I was always a fan of her wonderful blogs because she had the knack for pulling together different concepts by various people who wrote about digital transformation, future of work and organisational learning. I admired that she could somehow envelop all the messy themes, find links and patterns with each of them and then create a blog post that was rich in ideas. Each of her blog posts was a micro-lesson in itself. In fact, I have each of them printed out and clipped together with a heavy bull clip and have referred to them in my work in the past.
Sahana is one of these people who has the knack of seeing linkages and connections between the different ideas and concepts that people present and pull them together to summarise it all in the one place in her own voice.
After the initial introductions, we got to talking about our respective work and I mentioned to her that I admired her blog posts. This started a conversation that made me reflect on my own sense-making and blog writing.
How to Articulate Your Message when Your Thinking is Muddled
I lamented to her that at times I feel that my thinking is muddled. That I cannot articulate something that I feel in my gut and heart that is happening within organisations but that my brain tells me that I have to find the right words to be able to influence others. I mentioned to her that the reason why I started to use video was my fear of public speaking that somehow, the muddled messages in my head couldn’t effectively string themselves together to become coherent messages out of my mouth.
Video seemed to be a way to practice public speaking but also be a form of self-editing.
I started using Snapchat for this reason because the video could disappear after 24 hours – all my efforts forgotten, disappeared into the ether. However, with time I noticed that Snapchat had allowed me to practice my message and feel more comfortable in front of the camera which in turn, would help me in front of an audience.
As we talked about our similar issues about trying to make sense of our work (we have both now left our organisations and now independently consulting), we realised that we need to articulate the message that we want to give others about our work. At times, this is difficult to do because we are in such a world of constant flux and we’re in the middle of it trying to make sense of it.
There are people around us who seem to “understand” us – who “get” our message despite the muddle.
When we meet, there’s an instant connection and recognition that we are changemakers somehow but at the same time, we feel that there are hidden obstacles in our way. We don’t really know what these obstacles are – we can’t seem to put our finger on them but we can “feel” them.
Subtleties around us such as a disparaging comments by friends, family or our networks to leave our ideas and follow what is expected of us; a manager who uses something we share online in the spirit of generosity and authenticity against us in performance reviews; colleagues or peers who may steal, copy or plagiarise our work without attribution; somehow knowing who to trust and not to trust when we share our ideas and knowledge and so it goes on.
Actions that don’t seem to “sit right” with our own values that we are espousing and which make us take a step back to reassess our thinking.
Are Mind Maps the Answer?
The first night of the conference, I didn’t sleep too well. I tossed and turned and thought about my conversation and connection with Sahana. I also recounted the keynote presentation of Tony Buzan who talked about structuring mess thinking through the use of mind maps.
I wondered if mind maps were an answer for me to be able to structure the mess in my head?
Currently, the way I sense-make is by creating my own personal learning experiences and jumping into whatever activity I choose to do with gusto. Others may think I’m flitting from one thing to the next. Maybe I am. Others have told me that I follow fads. Maybe I do. However, these perceptions don’t bother me anymore because this is who I am and how I’ve always been.
If I want to immerse myself in whatever activity and then draw my own connections and meanings from it then so be it. I thrive on the constant exploration but sometimes there’s just so much noise out there. The downside is that it feels like my head is a constant muddle and after hearing Tony Buzan’s presentation, I reflected that I need to work on this further.
Of course, blogging has been one of the best ways to pull these competing thoughts together followed by journaling. Video to some extent doesn’t compare and it doesn’t come naturally to me without it being perceived as some promotional pitch for my products and services especially with an internet that is full of content marketers spruiking clickbait videos.
So I tossed and turned and thought about mind maps. Should I revisit mindmaps as a way to structure my messy thinking?
Some years ago, I had attempted to use these colourful diagrams but for whatever reason, I simply couldn’t get into them. People who know me, know that I like order and structure. Everything is planned and neat. It may come across as unplanned or off-the-cuff but believe me, much of everything I do has been pre-planned and deliberated beforehand.
Mindmaps didn’t sit well with how I learn. They were too conceptual, too “floaty”. My mind wanted some structure, hierarchy or order. The use of colour seemed frivolous – especially when you could use asterisked, underlined, capitals for effect.
I looked at my own notes that I scribbled in my many notepads and all my notes are in order, numbered, concepts circled within clouds, starts, triangles.
In some way, I’ve been mind mapping in my own way too.
So this got me thinking about people in my field of Learning and Development who share their own notes via mind maps and the first person who immediately came to mind was Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator). Clark shares his mind maps of events and conference presentations he attends and it’s a great way to learn about what was covered.
However, as I looked at them, they’re not exactly mind maps. I have since found out that they’re more Concept Maps.
This weekend I read more about concept maps.
Novak (2008) describes concept maps as “graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. They include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts. Words on the line, referred to as linking words or linking phrases, specify the relationship between the two concepts.”
What I like about concept maps over mind maps is that you can link concepts, relationships and ideas and it is structured hierarchically with a focus question at the top of the map that allows you to set a context and a reference point. You can also cross-link concepts and relationships which allow you to visualise how ideas are connected across different domains.
After reading about concept maps and mind maps, I have decided to give both of these a go because they may be a way to be able to put on a page my thinking – making the messy unmessy and articulating a clear message and value proposition that resonates with people instantly and immediately.
Have you used mind maps? What’s been your experience of them?
By Nicoguaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything – Concept Mapping in the Classroom
Nocak, J & Canas A.J. (2008) The Theory Underlying Concept Maps, How to Construct and Use Them, Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
What is a Concept Map by LucidChart