Does this photograph look familiar? When international NGOs host training workshops, we rely extensively on brainstorming, flip charts and affinity diagramming (think sticky sheets) approaches as a/the primary facilitation tool. And yet, I would imagine that many of you have wondered (as have I) what happens to all those sticky sheets and flip chart pages once the event is over?
In theory, the sticky sheet diagrams are photographed, and the flip charts are transcribed so that the data can be converted into knowledge, documented and then shared. Too often, however, this is not the case! Whether due to resource limitations, competing priorities, and/or the unwieldy nature of flip chart paper and sticky sheets, often the knowledge from these events is never documented, or is documented and shared weeks later – frequently with significant transcription errors.
Introducing Mind Mapping applications – software that allows trainers to easily collect brainstorming ideas, organize them into visual diagrams, and at the push of a button save the image into a .pdf file. These .pdf files are ready seconds after your session is complete and can be shared via e-mail, uploaded to your intranet, or distributed any way you would exchange a computer file. Furthermore, many of these Mind Mapping applications have features that allow you to convert your map into a Word document that is organized in outline format. Envision your visual brainstorming results converted into a Word format that is immediately ready to embed in the minutes of your meeting or workshop!
There are many mind map software vendors , and a quick Google search will identify at least a dozen options to choose from. One that I find particularly strong is MindManager (sold by Mindjet for about $349.00 (windows) and $129 (Mac).) In the words of Frank Ryan, Head of Library and Information Services at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, “MindManager has saved me countless hours in planning reports and presentations and I have used it very successfully to simplify complex issues. It is very easy to use and Mind Maps can be converted into low-memory PDFs.”
A free, open-source alternative is FreeMind. While I have no personal experience using the Free Mind product, it comes highly recommended by the people on the Knowledge Management for Development List Serve. If any of you have experimented with FreeMind, let us know about your experience by adding a comment to this blog post.