Sunday, 20 December 2009

3 Steps to Workshop Heaven

A critical skill needed by groups is to be able to rationalise ideas generated by individuals into a set of key ideas that representing the group consensus. A simple technique is the Post_It “brainstorm”.

3 Step ProcessThe technique is seen as a bit “old hat” by some but maybe this is more of a “fashion statement” as it is still a powerful tool.

The technique has three simple steps. The first step involves individuals working on their own noting their ideas on Post-Its – one idea per Post-It. When ready they stick their Post-Its onto a flip chart and review them as a group. Duplicates are resolved and new ideas that arise are added as new Post-Its.


Step 2 For the second step, the group discussion widens with a view to cluster the ideas into common themes. The Post-Its are picked off and moved around to form collections of ideas. When happy, the group draw a boundary is drawn around these collections and label them.



Step 3The third step sees the themes transferred to a new flip chart where they are simply listed as key ideas. Typically there is a pause at this stage so that each group may feed back to the other groups and listen to feedback and suggestions.



Here a group can be seen working through all 3 stages.

Group with all stages

Follow on steps from this exercise might include:

  • Revisit the ideas and refine them
  • Select one of the key ideas and develop it using the same 3 stage process (a great role to give managers is to get them to select the key ideas they want developed further and then hand back to the work groups to resolve)
  • Take the key ideas and develop an action plan to implement each of them (again you could use the 3 stage process).

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Visualising the Workshop Plan

00 Plan as ListIt is of course common sense and good practice to brief workshop attendees on the plan for the day. This may take the form of a list of steps and is often presented as such.

However practical, a simple list is neither memorable nor suggestive of an overall approach.


To overcome these problems why not present the steps graphically and let the image reinforce how the workshop might flow. There are many metaphors to draw from (excuse the pun) – the example here combines several – a path to be followed, a goal to be achieved (scaling the peak) and a happy outcome (chequered flag and a new dawn!).

01 Workshop Routemap

This is left pinned up throughout the workshop and constantly referred to. As each step is completed it can be marked (in this example with green ticks) and the next step selected.

09 Progress on Routemap

Thursday, 12 November 2009

New Take on 6 Thinking Hats

There is continuing interest in Edward de Bono’s famous technique for structuring responses and reactions to ideas. In meetings or workshops it is often employed to evaluate an idea or proposal from different viewpoints. Typically the meeting will be divided into sessions, each with a unique focus. De Bono’s 6 different coloured hats provide the focus for each session, each coloured hat symbolising a specific perspective.

In summary these are:

White hat: neutral; fact or information driven; trends; no opinions; gaps in knowledge

Red hat: intuition or gut reactions; feelings; emotional responses

Black hat: defensive thinking; risks; constraints; impact for other initiatives

Yellow hat: positive thinking; opportunities; benefits

Green hat: creativity; new ways of seeing things; new associations; insights

Blue hat: process control – worn by the meeting chair; summaries; actions; decisions.

Mind maps and mind mapping software are useful tools to record the output from such meetings – session by session, hat by hat. The 6 Thinking Hats become the first level topics and all the ideas are added as sub-topics, as in the example here.

An alternative approach is to capture the ideas as they emerge, in any order, initially without reference to the 6 Thinking Hats. The ideas can be recorded in MindManager as floating topics and analysed subsequently. This can be done be assigning a map marker icon to each topic using icons representing the 6 Thinking Hats. The map may then be restructured manually to group all the ideas with their assigned Thinking Hat.

Brainstormed list If you use MindManager together with PowerMarkers you can use the icons and the Hot List to structure the ideas into a new map.


Hats applied


First assign a hat icon to each idea – one hat per idea (tip: if an idea could sit under more than one hat duplicate the idea).


Hot list open


Review the assignments in the PowerMarkers Hot List window.



Copy hot list from clipboard


Copy the hot list to the clipboard, open a new map and “Paste”.



Reapply icons to 1st level topics


Quickly add a hat icon to the main topics.



Monday, 9 November 2009

Workshop Techniques – How to “Train” the Attendees

If your facilitated workshop includes sessions where the attendees work in small groups it helps if you can give them early confidence in the technique you want them to use. Wherever possible meet the attendees before the day of the workshop and explain and demonstrate the techniques. It is even better if you can get them to practice also.

3 Step Process However you will often only be able to explain the techniques on the day itself. Use the first session of the day to explain the technique and allow the attendees to practice it. It is important that this first session does contribute to the overall workshop objectives. However keep it simple and readily achievable – the main purpose of the first session is for the attendees to produce something useful whilst learning the techniques they will use throughout the day…….. and it goes without saying, if you can provide a simple visual to reinforce the key steps of the technique.

