Saturday, June 27, 2009

CLOSING THE KNOWLEDGE GAP BETWEEN ACADEMIA AND CORPORATE BUSINESS



Wallace Tait and Patrick Baker

What the bleep are you talking about says you. Well, if your familiar with non linear information management, you’ll get the gist. On the other hand, if you’re the linear majority, the Mr. Hyde cynicism comes into play here and starts to question with a negative outcome as its goal.

Let’s get things straight from the get go. Visual mapping is a term that defines software tools such as Mind mapping®, Concept mapping, Flow charting and Argument mapping. There are other tools we can speak of, but for the sake of this discussion, these tools enable you to realize your information management success. We’ll be concentrating on the Mind mapping software strengths and advantages.
It has been said that knowledge makes you more valuable, but that’s not quite true; the way you use knowledge is what offers value. A simple definition of knowledge used by many is: knowledge consists of information that has value.

Effective creation, organization and exchange of information are the foundational processes that must be established for success at all levels and environments.

A taxonomy which distinguishes between data, information, and knowledge is:
• Data are symbols that have not been interpreted or put into meaningful context.
• Information as data that has been given a meaning.
• Knowledge is what makes it possible for human beings to create meaning from data and thereby generate new information. (Karlöf and Lövingsson, 2005)

Gardner (1995) provided a nexus of conditions on the theme of knowledge as applied in business:

• Know what information is required (know what).
• Know how information is to be used (know how).
• Know why certain information is required (know why).
• Know where information for a particular purpose can be found
(Know where).
• Know when certain information is required (know why).

Yet, even though this is taught at universities and business schools application of these principles in the business world provide disappointing results. Now let’s get to the heart of what must be said. There is indeed a gap (read chasm) that exists between Academia and corporate business. OK, we’re stating the obvious; of course we all know this: don’t we? Maybe you don’t know, and then again, maybe you just don’t care.

We firmly believe if you’re academic and/or corporate level management, you should care: because academia is the intellectual production line that produces your future leaders. Don’t you ever scratch your head in disbelief as you employ well trained graduates from college and university level education: then realizing you have to create a training budget to integrate your future leaders into your corporate mainstream? Why do you have to do this: and indeed why should you have to do it?

Isn’t it the task of your academic colleagues, to train and equip your future leaders, to understand business management, handle information as process and to think in a systematic manner?

There are a number of answers to this question but the most obvious one is that academia work in a text and prose dominated environment – this is the nature of education, yet critical thinking and process development in its purest form is a visual pursuit. Students become skilled at assignment writing and they can be deemed to be competent at business theory but the question needs to be asked whether students are taught to translate theory into proactive in a way that encourages and enhances innovation and solutions thinking that is demanded in modern day business environments?

Thanks to Academia they do train your future employees very well, but we contest that a gap exists. What’s the gap? It’s quite simply the overlooked tools and techniques of equipping future leaders for the challenges they will face in the modern business environment.

Visual mapping: There’s a great measure of Personal, Academic and Business potential within the framework of graphical and systematic thinking, through the tools of visual mapping. So we pose the challenge. Why not teach and use visual mapping methodologies? You might be pleasantly pleased with the results.
Here’s what visual mapping can do for you, your colleagues, employees and business success.

First, visual mapping is a way to encourage thinking about information in new ways. With writing, it's easy to replicate information in a static linear way. With visual mapping, you remove the words and focus on the connections.

Second, visual mapping encourages methodologies that demand a review of concepts to demonstrate understanding. With visual mapping, unlike text, one can easily make changes and take different perspectives. In other words, it improves clarity of thinking.

Third, visual maps are easy to edit, revise, and quickly add content to and therefore well suited to adapting business strategies to ever- changing business conditions.

Fourth, visual mapping as a thinking methodology can now be used with a vast range of visual mapping software now available to businesses which creates capability for businesses to adopt visual mapping as a sensible business planning tool suited to meeting the demands of the modern business environment.

Finally and most importantly in our opinion, a huge amount of information can be shared as a single image to provide the "big view" of any business process.

It is, therefore, our belief that business methodologies taught at institutes of learning recognize that linear taxonomies of business process do not provide ‘the only way’ for fostering innovation, and that visual mapping needs to be recognized by academia as a business tool that demands merit, and that provides a nexus for connecting accepted business theory to organizational practice.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

VISUAL MAPPING AND ACADEMIA


OK, we’ve now come to an understanding of the importance of developing a strong personal foundation for the Visual Mapping information manager. Let’s now discuss the benefits to and implications for use within the academic arena.
Within the Visual mapping tool set we have a growing number of software apps to satisfy our needs to express information graphically. In my experience within the academic arena, there are three tools that are readily recognized for their graphical clarity.



