01 August 2006

Mind Tools

Our mental model affects how we think. If our mental model is wrong, we will fail to see the thing that we should or make a wrong decision on the inputs we received.

So far, the most effective way to capture our mental model is through a Mindmap. If you are good at programming, you can even capture your mental model as a Prolog program and it can help you make inference and do decision making. For most mortals like me, we can at least take the 1st step to draw out a mindmap.

There are many good free Mindmaping software available.

Here are some of my recommendations and comments.

Mind map based software tools:
  1. Freemind. http://freemind.sourceforge.net & its fork, even better, Freeplane.
  2. Xmind ... able to easily switch presentation forms. e.g. tree to fishbone to spreadsheet etc.
Concept Map based:
  1. Cmaps. http://cmap.ihmc.us/
  2. VUE Concept Map based.
Specialized Model:
  1. Compendium. http://www.compendiuminstitute.org/

For the commercial ones, there are
  1. Mindmanager from Mindjet, Novamind, ... and many others.
  2. Axon: A flexible tools for all occasions even for simulation and ideas generation, graphical computation etc.
  3. Personal Brain  : a unique ideas capturing, organizing and presentation tools.
  4. Even for iphone and Android phones, there are good mindmapping apps like ithought etc
Mindmapping is the easiest and faster to use to relate ideas. In future posting, we will discuss about the types of relationship between ideas. Concept Map, CMaps, is a more rigorous than mindmap. It imposes the requirement of a linking-word between concepts. Compendium is a specialized mapping for IBIS. Mindmap are typical hierarchical or Tree-base and hence easier for automatic drawing. Cmaps, VUE and Compendium are Network based - i.e. a node can have more than one parent. They are more flexible but it takes more time to draw them. However, you gain control on how you want to layout the map.

Axon is an interesting combinations of many things ... a drawing tools for various types of maps, a simulation tools, an idea generator etc. Because of it computational capability, it can be used to draw Influence Diagram ... Excel formulas in Pictorial forms. It can be used for presentation and so forth. If you need processing and diagramming together without much programming needs, then Axon is a good software to use.

Web Based Collaborative Tools

Mindmeister provides not only a good web-based mind mapping tools but also provides it with real time collaborative capability. There is a free version that limit you to 3 mind-maps for you to try out.

See also:  mind extender - the killer apps after office 

updated 26 May 2011 - Lim Liat copyrighted 2006-2011

Mind Extender - The Killer Apps after Office

If you think carefully about Word and PowerPoint, you would realize that they are output presentation tools either on paper or projection on screen. Writing an article requires you to search for information, organize them, analyze them, generating better ideas, reorganize them and only finally put them down in a nicely logically organized and formatted printout or slides.

Word offer little help in the earlier and more critical part of writing - search, generating and organizing your thoughts.

The ideal software to help us think and write should look something like the mindmap shown below. I call it Mind-Extender.

You don't find this software now,but you can build it using freely available software.

1. Capture. The first piece of the software is the information capture or data collection. If we have in mind certain types of information that we are interested in, we can use the subscription service software to collect those information. We have the Feedreaders, eMail subscriptions, etc. Sometimes we attend Seminars and learn new things. Those new information should be captured and stored as well for future writing need.

2. Classification. The next thing to do is classification. The easiest is not to classify as all and rely on index search engine like Google Desktop (or yahoo or microsoft equivalent) to retrieve them when needed. But more effective search can be made in future is you spend some time classifying your captured information. Some use key words, tags, or even a mindmap software or a Zoot folder software. Categorizing information is learning as well.

3. Storage. Where do you want to store your captured information. In the past, we have to put them in our PC or laptop. With the high speed network availability and large free storage available, we can put them on the network so that we can access them anyway we want. Google 2GB mail storage is a good option to stored them. You can put them in your thumb drive (1-4G) or pocket drive (80G). The choice is the convenience of access and retrieval ease.

4. Retrieval. The methods of indexing and classification affect retrieval. There are many ways to it... free text search, key word search, thesaurus supported search, mind map/directory type, and semi-structured attribute or dimension search etc.

5. Application. We make presentation or write report. We can also used the stored information as templates to help us make decisions or solve problems. When we learn new things or new methods, we can put them back into the knowledge base for future reuse.

6. Collaboration. We can works with others to share information, create new ones and jointly solve problems or brain storm. What is the best way to collaborate ? At present, the Mind Mapping methods seem to be most effective to me. We also need to implement our ideas, track progress, and made changes if needed.

By taking an overview of how knowledge worker work - collecting, making sense, generating ideas, making plan, tracking progress, making decisions, solve problem and persuade others, we realize that we don't have an integrated tools to help us. We will have to make do with what we have and perhaps work on creating a more effective and integrated suite for extending our mind.

For some recommended mind mapping software tools, see mind tools.

Lim Liat copyrighted 2006-2011