The example here is for a simple Post-It brainstorm. Group members spend a short period working individually and writing down their ideas on Post-Its. These are then stuck to a flip chart and the group work together to discuss the ideas and group them into themes. Finally the themes are recorded as a list of key ideas on a separate flip chart.

Friday, 23 October 2009

IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator

Steve Rothwell has achieved re-certification by the International Association of Facilitators as a Certified™ Professional Facilitator.

Member - International Association of FacilitatorsFacilitation is a profession rapidly taking its unique place alongside those of consulting and training.  This is a specialist skill that can help deliver improved results you need through a mix of leadership, process, coordination and coaching skills.  The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) was formed by a group of professionals in January, 1994 to develop and promote these skills. Since then the IAF has grown to over 1500 members in more than 63 countries. 

Certification is based on rigorous peer review of knowledge, experience and demonstration of skills. The IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator designation indicates attainment of these core competencies and offers clients an assurance that those who are certified are qualified to design and provide group facilitation services.  Introduced in 2008, re-certification aims to protect this assurance by requiring facilitators to undergo assessment every 3 years. To find out more about IAF Certification click here.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Idea Wall

100_0967A common approach to parking ideas and issues during a meeting or workshop is to write them up on a flip chart set aside for this purpose.  A couple of examples below.







How about if you want to take this further and actively encourage people to fill a whole wall with their ideas, issues and realisations?  The answer is to create an Idea Wall.


The Idea Wall should include headings or questions to prompt the participants or to help them better categorise their thoughts.  Including something visual such as a diagram, key word or graphic may attract people to the wall and help their thinking.  Leave space for people to write notes or stick Post-Its.  Here is one example:

IM Away Day 008

IM Away Day 009 IM Away Day 010

Thanks to Milly Sonneman for inspiring the images from her book "Beyond Words".  See more on graphic facilitation here.

Or take a look at some of these books for more ideas.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Mindjet Catalyst is Launched

image Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening and watching Michael Deutch of Mindjet introduce the brand new Mindjet Catalyst - launched today.  Catalyst is Mindjet's latest offering in the world of online collaborative working.

You will be familiar with many of the problems we face at work today.  We tend to work more in silos and less with each other.  We receive a lot of information but don't act on it.  There is a lot of communication but less collaboration.  The challenge is how to help people produce usable things that lead to real action.

Enter Mindjet Catalyst.  Catalyst offers both an online mapping tool and a powerful collection of communication tools.  This collection includes: conferencing (up to 15 participants at a time); video conferencing; whiteboard; document sharing and workspace; VOIP; online surveys or polls.  The mapping tool packages together the best and most used functions of MindManager and puts it on the web.  A map can be developed online, co-edited and then shared in several ways - via social networking sites, email, download to MindManager or copy into the Catalyst workspace.  A map developed in Catalyst allows great collaboration - work can be divided up, progress monitored and all comments logged.  You don't need MindManager to use Catalyst - all your work can be done online.  You can share all kinds of documents and all kinds of electronic media.

imageMindjet seem to have listened to the user feedback on Mindjet Connect and the key concerns all appear to have been addressed.  Catalyst operates in a secure workspace - certified to SAS70 any day now.  There is no client software to download before your invitees can join you - it all happens in a browser window.  Probably best of all is the inclusion of many templates to help you get started with online meetings and idea generation sessions.  This is all presented in a slick looking style with minimal clutter.  The platform allows Mindjet to add new function as frequently as every 6 weeks should they choose.

Catalyst will be a subscription service and you can choose to subscribe to Catalyst and the conferencing tools separately (a great option if you are already signed up to a conferencing service).  Prices are GBP19/USD30 per month per user for Catalyst and the same price for the conferencing suite.  Seems like good value.

More news and screen shots to follow - I wrote this last night when the non-disclosure embargo was still in force.  Thanks also to Michael for getting up so early to give me a preview - I hope the caffeine high has passed without permanent damage.

Go to the Mindjet web site for more

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Visual Imagery with PowerPoint

Previous posts have highlighted the problems with PowerPoint presentations - or to be fair - the misuse to which PowerPoint is put.  For instance see: 25 Years of PowerPoint - A Review by the BBC and How Not To Do PowerPoint.

Complex Reasons


It is possible to create slides that better reinforce the message of the presentation and that are more memorable.  Lists of ideas can be presented in a more visual form, such as a mind map. 


TVP Project ComplexityBetter yet they may be built into a more dynamic visual where the imagery lends weight to the message by reinforcing tension, progress and achievement for example.



Using this kind of imagery also allows the presenter to become more dynamic - working with the image to draw out key points; to highlight different areas as they are addressed; and to make relationships between objects in the image through the use of pointers and movement (waving your arms about).

