Chuck Frey’s latest mind mapping research project

Chuck Frey is doing a new research project on the uses of mindmapping. If you’re using mindmapping tools take a few minutes to help with his research.

It’s now time for my next research project. This time, I’m focusing on issues like sharing your maps and collaborating with others, exporting maps into other data formats and a “wish list” of future software capabilities. This survey also includes several open-ended questions, where you can share your thoughts and opinions with me and your peers.

Please take a few minutes to complete this brief, 10-question survey:

I look forward to your thoughts! [The Mind Mapping Software Weblog: Please participate in my latest mind mapping software survey.]

Tips for gaining adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technologies

[cross posted at FastForward blog]

We’ve been challenged to offer tips for gaining adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technologies by  James Dellow and James Robertson. Of the responses so far, I confess that I am most aligned with Euan Semple’s, who suggests that perhaps the call for adoption advice is premature. Here are some thoughts on adopting these technologies beyond the general strategies that apply to any collision between new technology and an organization.

  1. Start with your own learning. You are the target user base. Moreover, these are technologies whose value is not easily understood from casual use or from reading someone else’s account. Set up a blog and start keeping a daily journal with it narrating your work.
  2. Use Enterprise 2.0 tools to do your research on Enterprise 2.0 Get an RSS Reader and start subscribing to blogs talking about these technologies. Use your private blog to post items from your reader with your thoughts and reactions. Set up an account at and start using it to track your web surfing. Use a wiki to start organizing your research into a business case and plan for your organization.
  3. Find and enlist co-conspirators. Ignore the issue of resistance to organizational change. Route around it. Find a handful of other individuals you work with to join you in your efforts. If possible, include collaborators outside your organization as well. Examine and reflect on your struggles and mistakes as you learn.
  4. Ignore the IT organization or co-opt it. These technologies are inherently subversive to the established order of things in most organizations. Don’t fight it, exploit it. Start with services outside the firewall, unless you can find a sympathetic friend inside the IT organization who will help set up a sandbox server to play with. Don’t get caught up in trying to fit in with the existing technology architecture or standards. You’re initial objective is to understand how this class of applications interact with the business processes in your unique organization. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the problem is about technology.
  5. Fix a broken process. Once you’ve developed some grounded experience with these technologies, you’ll be able to identify the process in your organization that can visibly benefit and that you have the power and authority to fix.  

Absent a specific organizational situation and a specific problem, I fear that most tips will, of necessity, be very generic.


Sensemaking practices

There is an excellent discussion of learning as sensemaking going on over at Creating Passionate Users.  Dan Russell has a series of posts (Sensemaking 1, Sensemaking 2, Sensemaking 3) about his thoughts and practices when he takes on a new research based project. In addition to the value of Dan’s thoughts, each post has also sparked excellent discussion threads, which are also worth your time.

Here’s a definition of sensemaking that Russell gets to today:

Sensemaking is in many ways a search for the right organization or the right way to represent what you know about a topic. It’s data collection, analysis, organization and performing the task. [Sensemaking 3]

Sensemaking is a concept I’ve found useful and valuable in much of my work in organizations. I first encountered it in the writings of organizational theorist Karl Weick (e.g. .The Social Psychology of Organizing). Central to Weick and Russell’s thinking is that understanding is something you build over time as an active effort.

My sensemaking practices run along the following lines.

Data Immersion and Convergence. Like Russell and many of the commenters on his posts, immersing myself in the data is a primary component in my sensemaking practices. If I’m doing work inside an organization that includes getting my hands on whatever previous work I can find, public information, interviews, and keeping my eyes and ears open. I am a fan of Yogi Berra’s advice on this; “you can observe a lot just by watching.”

I’ll generally wrap up the initial data collection when things start to converge and get repetitive. Sometimes, this represents a plateau and more data collection will be needed later. More often than not, I have reached to point of diminishing returns and more data by itself won’t help.

