite right yet so we move things around; add more levels and eventually end up with a structure everyone agrees with.
Thankfully there are different formatting options so although I’ve set up “Site Structure” is a sub-topic I can format it within 2 clicks so everything below it is styled as a proper hierarchy. Previously I have facilitated workshops where an entire afternoon has been devoted to designing the new site structure. There’s multiple flip chart pages being scribbled on or stuck together and no one can really see what’s been agreed at the end of it. This takes an hour and the best bit is – now I don’t have to go away, decipher all the notes, create the structure diagram using Visio or Word Art and then send it over to the sponsor to distribute and get feedback on. It’s on the screen and everyone in the room has just approved it. Let’s move on…
My next meeting is a smaller group. We’re discussing the proposal they’ve had, deciding when and how to start workshops and agreeing other action points. Again I have pre-defined some topics but it’s so easy I didn’t really have to. I’m adding issues, their actions, our actions, dates and so on. I’ve already linked to the Proposal so there is no hunting for the document in Explorer, one click and it opens. We’re discussing branding and they’re mentioning sites and images they like so I add more hyperlinks and even search results for me to review at a later stage. Suddenly my map is huge but it’s okay because I’ve already defined my own map styles so the different sections are clearly defined. Otherwise I could easily add a box around them for a more visual grouping.
The meeting comes to an end and for once I have not spent the entire time scribbling or tapping frantically panicking about legibility and how much work I’ll need to do later to reorganise it all and if I missed anything. Everything I need has been captured with little fuss. My counterpart across the table asks me if it’s not too much trouble to send over the minutes when I get back to the office the next day. “No problem” I say. I’ve already exported the Map as a PDF with an embedded Mindjet player and it is sitting in her inbox.
I find workshops are a bit like my life, but with the existence of hair straighteners…..
Emma Thomas – Account Manager Creative SharePoint
This post comes from our fine friends at Creative SharePoint and their blog. As a single point of contact during the course of the project life-cycle, Emma’s job is to make sure clients know they have someone on their side to represent them internally and make sure their requirements are met on time and to budget. In addition, regular contact with the client and sponsors enable Emma to help them shape new ideas and initiatives from the beginning – either through continuous knowledge share or by opening the door to the correct skill set for envisioning.