Review PointsIn fact, with the right images it's hard to imagine presenting without moving about, making big gestures and becoming enthused about the subject.




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Thursday, 20 August 2009

25 Years of PowerPoint - A Review by the BBC

image"If you have worked in an office in the Western world in the past 25 years, you will probably have sat through a PowerPoint presentation. But there's a problem. They're often boring", writes presentation expert Max Atkinson for the BBC News Magazine.

In a lively article, Max summarises some of the key problems with PowerPoint, including:

  • Presenter's spending more time talking to their slides than the audience
  • Distracting the audience by forcing them to read and listen simultaneously
  • Slides as crutches for the presenter - not visual aids for the audience
  • Death by a thousand bullet points - information overload
  • Being led astray by built in templates.

For the full article see "The Problem with PowerPoint".  You might also want to refer to my earlier post "How Not To Do PowerPoint".

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mind Maps as Forms

You've probably used mind maps to do your own planning or creative thinking.  What about giving a mind map template to those you work with to help them think about a problem?

WorkshopPre-PlanningMapForm When you are thinking of a conversation you will be having with a colleague you might generate a list of the questions you want to discuss.  Try putting these down as mind map and leave space for the responses or notes from the discussion.  Encourage your colleague to "fill in" the template as you talk.

BDTFormIf you want to focus people on a specific output, give them a template of the structure of that output but with space left for them to complete the content. They can think about their ideas with the eventual structure in mind, prepare "tidy" responses and then complete the form.

100_0972 Maybe you want a group to have a completely free hand to think about a problem.  BrainstormMapsYou could give them a blank mind map template and let them label the branches and add new ones.   When working with a group you could even collect these together, have the group find the common ground and recurring themes across their maps and then produce a synthesis of their ideas on a new map.


Friday, 22 May 2009

Fast and Frugal Decision Trees

Many processes involve decision makings. Often making these decisions involves searching for, considering and making judgments on a wide range and large volume of data. Having found all the information, and being assured of the relevance of every item it, somehow making the decision doesn’t seem any easier. In fact the sheer volume of information may just be hiding the wood from the trees.

One helpful approach is to stand back from all the information and try to identify which few elements actually “feel” to be key to making the decision. This may involve tapping into your intuition or, if you prefer, your “gut feelings”. Next express these elements as closed questions – is the answer either “Yes” or “No”. Then add the outcome associated with the “Yes” answer and with the “No” – typically this will be the action that the decision maker needs to take next. Assemble the questions into a decision tree.


In some instances, reaching a decision may involve answering several questions, trying to find an overall “Yes” or “No”. If time is a priority – perhaps you have to review many cases per day and need to spend as little time on each as possible – try to rank or sequence the questions to increase the chances of getting to the answer high up the decision tree. Review the questions and amend them – aim to draft the questions so that should you achieve the desired answer at any point you can stop the whole process. What you are aiming to do is to reach a decision as early as possible and not have to pose every question to get to the answer. In the example decision tree below, developed using bCisive, achieving a “Yes” answer at any point achieves the goal of the decision tree and stops the process.

This is all explained in an entertaining and enlightening fashion by Gerd Gigerenzer in his book, “Gut Feelings: Short Cuts to Better Decision Making”. If you are involved in decision making or are preparing procedures or decision trees this book will be of great help in developing your analysis of the problem and the design of the procedure.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Big Savings on MindManager Bundle


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Monday, 11 May 2009

Exporting Mind Maps to MS Excel

Another great feature of MindView 3 Business Edition is its ability to export mind maps to MS Excel spreadsheets.

In an earlier post I demonstrated a mind map where I had attached values and calculations to the branch topics (see Performing Calculations in Mind Maps).


Taking the same map I used the MS Excel export function to create a spreadsheet from the same map and using the same data. MindView allowed me to select from one of several spreadsheet templates and a spreadsheet was created at the click of mouse. image









How powerful is that?! See more on MindView integration with MS Office here.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Outlook Task Linking with MindView 3

For ease of use it’s hard to beat the simple yet powerful Outlook Task linker that comes with MindView 3 Business Edition.  First create and edit a task list. Next select Export > Microsoft Outlook > Export as New Tasks. You will be prompted to include/exclude tasks with no task data and also to select or create an Outlook Task folder to export to. The tasks are then added to the folder.


MindView also has the option to synchronise a map previously exported to Outlook. Select Export > Microsoft Outlook > Synchronize. An options box pops up giving you control as to how the synchronisation will deal with items that have been modified in either Outlook or Mindview and how to handle tasks that may exist only in Outlook or only in MindView. This way you can update you map with changes/updates made in Outlook or vice-versa. MindView makes this all very simple.


Find out more at the MindView website.

