Monday, 19 March 2012

Ask Gordon - Biggest Benefit of MindGenius

For over a year now I've been writing Ask Gordon articles and in that time we've covered a variety of subjects such as Problem Solving, Facilitation, Domain Research, Risk Management, Audit Preparation.

Then just last week, someone asked me an interesting question. What aspect of MindGenius do I value the most? It's a bit like being on Desert Island Discs and being asked which record would you select to go with you if you were to be a castaway on a desert island.

What would your answer be? My answer, which may surprise you, was not to pick any of the techniques that I have written about in previous Ask Gordon articles. Why? Because the key benefit that MindGenius gives me is the ability to quickly extract the thoughts hidden in my head and stimulate the generation of new ideas and insights. It provides me with clarity and understanding on the subject matter I am addressing.

I, like most people, find it difficult, if not impossible, to consciously focus on more than one line of thought at a time.

MindGenius gives me the ability to record my ideas and present them in a visible form. My brain feeds off of these stimuli and recognises linkages between them which spark insights and inspire new, creative paths to explore. Once they are recorded, MindGenius provides me with a host of features and capabilities to produce an effective end result. But that end result is only as good as the ideas that it is based on.

So the essential value that MindGenius provides me is the ability to quickly record and arrange my thoughts. It is the key stepping stone to everything that I do.

How does this work in practice?

When I have to do something, my normal approach is to create a new map with the subject as the core then start typing.

As I type, my map develops and the creative juices start. I'm often surprised by how much my understanding of the subject has developed, and often changed from the initial outset, in just doing this for 5 or 10 minutes.

MindGenius is non-intrusive and its simple method of recording does not interfere, or distract me from the thinking activity.

The map structure automatically builds as I type. You’d be surprised how much you actually know about certain subjects, particularly those relating to your areas of expertise. So you can end up with large maps. However, unlike with paper, MindGenius allows your map to expand in whatever direction you wish to take.

I never feel overwhelmed or overloaded by the large amount of information that I generate thanks to MindGenius. I can see the structure which provides me with a high level overview, letting me see the big picture. 

If I see potential linkages, I can visually identify the inter-relationships. I record such linkages there and then because if I move onto another activity, that potentially valuable linkage is likely to be lost forever. It is often from such linkages that extremely valuable new insights are generated.

If there is an area that needs further development, or which poses an obstacle, then I mark it with a category. Later on I filter on the category to identify those areas in my map that I need to revisit.

In summary, MindGenius acts as a catalyst for my brain. It facilitates my thinking and helps me record it so it can then be developed into effective outcomes. It provides me with clarity of thought and allows me to manage large amounts of information effectively.

MindGenius is also particularly useful in teasing out the knowledge and experience of a group of people in such a manner that it is a positive learning experience for those involved as well as producing an invaluable record of what's been said.

So what do you think? How much value do you, or your organisation, place on ideas? What aspect of MindGenius do you value the most?

As ever, if you have any questions or queries, Ask Gordon.

Sharing Complex Book Ideas in Map Format

Jim Mather served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament from 2003 til 2011. In 2007, he was appointed Minister for Enterprise, Energy & Tourism: a role he served until he stepped down from front line politics last year. He started his career as a Chartered Accountant before moving to IBM in IT Sales & Marketing roles. Following IBM, Jim, and his fellow directors, successfully built and sold “Computers for Business”, a Scottish based reseller of leading computer brands. Last October Jim joined MindGenius’ sister company Gael Ltd as Chairman.

Jim comes as a very prolific user of MindGenius – having used the system to capture ideas and energy in nearly 200 sessions with communities and industrial sectors across Scotland in his time as minister. In doing so, he helped people see the benefits of increased collaboration, cohesion and the need to define a unifying purpose.

In embarking on this approach, he recognised that he needed to connect with bright people and their ideas so in addition to dialogue with others, he became a voracious reader of books that offered insights and strategies that could help him and Scotland improve.

Here he details what attracted him to such books and why he chose to map them out using MindGenius:

Have you always been an avid reader? Not really, but senior challenging roles soon persuaded me that I need to know more than I could ever learn from conversation or trial & error.

Perhaps I was influenced by John Adams, the Second President of the USA, who once said “I must judge for myself, but how can I judge and how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.”

How do you select books to read? I have been looking out for books that were able to help me fulfil my roles and build arguments for autonomy, collaboration, mediation and the development of common cause – all of which were also important to Scotland.

But the big secret is to talk about these books and share the ideas in them – so that others know that you are a reader of quality books – and then you can expect thoughtful and appropriate recommendations from a widening circle of like-minded people. This in turn allows you to recommend more good books to others and you can then enjoy a constant stream of worthwhile books and better conversations – constrained only by time and money.

What type of books? I am tempted to reply with one word:- “worthwhile” – but not all of them met that criterion for I made some mistakes and got a few poor recommendations.

They cover most aspects of business life: Biographies, Leadership, Strategy. Mediation, Systems Thinking, Economics, Inequality, The Financial Crisis, Evidence-based management, People and motivation.

And of these my current top ten is as follows:
  1. The New Economic for Industry Government and Education by W. Edwards Deming
  2. The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramo
  3. Trust by Anthony Seldon
  4. The Puritan Gift by Kenneth & William Hopper
  5. The Living Company by Arie de Geus
  6. The Origin of Wealth: by Eric Beinhocker
  7. Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed
  8. Stabilising an Unstable Economy by Hyman Minsky
  9. The Truth about Markets by John Kay
  10. The Cost of Inequality by Stewart Lansley

Why do you create maps of the books you read? It is an attempt to drill the ideas into my head and into my conversations. I read books with highlighted pens in hand and then return to the book to transfer the highlighted text into a mind map.

Once captured in a mind map, I can review a complex book in ten minutes and share the ideas with others – but most of all I can use it to encourage others to read important books and get to grips with big ideas that deserve debate and implementation.

Can we focus on your favourite book and can you tell us about this book? The Puritan Gift by Kenneth & William Hopper

Why is this book your top book?
  • This great book suggests that many in the West and the USA have lost their moral compass in the managing of business and the economy and calls for an end to short-termism and the rebuilding of our economy in a new spirit of togetherness – based on core principles that guided previous generations to success.
Learning points
The USA was great in the era where the Puritan Principles reigned supreme.
They spoke in favour of:

  • Everyone working together in common cause
  • Trying to create a better life for everyone
  • Working at individual competence
  • Being open to new ideas and new technologies and the need to challenge orthodoxies
  • Willing to join the dots and take steps to ensure improvements took place
They highlight the damage done by the Scientific Management of Frederick Taylor, who sought to simplify and time all work processes – triggering unintended consequences:

  • Demoralised staff

  • Lack of trust between management and staff

  • The fallacy that saw managers move to new sectors without deep “domain knowledge”

  • The short-termism that ruled Wall Street and the City of London

  • Finally, why should we read it?
    They will persuade you that there is a better way and that your voice can be heard because:-
    • They ask the key question “Do you think India and China will let Wall Street and the City cream their profits off the top?”
    • They offer us the chance of getting back to fairness and fundamentals and having a New Beginning

    What are your top books and why?