Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How I use MindGenius for decision making



We all make decisions on a daily basis; when these are simple decisions, we can usually readily determine the best solution to follow. However, when the decision is more complex, or has higher risk consequences, needs justification, or when a number of people are involved in the decision, it makes sense to use a rigorous and disciplined, yet simple, decision making process.

Ed Hreljac and his partners from Process Power have been using and reselling MindGenius for nine years. One of the key processes they have been using MindGenius for is group decision-making. Here Ed discusses the process to follow when using MindGenius for this task.

MindGenius helps me as a “decision process facilitator” leading groups of participants through a systematic process carefully considering all of the available options. The derived best option will have strong alignment to the organizational objectives, and the process itself will result in more buy-in from stakeholders and give you more confidence that the best decision has been made.

MindGenius is especially helpful at the front-end of the process when structuring or breaking down the decision into manageable chunks, thus tackling complexity. Consequently, decision makers can communicate the decision logic and use their professional judgment on many small components of the decision rather than being forced to intuitively draw an overall conclusion. These are the steps I follow:

Identify the goal for the decision

Identify the goal for the decision i.e. the overriding purpose of your decision. Create a new MindGenius map and make this the core branch title (e.g. select best IT project). Define the goal statement in the Notes field of MindGenius.

It is critical to clearly state the goal of the decision being tackled. It is surprising how often a misstatement or misunderstanding of the goal leads to a poor or frustrating decision process. For example, you might be trying to decide what car to buy but your spouse is still deciding whether or not you should even buy a car. These two perspectives with respect to a car purchase will reflect different goals in the decision model and subsequently change the criteria and alternatives accordingly.

Brainstorm the criteria

To work out the criteria to be used to help make the decision, I usually undertake a brainstorming exercise with MindGenius. Try to identify all relevant criteria e.g. improve financial position, maintain or improve service, etc., drag and drop ideas in the map to create structure to facilitate comprehension and measurement. Clustering ideas into common themes and the concept of MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) may be helpful.

Meaningful criteria should be brief enough to be quickly interpreted and descriptive enough to be clear. I find it helps to draft a clear definition or example in the Notes field.

Ensure that the criteria identified are uniformly phrased, understood, and agreed on by the team.


Assign criteria weightings

Start by assigning % weightings to each of the high level criteria you have identified on your map (these should total 100%), continue to breakdown these % weightings to the lower level criteria. The percentage complete field on the Task ribbon can be used to record the lower level weightings.

Having defined our required decision and identified the criteria we will use to make that decision, this framework can be exported to Excel. (Tip: Use the hierarchical export and merge cells option, then include the % complete field in the export.)

Record and rate alternative options

When using MindGenius you should list or brainstorm your alternative options and draft a description for each (in the Notes field of MindGenius).

Add your alternative options to the excel spreadsheet and rate how well each alternative option contributes to each criteria using an appropriate rating scale.

Once this has been done, you need to calculate the best option based on your ratings.

In this example each individual rating has been multiplied by the percentage value for those criteria and totaled for each project. Project E appears to be the project that best meets the stated weighted objectives (criteria). It will be an extremely strong contributor towards Increasing Revenue (the most important criteria at 20% weighting) and towards Improving Service Efficiency.



Please contact us if you would like the specific calculation for this example or further details of this process.

Upgrade Pricing for MindGenius V2 customers

MindGenius 2 customers will receive a 20% discount on the list price of MindGenius 3, allowing them to purchase MindGenius Business 3 for £117/ €135/ $188 and MindGenius Education 3 for £45/€52/$72.

MindGenius V2 customers simply need to select the Upgrade option in the MindGenius store. A valid MindGenius V2 licence is required.

For multiple user upgrade pricing, please contact us at info@mindgenius.com, or on +44 (0) 1355 247 766.

All prices are exclusive of VAT.

Hints and Tips - Editing Question Sets

Question sets were introduced to MindGenius in Version 2.5 in January 2009. We introduced SWOT type questions for facilitators to use as prompts to keep brainstorming sessions going and Who/What/Where/When/Why type questions to ensure well rounded analysis of problems.

Responding to user demand, we added the ability to edit the existing question sets, as well as the ability to create your own to Version 3, which was released in October 2009.

Users were then able to create question sets specific to their business processes. For example, the sales qualification process where Questions can be added by an individual sales manager or team leader to ensure a process is followed that allows the current situation to be fully understood, the opportunity to be defined, sponsors identified etc. This enables the sales manager to ensure consistency of their sales forces’ questioning and qualification.

Specific question could also be used by Consultants, Engineers and in schools or university settings, for example it could be used to prepare a lesson planning template, or as a guideline for an essay or report.

Here is how you would create a specific question set for Staff Performance evaluation:

Performance evaluation should always involve an assessment of performance against previous evaluations and a general discussion and exchange of views around this.

As the reviewer you will need to ask open ended questions that encourage discussion, and cover all relevant points whether good or bad. It can be easy to forget during open ended discussion where you are and what's been covered, but the Questions tool then works as a framework to allow you to keep on top of this.