Readers might want to compare the MindView approach with that of Outlook EasyTask - see posting here.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Buzan’s iMindMap V4.0

iMindMap produces stunning, beautiful maps that are true to Tony Buzan’s rules for mind mapping. The maps produced are organic, colourful and memorable – as close to the hand drawn item as may be possible using a computer.


The benefits of iMindMap are that these organic-looking maps can easily be put to other uses and are easy to share. Using the export features you can export the maps to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Project as well as other file formats, HTML and print.

New in version 4.0 is an animated presentation mode. There are two animation options: to expand the map branch by branch; to expand the map by main branch. The first option allows you to reveal each branch and it’s sub branches one click at a time, which is great for a measured or controlled delivery. The real beauty of this feature is, however, the expand by main branch option. This takes one branch at a time and in smooth, flowing movement reveals each sub-branch in turn before pausing. There is a speed control that allows you to match the pace of this animation to your narrative.


Furthermore any links included in the map, such as to files, web pages or other maps, can be opened and displayed from within the presentation by simply clicking on the link. When you have finished with the link you can return to and continue with the presentation.

To find out more, visit the iMindMap website.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Performing Calculations in Mind Maps

A new feature in MindView 3 Business Edition is the ability to apply values to branch topics and to do calculations with these values.

I experimented by evaluating the cost options for a project, comparing internal resource option with a contract resource option. I created a quick hierarchical map with the roles added under the two options. Next I added fields to the branch topics: Days; Rate; Cost. Days and Rate are just values. Cost was set up as a formula…yes, you guessed ….Days * Rate. For the summary branch topics (the option topics) I amended the value fields to SUM the values of all child branches, thus giving totals for each value for each option.

For the central or root topic I amended the Cost formula to COUNT the number of options.

I enhanced the visual look of the map by changing the format, adding boundaries and filling the boundaries with different colours.


This was very easy to do, is intuitive (I did not refer to the Help pages at all) and gives an excellent visual result. The whole exercise took just a few minutes.

Next to export these results to Excel and Project …… once my upgrades to 2007 arrive in the post (MindView works with 2003 onwards – I have 2000).  See more here.

I should add a small postscript – the project and rates used are entirely made up, just for this exercise.

Monday, 4 May 2009

MindView 3 Business Edition

Just released is the latest version of MindView Business Edition.  While retaining the user friendliness of previous editions, MindView 3 Business Edition has introduced several new and innovative features that I'm looking forward to trying.

To add to the impressive portfolio of MS Office interfaces there is now an intriguing MS Excel import/export function.

Also included is a new calculation module that allows users to associate numbers with each Mind Map branch and to perform calculations. The data can then be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. Conversely, users can also import numbers from Excel to MindView.

I will download the trial and experiment with these new functions.  If you are already using MindView 3 Business Edition why not drop me a line and share your experiences?

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Easy Task Synching with Outlook EasyTask

image With the latest product from ApriorIT, MindManager and Mind2Chart become tools to create sets of Outlook tasks or an alternative means of viewing any Outlook task list. 

Outlook EasyTask is a slick tool that functions precisely.  I like (need) to be able to manage tasks in different Outlook folders – I work on multiple projects and it’s essential to maintain separate task lists.  Outlook EasyTask manages this very well. 


The different options for doing this are described and illustrated in the many examples documented in the accompanying Help file.  A really nice touch for importing Outlook tasks into MindManager is the ability to choose how they will be grouped in MindManager under summary topics derived from Task Categories and Priorities.  The option to send the tasks straight to Mind2Chart as part of the import is fantastic, providing an instant Gantt view of the Outlook tasks.

Synching is useful and accurate – it allows one to keep a map but have the status of the tasks on it updated from Outlook.  This is ideal if you like to view your tasks via a min map dashboard.


One method of working is to create tasks in MindManager, schedule them using Mind2Chart and then export to Outlook.  Alternatively you can list the Tasks in Outlook, import into MindManager and rearrange to create your preferred dashboard style.  And if you assign Tasks to people using your Outlook Contacts list then these are imported into MindManager as resources.

image My personal preference is to update and edit tasks using MindManager and Mind2Chart and to then update the Outlook tasks by synching.  As the tasks tend to be my personal to-do list rather than tasks to be assigned to others, I make limited use of Outlook other than to print lists.  Outlook EasyTask does not allow for synching MindManager changes back to Outlook as it has been developed with the management of delegated or assigned tasks in mind.  So if you are managing a team and assign tasks via Outlook, Outlook EasyTask ensures that the progress updates you receive via Outlook are not lost.

imageThis is a great add-in with an amazingly simple interface and a useful set of options to give you control.  It all seems to work smoothly and the integration with M2C delivers a real “Wow!”

Find out more here.

There is also a version for Visual Mind.