How to Use Mind Mapping in Business

If you’ve been reading this blog, you may have already realized you’re stuck on something in your business. You also know we’re big fans of doodling to present information. The visual at the heart of each of our engagements is what we call an ecosystem.

Ecosystems are a style of mind map which we use to display our clients’ knowledge gaps. They’re a tangible thing we can gather around and confirm that we’re aligned to the same learning goals and priorities.

Mind maps:

  • Help you grasp a big picture overview of the subject under study.
  • Help reduce mental clutter and cope with information overload.
  • Help trigger creative associations between seemingly unrelated bits of information.

In other words, mind maps are a perfect tool to help you get started on your journey to unstuck! If you’ve never heard of mind mapping before, there are TONS of resources online to explain the concept (and sell you software). But we haven’t seen many examples that explore complex topics like business strategy or technology implementation. Here are a couple of quick tips to get you started, tailored to people trying to work through business challenges.

  1. Put the topic in the center of your paper. Our ecosystems tend to be organized around a technological, operational, or transformational challenge. Examples include 3D printing, new business integration, or finance function transformation. What are you stuck on. TIP: We recommend you do this on paper or a white board to start. It doesn’t have to be pretty! We give cleaned up versions to clients, but when you make a personal one, you should spend zero time on how it looks. It distracts you from organizing the information.
  2. Look to your research. We do lots of reading when we build an ecosystem. Our clients have usually identified some important aspects of their challenge and share that work with us. We also like to see how their industry talks about the topic. Finally, what’s trending in that topic area at large? Is there anything relevant out there that you haven't thought of? All of this will help you decide what the primary nodes are. TIP: Unless you have several major ideas that very clearly branch off from your main topic, try starting with just 3 or 4. As you dive deeper into each one, you’ll start to see a lot of overlap. It’s easier to add then to decide one of your branches really needs to be divvied up amongst the others.
  3. Go deep! But not too deep. The biggest temptation as you build out each major branch in detail is to record a node for every scrap of information you read. When you are in your second and third layers of detail, be a strict editor. For example, when I map automation for a client, I almost certainly include AI, machine learning, and RPA as subtopics, because differentiating between these technologies is important. Most client challenges, however, do not call for a distinction between machine learning models like neural or Bayseian networks, so I don’t include them. TIP: The more you look, the more connections you see. It can be helpful to show how some concepts are shared between branches but draw lines for only the most important ones. It’s more useful if your mind map is clear and elegant.
  4. Make it accessible. Assuming you want to use this mind map as a way to communicate with team members, this is where you can spend a little time making a cleaned-up version. TIP: The key to transforming a personal ecosystem into a shared one is a companion document with links to the resources you referenced in its creation.

I hope this inspires you to try mind mapping as a way of organizing your thoughts and ideas around a business challenge or objective. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you a blank framework to help get you started!  


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