From left to right, we have simple Concept map, Flow Chart and Mind map examples. For the most part, if you show an academic teacher or student these examples, they’ll identify and name all three formats.

The flowchart seems to be at this time the most widely recognizable graphical format. Open many school, college and university curriculum packages and you’ll probably see the academic year mapped out as a flow chart. The flowchart is an excellent communicator when it comes to information flow and process orientation, it is also the most linear of all the graphical formats in the examples.

No negatives here, it’s all positive; if a flowchart is your chosen format for mapping out data, information and knowledge, simply use it while opening your mind to understanding the other formats too can offer you flexibility of thinking too.
The point of becoming a superior information manager is to understand and accept, there are other formats (modes) available to you for the purpose of creating, managing and exchanging your communications.

Within academia we have two arenas that are affected positively by visual mapping: they are teachers and students. Faculty within academia being made up of teachers and skilled support staff are benefited by using visual mapping to overview, organize, clarify and present the educational curriculum's to staff and students alike. Capturing thoughts, ideas, logic, associations and arguments supporting the delivery of academic is the powerhouse of visual mapping for teachers and support staff. The Create, Manage and Present procedure is an invaluable step by step process, called the T.A.P process I’ll speak of in a later post.

Students and teachers alike have differing styles of receptiveness and delivery. This is where software Visual mapping as a tool set has great advantage. The student may be more linear, or process oriented in her approach to understanding and accepting information and her fellow student may be a more abstract thinker, who needs to join all the dots together and see the big picture. There’s no right or wrong here, both students shall do rather well, if they are enabled to have access to tools that give them the freedom of expression.

The teachers are somewhat constrained by the curriculum and therefore merely deliver the process rather than teach these days. It is unfortunate there has not been a wholesale acceptance of Visual mapping within academia by faculty. There are some teachers who are now using the tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping to as a supplement to existing curriculum delivery, and they are experiencing the benefits of positive results for their students comprehension ability.

There are a few software products that should be mentioned here as being indispensable as student/teacher tools for creating, managing and exchanging relevant academic information.

Take a look at Mind Manager, ConceptDraw MINDMAP, Mind Mapper, Visual Mind and XMind. This list shall provide you with enough homework to trial and compare their capabilities. There are other products to consider but, I don’t intend to blog about software unless it is absolutely necessary.

All the products mentioned above bar one, have the ability to embed document attachments right into the framework of the mapped format. This is where we see the benefit to both the student and teacher as they can database their academic information and knowledge within their chosen formats.

The academic level is so closely associated with the professional use of visual mapping within industry and corporate business; it begs the question why we haven’t seen any kind of attempt to standardize an approach to information management within academia and business arenas.

IMO, it is now time to close the gap between academia and business, enabling and infusing the tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping to be realized as a standard approach to information management. I remain very hopeful my fellow professional visual mappers shall cause this to happen by working together as a collective.

So if you’re an academic who is in a position of generating interest in Visual mapping where you work and teach, let’s hear from you with your experiences. And, if you’re a student who is using the tools and techniques of visual mapping to study and manage you academic life, let’s also hear from you too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

MORE ON PERSONAL USE


Having been involved within the Visual Mapping arena for many years now, I inexorably return to the personal use domain. This is where I have found the Mind mapping software developers have either missed the point or willfully ignored the strength of the synchronous thinking power of Visual Mapping.

In defense of some software developers, a few have remained focused on the personal arena associated with self development. This is IMO where we experience the amazing power of graphical thinking in and through the tools, Techniques and mindset of Visual Mapping.

As Data (when aggregated) becomes information, and then (when contextualized) becomes knowledge, we see in this process the analogy of the involution of self development while using a Mind map.

Have you ever had the pleasure of taking someone on a personal journey of discovery through the use of Mind maps? I have and it’s a very exhilarating experience. At the personal level, a Mind map begins to develop and express itself as an outward expression of the inward self.

In recent years there has been an overwhelming interest in the personal power of thought. I use the term “thought mapping” often with my personal clients who have come to an acceptance of their need to be more focused on self development. There are many within Academia, Industry and corporate Business who have become extremely successful by way of their natural strengths.

There has however been much stress placed on these successful individuals who have been forced to become a jack of all trades and master of none. They do this by attempting to become good at everything, and they invariably become great at nothing.

