Using mind mapping in strategic thinking and organisation management

Before I return to NSW growth, employment and infrastructure – and in case some of you are getting bored by these weighty matters – I thought I would make a brief diversion into the practical side of strategic thinking.

When we initiated this blog, we stated that we wanted to look at strategic thinking within organisations, as well as examining “big picture” strategic planning affecting the wider community. An important aspect of this is the use of new tools to assist in strategic planning and thinking, including project planning and organisation management.

One such tool is mind mapping software. Mind mapping has been around for a long time as a manual, pen-on-paper exercise. Wikipedia provides as good a definition as any:

“A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.”

Many organisations, consciously or otherwise, use a form of “manual” mind mapping when they hold brainstorming sessions to develop strategic plans, set up projects or respond to new opportunities or unexpected crises.

However there are often problems with the manual approach. Most of you will be familiar with the brainstorming process – a room full of people around a whiteboard or gathered in small groups with sheets of butcher’s paper, trying to capture the “big picture”. At the end of the forum, someone has the unenviable task of translating a set of indecipherable notes linked by a scrawl of lines and arrows into some sort of report.

The result often bears only a limited resemblance to the original session because the “tools of trade” such as whiteboards and butcher’s paper are inadequate to the task. In addition the linear structure of a written report is often too limited to properly present the big picture that everyone was seeking in the first place. And even if you do have a printout of the original whiteboard scribbling that is legible, it often becomes a static document, disconnected from the following implementation processes.

Mind mapping software presents an effective tool to overcome these limitations. There are dozens of mind mapping programs out there, but most work the same way, allowing a single user planning a project – or with the aid of a data projector and screen, a group of participants developing a major strategy – to add ideas as branches to a core concept. The software allows you to move these ideas around the resulting tree on screen, detaching them from one branch and attaching to another, and to add new ideas as sub-topics to these branches, as the following example shows:



Most programs will allow you to prioritise these topics and sub-topics, to format them in other ways and to add information such as deadlines, resources, document files and web links. These features point to what may be the greatest advantage of the software over the manual approach – the efficiency and flexibility of the documentation process.

All mind mapping programs can provide a simple, visual one-page map of a planning session. By themselves, these are often much more effective than a conventional report. However, these maps can also become effective “live” management documents which can be used as frameworks for implementing an organisation strategy or to manage a project.

Some programs feature extensive project management features to record and “roll-up” progress directly on mind maps and/or allow them to be synchronised with project management programs, as well as with Outlook and other office software. These maps can be used to as overarching project files to manage all resources associated with the project and to present progress on implementation at team meetings.

There are many different mind mapping programs and I don’t intend to review them all here. Virtually all companies provide free trials and some online Web 2.0 programs have feature-limited versions which are free on an ongoing period. There are also free, open source programs and many are also cross-platform. Some of the major programs are:

ConceptDraw MindMap

Commercial mind mapping program



Online program

Free open source program


Commercial program, endorsed by Tony Buzan, one of the key developers of the mind mapping concept


Online program with both free and charged accounts


Commercial mind mapping program


Probably the most widely used commercial program


Commercial mind mapping program


Online commercial program with free account


Commercial mind mapping program


Commercial mind mapping program


Three-dimensional multi-centred commercial program

Visual Mind

Commercial mind mapping program


Free open source program with online accounts and commercial pro version

As well as strategic planning and project development, mind maps can be used for a wide range of other purposes, which I’ll discuss in a future post.

At Gooding Davies Consultancy we use MindManager extensively and can provide a range of strategic planning and program management solutions for your organisation based on this versatile program.

This entry was posted in Local Government, Mind Mapping, NGO, Social Media, Web 2.0 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Using mind mapping in strategic thinking and organisation management

  1. Pingback: Mind Mapping and Web 2.0: Part 1 – web-based tools « Sociamind

  2. Pingback: When good software goes off the rails – how to fix MindManager 9 « Sociamind

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