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Tony Buzan, in memorial

Tony Buzan
June 2, 1942 – April 13, 2019
Tony Buzan is the person who brought mind mapping into my and many people’s world. He taught us and pushed us to use color and art and our brain processes as we organized ideas and brought out our own creativity. His voice, his British accent, is in my head as I think of all his books that I have read, all the times I recommended his Mind Mapping for Kids book, and all the times I shared the advantages of mind mapping with an audience. Thank you Tony Buzan.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

What if Someone Asks for Your Help With a Problem They are Having?

When an employee, family member, or friend brings you problem they are facing, how can you tell if they want solutions from you or for you to just listen?

Ask them.

Also if they are looking for a solution, ask first what they have tried or thought they could try. Get them thinking first.

Then if it does come down to offering your ideas, offer options, plural, so they can choose, and make it clear that these are ideas that if they choose something different you won’t be hurt. The choice is still their own.

The power of sincere questions

Questions are a sign of intelligence, of interest, of curiosity, of caring about the other person and the topic, and of being a critical thinker. Can you think of anything else you can say that is this powerful?

Questions, to be able to drink in that power, must be paired with power listening.

Once you ask that question, it is essential that you become silent, wait for and pay attention to the answer.

Some people try to answer their own questions. Some think that the other person pausing to think before answering means they don’t know what to answer.

Just like asking the question is a sign of interest in the other person, waiting and paying attention to the answer is a sign of respect.

Making Decisions With Too Much Data

Making decisions with too much data is just as difficult and risky as making a decision with too little data.

There are ways to be logical and move forward in either case.

With too little data, you may want to step back and list or mind map the missing pieces. Which of them are critical, which, if known, would lead to very different answers, which can be discovered before moving on, and which would have little impact and are not worth pursuing. Then you can seek out or make estimates on the missing data noting, as you move forward, what needs a comment or footnote.

With too much data, again you may want to organize what you have into categories, perhaps with sticky notes you can cluster on a board or on a mind map. It’s important to be able to see the big picture all at one time. Then you can highlight, circle or bring to the forefront, the groups that will impact results the most. The others can go on an imaginary parking lot or into the background so you can focus on the most important without distractions.

In neither case, too much or too little data, do you want to feel so stuck that nothing happens. Doing nothing is a decision, too, but one that happens to you instead of by you.

Does any of this describe Your Business Meetings?

Another Look at Your Business Meetings

Business Meetings are a microcosm of how your company includes and excludes ideas and contributions. Who speaks up, and even more important, who is listened to. Who gets credit for an idea, who takes credit for an idea. Who grumbles. Who rolls their eyes. Who keeps looking at their smart phone or laptop. And do they do it consistently when certain people are speaking.

Conscious and unconscious bias is contagious. Like a sneeze, we can pick up the disease without realizing it.

Business Meetings

Your Business Meetings

Even if your company is working hard on inclusiveness and diversity, it is important to pay attention to how you get everyone equal ‘floor time’ in the meeting. How do you do that?

One way is to use silent and anonymous idea generation. Hand out a pile of sticky note paper or 3×5 cards. Challenge everyone to come up with a minimum of 5 ways to solve a problem you’ve been working on or a new way to market a declining product. No talking and no sharing during this initial thinking and writing time.

Then all ideas get put up equally on a flip chart or white board. Organize by categories or similarity.

All ideas are valuable, some will work on their own. Most will work better in combination with others on the board. Some can be expanded by discussion.

You may decide to organize the ideas by how long they would take to do a trial or to implement in general, or by cost, effort, or ROI. You may even decide to try out the most outrageous first because standing out is better than blending in and being boring.

Are you in the Chicago area?

This Saturday, November 10, 2018, I will be at TedX Naperville doing a follow-up to last year’s TedX talk on mind mapping. I will be coaching audience members and participants on mind mapping the speeches they hear and want to remember. If you are there, come find me and say hello.

Growing your knowledge and sharing it

Are you listening to and reading from people you believe are smarter than you on the current subject? If not, how do you learn anything new?

Constantly growing and learning makes you a better person and then others can grow and learn from you.

We each have areas in our life where we have spent the time and effort to become more expert while there are other areas and topics where we will benefit from seeking to learn from others.

Your learning becomes more valuable, even to you, when you
Don’t forget to share
With someone, somewhere.

Mental Models for better & easier solutions

Mental models
Why do some people find ‘simple’ mathematics problems so impossible. I used common fractions for my research but it wouldn’t matter which specific concept I had chosen.
The answer I discovered and proved was that children and adults alike, who had a mental model of the concept, could solve the math problems. Those who didn’t were using rote rules that had no meaning, no models in their mind, so they made mistakes or gave up. They often could follow the rules successfully as long as the next problem looked exactly like the last one. If presented a problem that looked different, they couldn’t picture how to modify the rules, they couldn’t see where or how it matched up to the last one or something they had seen before.
Mental models are built by drawing, building with objects, and imagining.
One type of mental model that can help with thinking clearly and making strong decisions is the mind map. It helps you brainstorm lots of options and then it organizes those options for consideration.


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