Mind Maps and Notetaking
Brad Isaac from Achieve IT! recently posted an article on LifeHacker on using mind maps for meeting notes. I think its great to start seeing mind mapping becoming more popular, especially via LifeHacker.
As everybody who reads my blog knows, I’m a huge mind mapping fan. Using mind maps for taking notes is definitely one of my favorite techniques. It’s an incredibly quick way to capture information. And, I find that since I’m not caught up in writing down lengthy notes, I’m able to pay more attention to the speaker. This allows me to be more engaged in the meetings, and to also have a great mindmap as a take away.
When it comes to running meetings, I actually have mixed feelings on whether mind maps are the appropriate format for capturing and relaying information to the attendees. I think it really depends on who the audience is (e.g. are they accustomed to mind mapping?), the amount of information discussed during the meeting, and the context of the discussion. Also, using software to generate the mindmap is key (MindManager, ConceptDraw, FreeMind, etc).
In my experience, here are the situations where I prefer mind maps:
1) Brainstorming sessions
Mind maps are the perfect tool to help facilitate and capture a brainstorm discussion. I personally use MindManager to help with the brainstorming process.
2) Technical meetings (design discussions and reviews)
In many cases, I’ve found mind maps to be a great tool when it comes to capturing notes related to technical design discussions. This is an example of a meeting where a wide variety of topics are discussed any many decisions are made. You need to be able to convey at a high-level the key points, and at the same time, allow people to quickly drill down into the relevant area to get detailed information. In these cases, I’ve found that exporting my mind map to HTML is the best option.
3) Internal meetings
People who work closely with me know that I’m a mind mapping advocate, and are accustomed to reading mind maps on a weekly basis. For some meetings I set the agenda beforehand and create a mindmap to discuss key points: previous action items, important dates, major projects etc. While the meeting is underway I’ll typically draw on the printed copy of the mind map to capture any important feedback and notes.
In situations where I have a meeting with a larger audience, and I need to send summary notes via email, I actually still prefer to use Microsoft OneNote. OneNote allows you to easily export your notes a single-page HTML file (.mht) and cut-n-paste in an email. Until my dream of a portable, common mind map format comes to life, I’ll have to live with this.