Mindmapping and Issue Finding. I’ll draw a variety of mindmaps over the course of most projects. In them, I try out various ways of organizing and relating what I currently know and don’t know. In particular, I’m looking for issues and themes that provide a way to account for the data. With the advent of good software tools for mindmapping (e.g, MindManager), I have started to use my mindmaps as the primary tool to organize and link to the various data I am collecting.

Trip Reports. I’ve mentioned trip reports before as one of my sensemaking habits. At the end of a day collecting data I write myself a memo trying to understand what I might have learned. In my early days as a doctoral student, these were Word documents. They’ve since morphed into private blog entries. They are not transcriptions of my interview notes. Rather, they are first attempts to put my thoughts into story form.

Pictures and Diagrams. Stories are one form of sensemaking, pictures are another. I will play with various kinds of pictures and block diagrams to see what they might reveal about the subject at hand. I almost always start with hand drawn diagrams. If I need to share the drawing, I’ll create an electronic version in Visio. One problem that I sometimes encounter with sharing diagrams in Visio is that they may appear more “precise” than warranted. A partial solution I have had some success with is to use a font called Charette courtesy of the folks at Mindjet. This is a font the mimics the hand-lettering you might see on blueprints and helps convey the notion that what you are looking at should be seen as provisional and subject to revision and elaboration.

Tony Buzan’s advice on how to create mindmaps

This video clip of Tony Buzan on mindmapping is making the rounds. Jack Vinson and Chuck Frey also pointed it out. According to Buzan there’s a right way and, by implication, a wrong way to draw mindmaps. I suspect Buzan would give me low marks on how I make use of his technique. What good is a tool, if you can’t twist it to your own purposes? In particular, I ignore the “one word per branch” guideline in favor of one chunk per branch. Regardless, I am still a proponent of the technique, both manually and with whatever software tools best suit your style. And Buzan’s Mind Map Book remains your best starting point.

Excellent mindmapping video (and a couple of links)

Really great YouTube clip of Tony Buzan holding forth on the features and benefits of mindmapping. Fascinating stuff from the master himself….

Relatedly, for utter information overload, check out this list of mindmapping tools. Or, check out this relatively recent list of narrowed down options. That second list turned me onto Gliffy, which is best described as free Visio in a browser–very excellent tool for diagramming, but I don’t think it’d port well to mindmapping.

Slacker links: Management Craft
Lisa’s blog is full of good advice.

The Procrastinator’s Clock – User-centered design at its best

Now this is the kind of tool that demonstrates a deep understanding of its target users. Probably wouldn’t help me, as being late to scheduled events isn’t my particular procrastination issue, but I appreciate the design insight.

The Procrastinator’s Clock


If you’re a procrastinator, you don’t need a mathematical formula, you know who you are. Worse, the people who work with you know, too. I’ve tried the “set the clock ahead 10 minutes” trick, but it never works because I know that I really have that extra 10 minutes. If you’re nodding, then perhaps you need David Seah’s Procrastinator’s Clock.

It’s guaranteed to be up to 15 minutes fast. However, it also speeds up and slows down in an unpredictable manner so you can’t be sure how fast it really is. Furthermore, the clock is guaranteed not be slow, assuming your computer clock is sync’d with NTP; many computers running Windows and Mac OS X with persistent Internet connections already are.

Can Enterprise 2.0 evolve from Enterprise1.0?

(cross posted at FastForward)

Dave Snowden, formerly of IBM, now on his own at Cognitive Edge has been thinking about the relationship between organizations, knowledge, and technology for a long time. In one of several recent posts, “If the world is flat, seek out the bumpy bits ,” he reflects on the challenges of meshing the bottoms up processes that characterize successful social technologies with the command and control realities of most organizations. As he puts it better than I can:

Now I am reasonably confident that anyone who knows anything about knowledge management or for that matter anyone who has lived through the failed experiments of the last decade, will reject the AIMS analysis and conclusion. However, much as I agree with Euan, I think we need to understand that a lot of people actually think the management and monitoring is the way to create a system that will get people working together. I know this is a depressing thought, but I think the AIMS managers quoted are genuine in believing that their survey shows both a causal linkage and a solution. Evil is often done for the best of all possible intent! It’s an example of the sort of blindness to the obvious that characterises an old model of the world, seeking to accommodate new realities. They just don’t understand bottom up systems, or the anarchic and messy connections that are achieved through social computing.

