What an exciting time! You have been assigned the initial analysis of a new app. It is called Health Inspirations and is meant give various hints every day to the user on how can he improve his health based on initial set of questions and answers he provides. You are overwhelmingly excited and want to get into it right away. As you sit at your desk, you open your notepad and start. You do it in a standard way by listing ideas one by one, as most likely everybody else would. After about five, you get stuck. You have a tough time to muster anything new and move your thinking forward. You look back at the half page of text and try to find some missing pieces, some correlation. To no avail. Your frustration grows as you are stuck in the same circle of thoughts over and over again. A this was supposed to be fun.
2) Stuck between the lines: text lists and tables
Let's take a look at how it looks like to design/analyse with the usage of standard ways like lists and tables. If we took our friend's notepad from the preface we could possibly see something like this:
a) User should take care of his physical health
b) User should drink a lot of water
c) User should smile a lot
d) He should go to sleep early
e) Vitamin D is quite important
If he were to go the tabular route, we could potentially see something to the taste of:
Health area to improve upon
Action that user can undertake
User should smile a lot
Crack a few jokes with your friends
He should not smoke
Ear plugs can help sleep better
Good quality food
That is a bit better but to be frank, it is hard not to get stuck and lost in this sea of text. It seems to be very closed for expansion. If we were to go on and finish the job this way, it is highly unlikely that it would reach the limits of its potential. It would get lost in the most apparent observations, and that's it probably.
Now, let's take a look at how things should be done:
Are you serious? Are we back to school again? This is a respectable company, and you show me some gibberish over here.
Is it really gibberish? What do you instantly relate to more and makes you understand the concept far easier?
3) Natural language: mindmap visual presentation
Mind map is a very unique way of expressing ideas and concepts. You will not find it in any academic book that is for sure, as an official entry. It has a few core rules to it, but each end result can be unique in itself. Mind map engages imagination probably better than any other tool of its kind. There is minimal emphasis on the text, which truly is an artificial language for our brain. Even if it is your mother language. The true language of the mind is one of the senses. Text does not ignite emotions directly. Smell, touch, sounds, visuals do that in an instant. This is the one language we understand instantly and the only one we know for the first few months of our lives. You cannot hear, and definitely cannot smell your mind map, but one of the senses simply cannot get enough of it.
4) Mindmap technical difficulties: tiny space, tiny ideas
Before we start sketching and bringing our ideas to life, we have to take care of two technical factors. That is your position and the amount of space to sketch on. This is really important. Standing position will always be superior to a sitting position. When we stand, we can move around and in general, do not feel so tangled up as in the sitting position. I know it is hard to do that in the horrible open-spaces, but if we try, we might find a way. The second factor is the amount of space we have to radiate our ideas. If we start on a small A5 sheet of paper, we will end up with a small set of ideas. When we start on the biggest whiteboard, there is, the ideas will keep growing and growing.
5) In the centre, he stood: central mindmap image
The central point and the first thing we do every time is the main concept of the problem we are trying to solve. I am quite sure you can name it somehow. That is great, but putting the name in the centre is like placing an iron shield just on your torso before a race. It is simply not a good idea, and it will slow you down severely. Once you come up with an image that embodies your pickle, draw it straight away on a piece of paper or whiteboard. Do not rest on your laurels. Think for a moment how could you make it better. That is: more expressive, more funny, more.. in your eyes. Which images below brings more cool ideas?
At this point, your brains neurons are all over the place and are just screaming to put them into use. That is to create and connect.
6) Mindmap and the actual ideas
Once we laid the ground with the central image now, it is time to come up with some real ideas. We start by drawing chunky branches stemming from our centre. We should aim at around 5 to 7 of these. With more, we would simply muddle the space we have and make it hard for ourselves to have a clear picture. If we are confident though that we need more, then possibly it is the right time to think about splitting the core problem into smaller ones and start mind mapping them one by one instead.
The critical thing is to make these branches colourful. If we go black and white, then we are handicapping ourselves again during that race. We won't trigger all the potential of our imagination if the colours are not there. This is a very crucial ingredient. You may ask, aren't we playing kindergarten here? Yes, we are! That is the point. When we were young, we were most creative, and we want to recreate that recklessness in our minds.
Going further, once we actually come up with something, we should follow these rules:
● Express it in one word if possible: this is crucial. If we start writing essays on our branches, we will get stuck for sure. It is a lot easier and more obvious to create new branches (ideas) from single words than from sentences or statements. This is simply how our brain works.
● Add a drawing or sketch of some sort: this strengthens the idea and embodies it making further branches even more effortless to create. We must keep in mind though that these branch images should not stand out when compared to the central image. It is the one that should draw attention at first glance.
Following these steps, we will have our vision laid out right in front of us.
7) TDD cycling
Mind map can be used to tackle literally any problem. One of them is getting stuck at some point or starting out your first TDD cycle. Following the procedure, you have to start with a failing test or a set of failing tests. Sometimes it just flows, and the test cases just come out of nowhere and fit right in. Sometimes though we get stuck. You sit down with a bunch of tangled thoughts and can't really come up with anything that makes any sense.
This is where mind mapping comes to the rescue. Get up, find the biggest whiteboard available and get into it. I am sure after a short session, you will come up with at least one test that will let you move forward.
Mind map is a potent tool with the following set of features:
● Engages both left and right side of the brain. Logical and emotional.
● Allows you to get into the zone easier than in front of a piece of paper and text
● Accelerates the speed of understating and learning
● Can help tackle any problem: object-oriented design, negotiation, trip planning
Who knows what treasures your brain hides and could be unearthed thanks to this amazing method.