At this point many of our successful colleagues become either burnt out or experience personal crashes that affect everything from relationships to further success and self esteem.

In my experience, a personal Mind map becomes the outward expression of the internal self, often called the subconscious self. The schema (script) we play out as we encounter issues, challenges and degrees of experiences, can be very easily mapped out within a Mind map.

The Mind map can and does become an extremely powerful self development tool, by drawing out the initial reality of our thought processes as we T.A.P into our internal self. From my perspective and experience, I have measured much success for my clients who have come to recognize the great potential they have for tapping into their unlimited reservoir of thought mapping talents.

As much as I am not a psychologist or personal counselor of any degree; I have found myself in the position of assisting many of my academic and business clients, to gain mastery over their latent ability to rebuild reform and regain a more harmonious approach to information management.

I use the powerful graphical formats of Visual mapping to create, manage and express a more harmonious understanding of the complexities of handling data in a very busy and demanding world.

Take some time from your busy schedules to approach the tools, techniques and mindset of Visual mapping from a personal productivity angle. I can assure you’ll experience a whole new way of thinking that shall challenge and revolutionize the way you look at your strengths and opportunities for a more successful thought mapping future.

It all starts with personal productivity, so start by using Mind maps. I would be pleased to help you get started, so connect with me.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Personal, Academic, Business


The image above graphically conveys the synchronous relationships between the three main areas of Visual mapping. Do you to see the connections and relationship flow between the three parts of the Visual mapping whole?

I often emphasize understanding process as essential for the forward thinking information manager to grasp the absolute importance of appreciating system.
I focus on three main areas associated with visual mapping; personal, academic and business. Concentrating on the personal arena for this post, and I’ll get to Academic and Business in further posts.

The tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping facilitate the personal arena as the place where we build the foundation of information management. This is where we find the absolute power of visual mapping.

IMO, the personal arena is the place where it must all start. From the logic or abstract aha moments to the pure enlightenment; becoming a visual mapper positively changes your approach to personal productivity.

Mind mapping is the non linear mode of choice for self dev. It is indeed an excellent over viewer for reducing complexity of thought and organizing issues associated with getting things done. A mind map becomes a door that can open up a whole new world of non linear possibilities. If you want to go from hand written notes to a neatly produced mind map, it may look like the example below.



Many people I have worked with tend to use the mind map to gain clarity of thought in a busy world. The personal user is indeed the individual who may be involved with academia as a student and/or teacher. The personal user may also be involved within business arenas that branch off to industry and/or corporate business. At the base level mind maps are useful graphical expressions for those who best understand information as non linear.

Suffice to say, Mind maps enable the laying of a sound foundation for the budding information manager. Choosing the Visual mapping way to move forward as a superior communicator is becoming more main stream. Further acceptance of the tools, techniques and mindset of Visual mapping opens up many more avenues of opportunity for the personal user.

It is of the utmost importance to become very familiar with your chosen mapping software package. There are many excellent products to choose from. Below is a list of the products I recommend for the personal user to consider.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Visual mapping: What's in it for you?


I’ve often applied the proverbial elevator conversation to explaining the dynamics of Visual mapping to many of my future clients. It can be a challenge to define, within the time constraints of a minute or two, the potential gains of Visual mapping.

Here’s the one minute version:

Imagine a flexible framework that supercharges your information management skills.
I call it Visual mapping: which utilizes Mind/concept/cause/decision and project mapping. When you adopt this framework, you’ll improve the way you generate, handle and exchange information.
Become a superior information manager who creates with clarity, manages effectively, delivers on time and improves continuously.


Now here’s what is said when I get to sit down with a clients who invites me to explain more:

A note about this stage: It has become abundantly clear to me; the majority of my clients past and present require (read demand) a more personalized approach to teaching and coaching the skills and techniques of Visual mapping. They are basically asking us to transform their information handling practices, enabling them to gain visual mapping skills, at a personal level initially, before even considering sharing within their business environment.

The financial constraints of time management and training of modern business is strangling the potential innovative flow needed for nurturing ideas that may be the genesis of improvements within business systems.
I speak of innovation as being an integral element of using Visual mapping software products. Innovation has a genesis within our thought processes. This software enables users to view and develop ideas for business processes, propelling them to a higher level of Information Management.
Information management improvement is IMO, the single most important aspect of Visual mapping.

Business standards, statistical measurements, continuous improvement strategies et al, have overloaded the business professional regarding time and economic efficacy. Yes, these excellent tools are supposed to make our Personal, Academic and Business life more effective and productive.
I am receiving feedback though, screaming for help to change current ineffective approaches to information management.

