Thursday, 13 May 2010

Young Enterprise Scotland

John Bothams was involved in Higher Management Education as Senior Lecturer at Strathclyde University Management School, delivering the MBA across the world and teaching on several Masters programmes and Executive Development courses. He was in the first cohort to obtain the MA in Management Learning from Lancaster University in 1984. He has been Senior Examiner for Young Enterprise Scotland for the last ten years and an examiner since 1992. He now runs his own consultancy company IRLS Ltd and still provides a Strathclyde MBA elective class. Find out more about IRLS at

I have been a convinced user of electronic mind-mapping for well over ten years. It has proved especially useful in my teaching of Higher Education courses in Management. This is because it provides the ability to see both the detail and the overview of problems and strategies, separately and together. All three views are necessary for activities such as problem solving or strategy building, as the details are then visibly linked to their context.

The key advantage I have found in terms of learning is that electronic mind-maps help in the following unique way: by saving different versions of the mind-map when exploring a problem, working on a dissertation or class project, a record of understanding and learning is kept which is visible. From this record it is possible for students to reflect on how that understanding has been achieved. Reflection on the series of maps in this way leads to a deeper and longer lasting understanding of the subtle connections between different influences and thus easier transferability of learning to new situations.

I have responsibility for setting an examination for over half of the 3000+ young people who take on the challenge of the Young Enterprise Scotland programme each year. The YES programme aims to inspire young people and prepare them to succeed in a global economy. It helps them develop their full potential and increase their confidence and self esteem, as well as test out their own business ideas by running a real business for nine months.

The participants have a wide range of abilities in expression and the examination paper has to take this into account, which is no small task. Before setting this year’s examination I took the opportunity to use the latest version of MindGenius to explore a complete record of all the 10 years of past papers that I have designed, by pasting them into a single map. This is wonderfully simple to do, and achieved just by highlighting and copying and pasting each question and its prompts (a maximum of five per question). Using the ability to drag and drop, I could then cluster the questions round topic areas for comparison.

In MindGenius 3 there is a function to code branches and then apply filters and this is what I used to study what I had asked in the past, and spot where gaps or new technology would give an opportunity for a new slant for a question. I used the new ability to code, but I needed first to develop my own categories to make the coding sensible to me. This was not only possible but easy, once I applied an update to the program made available around the time I tackled this activity. I was able to use a symbol picture to do this categorisation (see screen capture of a 2010 question), for example by using a green ball to denote sustainability questions or prompts. By applying the filter for this symbol, only questions or prompts about sustainability were visible. This enabled me to isolate the detail. By removing the filter I was then able to see those sustainability questions in relation to all the other questions set and get a feel for the links and contextual setting.

Mind-map of the Strategy and Sustainability Question 2010
Please click for full screen view.

I would not have been able to do this had I just read the last ten years’ papers. It meant that I was confident that this year’s examination paper was on a really solid foundation and the prompts for the examinees were clearer than previously. I then produced mind-maps of answers based around my own experience of a Company to get a feel for being an examinee and was able to make further adjustments to wording.

The result this year was that we saw a decrease in the failure rate to just 2%, the lowest rate that I believe to be possible and 7% less than ten years ago.

I believe this reduction in failures was greatly aided by my use of MindGenius in the preparation of the paper. It ensured that candidates had a balanced paper and focused prompts from which to relate their own experiences of running their own Young Enterprise business. 98% of those who took the examination were able to produce answers ranging from satisfactory to excellent.

More information on Young Enterprise Scotland Programme: Contact

1 comment:

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