Monday, 19 March 2012

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?


    Damon Lincoln said...

    Good article, I agree that sharing the ideas we read is important.

    My top business read is probably Doug Hall's "Jump start your business brain."
    Doug shares tips for transforming small businesses and include real life business success stories which I found to be particularly inspiring.

    I haven't tried mapping out these books but having read this article, I can see the advantage of it and will try it at some point in the future.

    John Spenceley said...

    When studying for my MBA I mapped all the books I needed to read. I found it helped structure and store the contents which certainly helped understanding and recall.

    I would be interested in seeing any mindmaps of books people would be willing to share

    Muiryden said...

    Hi Jim, good article, have been using MindGenius "lightly" for a few years now, it is a good tool. I see you are Chair at Gael Ltd, excellent news, I am sure you will help guide this companies most excellent product (I have been a Q-Pulse user since Version 3) into the future. For my particular application, the biggest miss is the ability to have the client in multiple languages. Sorry, hijacking your blog. Will you pulblish a list of your recommended reading?

    Philippe Boukobza said...

    Thank you for this very good post. Books mind mapping is an effective way to interiorize and analyze interesting readings.

    Unknown said...

    Hi Jim. Great blog and very pertinent in these times. As you know I am an avid MindGenius user, for work and personal use, and also like to learn from others through books (though not as voracious as yourself!) and of course through conversation.

    I admire your discipline to go back through the book and using the highlighter is a great tip. Many people feel they are defacing a book when you do this (as that’s what we were taught in school). But what we need to remember is that rule of not defacing the book was so it could be re-used by others in school. Therefore when we have a personal copy of a book we SHOULD personalise it and mark it up / highlight it to get at the key messages. Further reinforcing this by committing to MindGenius is then a fantastic way to embed in the grey matter.

    Mind mapping is such a great way to capture and organise ideas and messages as well as plans because it removes all the flim flam that clutters and obscures the true message. It is a technique that is ideally suited to how our brains work and that’s why it is so valuable.

    My favourite book? Secrets of the Ages by John Collier, I'd recommend everyone read it as, although written in the early 20th century, it has enduring and lasting techniques that help people understand and achieve their true potential in a positive and socially contributive way.

    Keep on mind mapping!

    Jim Mather said...

    Many thanks for the responses to the post.

    I will ask the MindGenius Team to publish my mind map of all the books I have read in the past 10 years.

    Anonymous said...

    I read your article yesterday and found it really interesting. So much so that my copy of "The Puritan Gift" arrived today in the post! Thanks for the recommendation.

    MindGenius said...

    Thanks to Jim for the great post and thanks for all of the comments. You can download a copy of Jim's recommended reading from We are hoping to encourage Jim to focus in on some of these books in more detail in the future and perhaps share the summaries of them.

    Paul Free said...

    Hi Jim, I am fairly new to using MindGenius but thanks to your great article I am implementing a scientific journal mindmap. Not only can I link any ideas on my research work, but can link and attach all the relevant documents i have too. Often very complex details and ideas get lost in my literature, but now fingers crossed i can link in ways never possible to me before. I realise too that this will greatly help in allowing me to format my writing when it's time for me to write my own articles.
    I do have one comment for the MindGenius company for an easy improvement, and that is to add the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) web address to be a weblink from an attachment within MindGenius (, as much literature now have a doi code so that online documents are easy to find (not possible with a webaddress as it can change, but a document doi does not, like an ISBN)

    MindGenius said...

    Hi Paul, thanks for the comment and glad to hear MindGenius is helping. I will pass your comment re the DOI onto our Development team.

    Post a Comment