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What a great question, and a frequent one.
First, let me state I’m a big fan of visualization of ideas. Get me within 10 feet of a whiteboard and I can’t help but grab a dry erase pen, pop the cap and start doodling.
So, here’s an email response to Ludwig, an MBA student trying to understand the difference between mind maps and associative thinking. Hopefully this will help you see what I see a little clearer.
ME: Hi Ludwig. Very interesting area of study. I can confidently say our program is being used in some of the largest, most dynamically creative innovation centers in the known universe (places like NASA, Homeland Security, LAPD, Warner Bros, Disney, W+K, Nike, Fallon Worldwide, Nokia, etc…
We’re a different animal than traditional mind mapping tools. Rather than expect the user to “fill in the blanks”, we problem solve using the top three solutions to any given problem:
1) Ask relevant questions. Lots of them. Systematically drilling-down on the situation.
2) Find keywords in both the questions and your top-of-mind answers. Expand on the idea/problem/solution through Word Associations.
3) Organize it linearly (like an outline) as people can ALWAYS follow a single systematic thread.
Mindmaps are excellent for an individual who has all of the answers. But when you need answers that are either trapped inside of you, or are not in your existing memory bank, it’s critical to have an open-ended resource to find those answers.
ThoughtOffice is one such solution that uses the collective wisdom of over 200 CEOs, MBAs and Domain Experts and boils their processes into 13,700 questions arranged in 16 modules that address everything from Advertising to Conflict-Resolution.
Then it taps 7 web-based data portals with a combined 7.3 million words, phrases, quotes, rhyming words, definitions, synonyms, images, lyrics… the core of our cultural reference libraries.
Those are all assembled in one simple visual outline arranged as numbered entries, and displayed in a Power Point, Storyboard or outline.
I was personally coached by the founder of this approach to brainstorming (Marsh Fisher, the co-founder of Century 21 Real Estate). This program uses the same process he spent over 25 years perfecting.
Let me know if that’s helpful. You can also ping our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they can get you a demo copy, if you don’t currently have one. We will also gladly send you the Evaluation Module, which helps you evaluate an idea or problem.
Let me know if that’s helpful.
Also: Most of our clients are loathe to share how they use our program because it’s really their “secret weapon”. We have advertising giants who are afraid their clients might discover ThoughtOffice… and no longer need the Ad Agency…
Best of success in your paper. Please let me know if you need anything else.
Hopefully that speaks to some of you reading… and if not, just gimme’ a call and we can talk about the advantages of both styles of brainstorming. Like I said; I love and use them both… but put me in a mission-critical environment with a need to drive a truly innovative idea, and I’ll spring for the associative thinking tool OR 3 magazines.
More on that last comment a bit later…
Best to your creativity,
Mark Alan Effinger
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