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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Benefit from dozens of pro maps, templates and best practices.

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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.