I’ve had a problem since a really long time. Blame it on a creative bent of mind, but I just can’t think straight! I start with one thought, and then it becomes another and another and on and on till my brain would begin to feel like mush.
Trying to get everything organised as the thoughts came flooding in was a challenge. What was important? What thought belonged to which stream? What problem was I trying to solve? How would this be relevant? Could this actually link to something else?
Making sense of it all was a never-ending problem.
Then one day, my daughter re-introduced me to mind mapping. I say re-introduced because I had used it in in B School and then never quite used it again. She found it useful in organising her notes and ensuring she’d covered all the main points. She asked me to help her and before we knew it, we were scribbling away at mind maps. She was focused on her studies and I was sitting with all the scraps of paper, journals, notebooks and bullet journals that I had used to scribble my random thoughts.
It was tedious at first, but then slowly, the thoughts began to coalesce into a pattern. I recognised clusters of information around a common themes and themes around a specific topic. After the first hour, things began to get really clear. What started off as a simple exercise in organising discrete information became a detailed, enjoyable journey through possibilities and ‘connecting the dots’. New areas were uncovered, new approaches discovered and just like a map, the journey of exploration was as exhilarating as it was scary in the beginning.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about mind maps is its ability to adapt to any topic under the sun. It didn’t matter which topic was being discussed. It didn’t matter in what order the thoughts came to mind. It was neatly accommodated into an A4 size sheet of paper.
MindMapping in the real world
PebbleStream, the company I Co-founded with my B-School batch-mate Prithvi, is not just into digital marketing, but also in helping our clients make sense of their businesses. We meet business owners and key business process custodians across all levels of our client’s organization.
We found that many businesses in the MSME space were doing beautiful, magical work that we truly believed would make our country (and the world) a better place. But there was one little hitch. There was passion, there was drive, but we sensed a bit of confusion as well; “How can we use digital marketing to solve our _____ problem?”, “How do we organise our data in a way that we can make sense to a layman?”, “We are doing all this, but is this what we really want to showcase?”
So we took the plunge. We landed up at our next meeting with no slide deck. No PowerPoint, no Google Slides, not even a piece of paper or computer screen. We asked for a room with a white board and a few markers of different colours. Our (rather perplexed) client let us have it. We began the meeting by asking our clients to talk to us about their business – unfiltered through the lens of how PebbleStream would use it. We said we’d work that out once they had worked out their side of the business.
We started mapping the client’s business. Prithvi and I asked the questions and I mapped the points that were spoken. After the first few minutes, we began to see the map taking shape. As the process continued, we saw more and more clarity emerging on what mattered and what didn’t. We even paused to allow the client team to brainstorm new ideas based on what they had seen on the whiteboard. Mind maps allowed them the capability of ‘Big Picture Thinking’ without losing sight of the smaller, tactical details.
As the tendrils of the map branched out, we assigned specific actions and their owners. We saw opportunities for blogs, white papers, infographics, tweets, posts and many other content pieces.
What we’ve learnt from our experiences
What was most exciting for us was the way we were able to help the client make sense of their business and the way they began looking at their business processes in a whole new light.
We have used this approach for many of our client mandates and even our own business storytelling projects. The approach is simple but the results help us make sense of even the most convoluted projects and problems.
We’ve realised that every problem may seem daunting at first but breaking it down to a series of logically tenable smaller problems. The versatility of the mind map allows smaller problems to be tackled without losing sight of the big picture.
Stay tuned for our next blog on how we use MindMapping to create content ideas. It may help you, too!