Change comes in the form of Visual mapping, and at first it’s rather unbelievable that tools, techniques and this mindset creates calm and focus for the overloaded professional. One has to first come to the realization they are facing an information breakdown of sorts: accepting this reality is the first step to the visual mapping way of management.

The relatively short learning curve of Visual mapping software enables the stressed manager to realize the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming data train; it’s a calmer, focused, flexible framework that transforms the way in which they create, manage and distribute information relevant to their business processes and system. One of the many by-products of Visual mapping is a realization of continuous improvement opportunities.


Visual mapping can become a dashboard for all of your business processes and functions. Think of it as a flexible-systematic framework for Personal, Academic and Business success. It starts with accepting the concept, daring to use the tools and tapping into the Mindset.

Do you want to get started?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mindsystems Amode




For the past Month I’ve been using Mindsystems Amode which claims to be “The World’s most Flexible Information Manager”. Well I’m now in a position to say this software has created a whole new approach to the way information can be handled in the creation, management and exchange processes.

This software offers multiple visual modes for the knowledge worker who wants to be more proficient and effective. Go to: http://www.mindsystems.com.au/ download it and give it a try.

Visual thinkers need to take a second look at information management practices. We must challenge current thinking regarding the tools, techniques and Mindset of “visual mapping”.

Many new “Mind mapping” software offerings have exploded onto the scene. Some products may be around for a while to challenge the heavy weights, and many shall simply fall by the wayside. There’s a trend in aggregating tools into products, making them turnkey for process, system and project management.

So it seems these products have evolved into what I term Visual mapping. This includes but is not limited to Mind/concept/cause/decision and project mapping. There are many more modes covered under the visual mapping umbrella. “It’s not just about Mind maps as some would have us believe” as John England of Mindsystems recently stated.

It has now become clear “Information handling” is the unique characteristic associated with the successful creation, management and exchange of data. Information is summative data which has to be contextualized to be relevant, useful and further processed into an intelligent knowledge data base.

Information has become a monetized commodity that is realized within organizations when they use the tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping. One size doesn’t fit all, but the point is to realize the potential for being unique in your use of these tools.

For the most part Mind mapping has not offered a solutions approach to information management, and this in one of the reasons why it has struggled to burst into the mainstream. There are indeed new solution focused products that are challenging, changing and improving our current information handling practices. Of all the periodicals I have read Chuck Frey writes with the most intelligent and informative view of this field.

The techniques however, are specific to your environment and over time, they become standardized within your arena of use. The mindset is associated with the whole brain thinking approach to integrated linear/nonlinear handling of data/information and knowledge data bases.

What unique techniques do I employ that have made significant impact to me? Integrating linear/nonlinear is now expected, even demanded by the users of Mind mapping products. These users have evolved into visual mappers, who utilize software products offering flexible frameworks in modes that supercharge their information management skills.

You're an Information Manager; did you know that?




Oh yes you are, and let’s not argue about that one.

One of the wonderful aspects of being Human is the ability to clothe our thoughts in words. Of course these words build up and equally demolish. This paradox is reconciled in the degree of intelligent use of words. We all choose our thoughts which in turn create our words. Words are data.

Data when aggregated becomes information, which then must be contextualized in order to exhibit a level of knowledge. This knowledge must be organized in order for it to be of any constructive use for the furtherance of the human condition. Therefore we manage information.

Now this is something we actually do naturally, but many of us have willingly given up this uniquely human attribute. So in this age we map out information and, in doing so we rely on tools, techniques and mindsets that take care of our ever growing information management needs.

Are you with me?

Some of us hand draw, doodle and Mind map, and some of us have chosen to rely on technology. Tony Buzan is credited with formalizing hand drawn Mind maps. In many ways, the developers of current information management software based on Mind mapping, wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Buzan.

The evolution of synaptic thinking, a term coined by Patrick Baker, started with rudimentary hand drawn doodles, and just look where we are now. As of the date of this post, we have over 100 software products jostling for a piece of the sales pie associated with the information mapping arena.

Where are we heading is the question. It is rather difficult to say at this time, but IMO, we may have to see many software apps being victims of the chaos that precedes great leaps forward in innovation.

Whole brained or integrated thinking is becoming an essential requirement for the success of the information manager of this century. Most of the apps associated with Mind/Visual mapping to date have failed to grasp the need for flexibility and multiple modes of information and knowledge expression.

So you’re an information manager, and where do you want to go from here? Connect with me and let me know?