Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wonders of Mind Mapping in New Product Development

Ever heard of a Mind Map? Most people either already routinely use them or are completely in the dark about them, as I was a year ago. Since I reluctantly made the Mind Map plunge I have found them to be of great value early on in any project, helping greatly to clarify mission, objectives and strategies. Now I don't do anything without first starting with a Mind Map. This month's newsletter will be a journey to the wonders of mind mapping in the semi business. And yes, this blog topic originated as a mind map before I typed the first word.

I got hooked on Mind Mapping a little over a year ago and now find that it is the beginning of anything I do, from writing blogs and newsletters to strategizing detailed proposals for my clients through planning out full projects. I now view the mapping process as essential for helping me think things through and presenting ideas, concepts and proposals. In fact the entire Mind Map for this newsletter is included at the end; you decide if it was quicker to read the words or look at the map for information of interest to you.

What is a Mind Map?
A completed mind map is simply a pictorial view of concept expansions, much like an outline on steroids. One difference being an outline is linear, whereas a Mind Map is not. The beauty of the map is not so much the finished product, but the process in getting there; the thought processes, discussions, brainstorming and non-linear thinking utilized in developing a map.

The key features of a mind map tool typically include graphics, links, text expansion as well as connectors to indicate relationships between concepts. They are graphical tools that allow simple and quick manipulation of concepts, making them ideal for group brainstorming. An added advantage of a hosted web based mind map solution is that it allows for multiple locations to join in for real time collaboration on a single map, great for multi-site brainstorming.

What Mind Map Tools are Available?
There are a variety of client based as well as hosted (web SaaS) Mind Map solutions available. I prefer the hosted solutions because they are platform independent and I can get to my maps from anywhere. Some hosted solutions even provide for offline work, making them the best alternative, in my opinion. If you would like to review my links to specific tools download my blog map (It will be a pdf) at the end and click on the various links associated with the "Mind map tool links" concept.

Where can Mind Maps be used in the Semiconductor Biz?
If there is an idea that needs a path to closure, consider the Mind Map process as the guide. There are multiple areas where I believe Mind Maps will provide value in new product development.

Requirements Gathering
Pulling together features is a great way to leverage a mind map to easily capture, drill down, prioritize, brainstorm and decide upon new product requirements. Use a mind map in a requirements workshop session or a team meeting and see the magic of high-octane collaboration. All levels of requirements such as IP, Chip, module, product and system would realize benefit from the Mind Map process to generate and sort through possibilities.

The Product Development Process
If you need to brainstorm reasons why the development process is done a certain way, conceptualize process alternatives, identify barriers or hash out the design flow consider a mind map as a guide to capturing ideas and guiding the discussion. Large groups, small groups or individuals will appreciate the non-linear thinking, quick capturing and idea drill down of the mind map process.

Product Portfolio
Hash out the product roadmap, build decision trees or construct a new product decision process with the use of a mind map. Once completed the information can be captured in the standardized forms for your organization. Remember, the mind map is guiding the thought process, not necessarily producing the final documentation.

Project Definition
This is my favorite use of a mind map; in the early stages of planning where the projects are just beginning to form. Brainstorm to identify, dismiss and accept project alternatives. Do the same for risk and mitigation strategies. Specific task identification, drill down and development are a natural for the Mind Map brainstorming process.

Are you a Mind Map Type?
Now the test - review the Mind Map for this article (click diagram for pdf download) and decide if it is more efficient for you to scan the text or utilize the mind map to retrieve information of interest to you? If the text wins you are predominately a linear thinking type. If the mind map was more advantageous for you, then welcome to the world of non-linear thinking. Go forth and map your way to better ideas, concepts, decisions and collaboration!

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