Now this comes back to the issue of what information we need to act, or to make decisions. The classic approach is to use phrases like :the right information in the right place at the right time which contains the flawed assumption that one can know what is the right information or the right time other than with the benefits of hindsight.  [If the world is flat, seek out the bumpy bits ]

The AIMS analysis Snowden refers to is a recent Accenture study making the rounds about the difficulties managers claim in finding information within their organizations. Accenture is ready and willing to help organizations solve this problem and, from within their worldview, they quite seriously believe that there is a straightforward (and likely expensive) technological solution. Like Snowden, I’m more skeptical.

The notions of Enterprise 2.0 are seductive. The question is can you get to Enterprise 2.0 from Enterprise 1.0?

Technography – a simple technology-enabled technique for improving meetings

Here is a simple, short, video introducing the notion of technography as a technique for using technology you already have for improving meetings. The notion is to use an outliner, a laptop, and a projector to create a running, transparent, set of discussion notes during the meeting. I’ve used the technique in the past with good results. With tools like MindManager, I suspect it would be even more effective.

The Not So-Obvious Art of Collaboration

I owe some apologies to Bernie DeKoven, the guru of Collaboration and Running Meetings. Some time ago Bernie pointed me to the following link of a very special video about better meetings. Bernie made this clip with Michael Schrage and Rob Fulop. They discussed Bernies Technography method for facilitating productive meetings. I enjoyed watching it,learnt from it and intended to blog it on Smartmobs. Today I am embarashed to say that I did not act according to my intentions, and forgot….. May the readers blame me for this and enjoy this video today. [Smart Mobs]

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

Very nice collection of visualization methods, nicely visualized. Another nice find from Boing Boing.

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

David Pescovitz: Periodictable is an online introductory tutorial about how data, abstract thoughts, and concepts can be graphically represented more easily hold complexity in your mind and navigate through it to gain useful insights. One of their examples of knowledge maps is this excellent Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Rolling your mouse over each form of visualization brings up an example of the technique. It looks like it would very useful if you think a visualization is in order but you’re not sure which specific kind to try.
Link to Periodic Table, Link to PDF paper “Towards a Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for Management” (Thanks, Mike Love!)[Boing Boing]

Designing spaces for doing knowledge based work

This book contains an extensive series of case studies of designing space for learning and doing knowledge work in schools and universities. If you accept the premise that much of the work that will take place in Enterprise 2.0 organizations will be knowledge work, then you may find these a source of ideas and insights.

Learning Spaces

Diana Oblinger (of Educating the Net Generation fame) has edited/released a new book: Learning Spaces (not sure how long it has been available, but it has been referenced by several edubloggers over the last week). I love this quote: “Spaces are themselves agents for change. Changed spaces will change practice”. The bulk of the book consists of case studies of learning space design in different organizations.

The Expert on Experts and Expertise

Ericsson’s essential point is that expertise is a function of practice not talent. One key point he makes is that:

“Successful people spontaneously do things differently from those individuals who stagnate. They have different practice histories. Elite performers engage in what we call “deliberate practice”–an effortful activity designed to improve individual target performance. There has to be some way they’re innovating in the way they do things.” [Fast Company]

There’s more wisdom in that old joke on how to get to Carnegie Hall than we care to acknowledge. Ericsson’s handbook is $130 at Amazon which feels a bit rich. He has also published what appears to be a more accessible version of the same material in The Road to Excellence. It’s still $50 for the paperback version, but that puts it into my range.

The Expert on Experts

Successful people spontaneously do things differently.”

K. Anders Ericsson , author, “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance“