Summer Time and the Mapping is Easy (or getting easier…)

Idea Mapping, Idea Mapping Example, Remote Collaboration, Virtual Teams No Comments »

We’ve been very busy and made significant breakthroughs since my last post in April.   Although it is hard to measure scientifically, I see a direct correlation between the team’s participation in the Idea Mapping workshop and the explosion of new ideas.  Just between January and July, we’ve developed and released two conceptually new services transforming the way we research and present information.  We are also transforming the way we communicate.  I already wrote about map meetings in the past.  We took collaboration a step further and now we report our weekly accomplishments together, in a single map.

It’s always been my intention to use idea maps and visualization in the library’s information research and distribution activities.  We haven’t figured it out yet how to best use MindManager to do that, but we’ve been experimenting.   For example, attached is a map created by Prakash Doraswamy, who attempted to capture key ideas from literature review and analysis he is doing for the health care reform.

I hope you are enjoying the summer time.  I’ll be in Russia most of August and will resume writing when I come back. Developments in U.S. Healthcare Reforms-small

MindJet Diary: Stimulus Package Project Planning

Global Teams, Idea Mapping Example, Project Management, Project Planning, Remote Collaboration, Visualization No Comments »

We are currently working on an information guide to global stimulus packages and government bailouts around the world. The goal is to provide our clients with high quality information and resources to help them learn and understand the complex topic that keeps changing.  Although we’ve done big research projects in the past (i.e. Financial Crisis in Perspective), this project presents special challenges.

  • The topic is a “moving target” and new information becomes available every day.
  • The volume of information is enormous. The topic is covered profusely by media, press and experts. We need to distill it to a manageable amount by analyzing and selecting the best pieces only.
  • We want to create a multi-type guide that will include literature (research, news, opinions, and books), charts, graphs, metrics, web sites, etc.  The challenge is that we are still developing a new methodology for this multi-sensory approach to information delivery and don’t have a clear road map for implementation.
  •  It is a huge project with all 15 team members and 4 library locations involved in different aspects. Bridging communication and collaboration gaps is crucial to success of the project and how quickly we can deliver it to our clients.
  •  Because the topic is in high demand, we must move fast and complete the project in 4 – 6 weeks.

After multiple preliminary discussions between different team members, we finalized our thoughts and ideas at the team meeting with the help of an idea map (see below). We’ve been using maps routinely in our work since January, and this time around – without a doubt – visualizing what we wanted to do enabled us to clearly see a big picture and at the same time determine smaller components.  Through a 30-minute brainstorming session, we quickly realized the areas where we were unclear (branches with question marks) and gained needed clarity to move ahead.  Without mapping, I believe we’d spend at least one more week in planning.

MindJet Diary: From Net Meetings to Map Meetings

Global Teams, Idea Mapping, Idea Mapping Example, Multi-Cultural Teams, Remote Collaboration, Virtual Teams, Visualization No Comments »

We are a global team.  For years, we’ve depended on MeetingPlace or NetMeeting as standard communication tools enabling us to connect and work together in a virtual space during our weekly team meetings.  In the past few weeks, we are taking our meetings to the next level with the help of the idea mapping method and MindJet. 

As a collaboration tool, remote meetings have many disadvantages.  The risk of misunderstanding increases when you have more than a dozen of people from different countries attending a call. You cannot see your colleagues (you can, of course, with video conferencing technology, but we are not there yet).  Right there, you can miss a lot in terms of subtle communication including body language, facial expression, mood, worries, etc.  Even with well established and time-proven rules of meeting engagement that we’ve developed and implemented over the last 4 years, team collaboration and engagement during a traditional teleconference suffers the limitations that come with that medium.  Add to that the routine nature of the meetings and we can understand why some meetings are less than energizing and simply boring.  These are a few reasons why we’ve decided to enhance our meetings by using real time collaborative mapping as an alternative to net meetings.

We had a lot of fun creating a meeting agenda map template (scroll down to the March 7 post for details).  The map contest winner was Safique Hazarika, our Mumbai manager.  His map (see below) is now being officially used for our weekly staff meetings.  We all were very excited during the first map meeting and everybody was engaged in contributing comments, adding notes and – to my surprise – decisively rearranging branches and taking ownership of the map.  It was fun to see small icons of people with corresponding names moving around the map IN REAL TIME.  Even if you cannot see faces, there is an increased perception of personal presence that you get using this tool.  There is also a sense of stronger connection between team members.  In the following weeks, we’ve taken a few steps to make our map meetings more efficient (we all enjoyed that creative chaos of the first meetings but there is work to be done!).  Each week’s agenda items are added to that week’s map by team members prior to a meeting, with as many details as needed, including document attachments.  This material can be reviewed in advance of the meeting.  To avoid multiplication of notes taking during a meeting, we’ve decided to designate a single person to add notes to the map as discussions take place. Each person can add his or her notes if he or she feels that not all important points were captured by a designated notes taker.  We want the process to be flexible but not too distractive.  We keep meeting maps in the MindJet Connect folder that everyone can access at any time.  It is hard to say at this early stage whether or not real time map meetings will be a much better alternative to traditional net meetings in terms of increased effectiveness and better results, but we’ve already seen a few benefits including:

  • increased team members’ engagement
  • heightened sense of connection with colleagues
  • breaking routine – we feel energized and have fun

These are intangibles that are hard, if not impossible,  to measure.  But we all know how important they are for building stronger teams.

MindJet Diary: Meeting Agenda Map Contest

Global Teams, Idea Mapping Example, Remote Collaboration, Virtual Teams No Comments »

Starting this January, we’ve been adopting MindManager as a tool to enhance team collaboration, communication and creative thinking.  After completing an introductory training with the team on the basics of MindManager and MindJet Connect, I invited everyone to a map contest purpose of which was to design a map template for our staff meeting agenda.  That map template would be the first step towards real-time online meeting collaboration where participants from around the world could contribute their ideas and thoughts by adding them to the map on the fly.  Using the map-based approach, we want to see if we can improve:

a)     understanding between people working remotely

b)     team members’ engagement

c)      brainstorming new ideas

d)     meeting effectiveness

The contest was a fun way to apply new knowledge and try new skills. We had 100% participation with great results.  The top winning map, as judged by team members, became our official meeting agenda template that we’ll be using for future meetings.

For me personally, all submitted maps were winners! I was surprised and pleased to see how quickly all team members learned and applied new skills – after only three 30-munutes training sessions – and how distinctly different and creative each map was.  And for many people, that was their first map!  Here are a few samples.




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