Process

· Select the Tools Ribbon

· Select Edit Question sets

· Use the 'New Question Set' icon to create your new questions


New question sets can be based on existing question sets.

Once created, start adding the questions, type your questions into the New Question field and hit "return" to add it.

Use the Up, Down, left and Right arrows to give your question set structure.


Use the Add, Edit and Delete icons to modify your Question set.


Remember to Save your question set so can you use it again in the future.

Accessing questions at a later date.

Your new saved Question set will automatically be available for all new maps created.

Use the 'Question Sets' list on the Home or Tools ribbon to select and display a question set.

Question sets are personal by default and are stored in your My Documents\My MindGenius Templates\Questions folder

These XML files can be sent to any MindGenius user to add to their My Documents\My MindGenius Templates\Questions folder

Can you think of any other instances where it might be worthwhile to create a questioning framework in this way?

Speedo use MindGenius for Research and Development



To survive in these turbulent times, companies must continue to develop and revise their design and range of products, particularly in those industries that are competitive and fast-moving. To do this effectively requires Research and Development teams to have the ability to work with large amounts of information and to easily plan out how to implement proposals.

MindGenius allows users to gather information and data from a variety of sources, consider all available options, decide which path to follow and report back on decisions made, as well as work out a plan to implement ideas.

One company who has been using MindGenius for R&D, is one of the world’s best recognised swim brands, Speedo. Dr Tom Waller, Head of Speedo’s Aqualab, explains how he and his team have been applying MindGenius:

“For more than 80 years Speedo has delivered high performance and technical credibility and it is Aqualab, Speedo's global research and development facility, that is wholly responsible for delivering the innovation and technical advances required to maintain Speedo's status as the World’s best swim brand. This is a constant and demanding task that requires immense complexity and coordination.

Speedo Aqualab utilises MindGenius 3 for ideation and reporting activities and we use this unique software to collate data from scientific and sporting communities as well as the commercial, production and supply chain activities within the business. The seamless integration with other day to day software is particularly important to enable more effective planning, management and presentation of projects.”
Dr. Tom Waller
Head of Aqualab, Speedo International Ltd.


Does your organisation have experience of using MindGenius within this environment and do you have any tips you would like to share with other MindGenius users?

The SPEEDO word and the ARROW device are registered trade marks and used with the permission of Speedo Holding B.V.

Keep your New Year’s resolutions on track

Over-indulgence and the festive period often go together hand in hand and many New Year’s resolutions seem to include getting fitter, eating better or drinking less.

However good your intentions may be, it can be difficult to keep on track, even for the whole of January. It might be cold and dark outside, being back at work might be stressful, or you might simply be too busy to keep on top of things, which leads us to fall back into old routines and give up on our resolutions.

So, should we just give up the concept of New Year’s resolutions, or can we make it easier for ourselves to keep up the good work?

Research has shown that it takes around 30 days to develop a new habit, whether good or bad, and given the fact that the average resolution lasts for 5 days, it is obvious why most people’s resolutions do not succeed. You need to keep up with your good habit for at least 30 days in order for it to become a part of your life.

One way to do this can be to break down your one major goal into smaller chunks to make it more manageable.

For example, if you want to exercise more, there’s probably no point in pushing yourselves to do 2 hours of exercise a day, and giving up after a few days because you don’t have the time, or energy to fit it in. Instead you need to work out small steps you can take to achieve this goal, for example, fitting in short bursts of exercise whenever you can such as walking more, taking the stairs rather than the lift, or gardening. To start with aim to exercise for 10-15 minutes a day and work that up to at least 30 minutes every day.

MindGenius can be used to help you break down your goals. You can quickly pull together a daily, weekly or monthly plan of attack for your objectives and amend it or expand on it whenever required. In this case, you may want to create an initial 30 day plan to ensure your new healthy activity becomes a habit.



Take things slowly and don’t give up – if you don’t meet your objectives one day, start again the next day. It’s also positive to use your map as a visual record of how many steps you have taken towards your ultimate goal.

Have you ever used MindGenius for tasks like this? In my experience, the more you use MindGenius, the more you will find yourself using it as the starting point for many things in not only your business life, but also in your personal.

Do you have any interesting uses of MindGenius (work or personal) that you would like to share with other customers?

MindGenius maintenance release 3.1 now available

MindGenius are pleased to announce the release of MindGenius 3.1, which is now available to download from our website and is free to all MindGenius 3 customers.

While this is primarily a maintenance release, we have taken the opportunity to incorporate some small enhancements in response to early user feedback.

New features include compatibility with Vox Enable which allows users to control MindGenius by voice, using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and extended quick filters to improve project status reporting.

Additional enhancements include:

· export mental connection as constraint to MS Project

· auto-pan functionality provided

· user can configure full screen view toolbar

· action status and % complete fields are linked

· ability to export cost and quantity properties to Visio

· ability to export cost and quantity properties to MS Project

· 'fit width/best/height' command implemented

Download it now from http://www.mindgenius.com/support/version-3-downloads.aspx.

(Note: this is the full install for version 3.1 which will perform an upgrade on version 3.0 without having to uninstall first)

Do you have any other enhancement requests that you would like to see in future versions of MindGenius?