We recently had the chance to put a few questions to mind mapping software expert and Biggerplate Partner Chuck Frey of the hugely popular Mind Mapping Software Blog. Here's what Chuck had to say about mind mapping, Biggerplate, and the future...
Q) In 5 words, tell us what you do…
A) I blog about visual mapping
Q) When and how did you first become involved in the world of mind mapping?
A) I've always been very interested in creativity and innovation, so I launched InnovationTools.com in 2002 as the very first portal website focused on creativity and innovation.
As mind mapping software started to grow in popularity, I started to write reviews of the major programs and posted them to InnovationTools.com, as part of my covering of creativity tools. As I looked at what was going on in the blogosphere at that time, I noticed that there were many blogs that talked about mind mapping software from time to time, but there wasn't a single one dedicated to this genre of software. So I decided to break that topic off into its own blog. That was about 5 years ago. That turned out to be a wise decision, because as you know, the world of mind mapping software has grown tremendously. The software has certainly evolved far beyond anything I could have expected.
Q) What is the main focus of your work today?
A) Today, my work is focused on writing one to two blog posts per week for the blog. Plus I produce one special report per week for my Mind Mapping Insider members. These reports are aimed at those people who are keenly interested in becoming better thinkers, planners and visual mappers. This is specialized information that is not available anywhere else, and includes tutorials and analyses, designed to teach people not only how to create great mind maps, but to look at their own work critically and improve their maps. My goal is to help people create mind maps that are easy for others to understand, and which have the persuasive power that the map author intended.
I continue to do product reviews and write about significant news in the world of mind mapping software. I'm also increasingly talking about topics that are part of the larger space surrounding mind mapping, including principles, and resources related to visual thinking, business diagramming, infographics, sketch noting and other visually-oriented techniques for representing ideas and information.
Q) What is it that excites you about the mind mapping arena?
A) I have a very strong sense that mind mapping software is the right tool for the today's business environment. I've been saying for several years now that mind mapping software is "the savvy executive's secret weapon." By that I mean that it provides such a big increase in productivity and work efficiency - somewhere around 20% - that it can literally revolutionize the way you work. It helps you to reach clarity and make business decisions faster. And it’s a huge factor in managing information overload, a problem everyone faces today.
No other type of software enables you to gather, organize, distill and communicate ideas and information with as much flexibility as mind mapping software does. It is fast becoming an essential business tool. That’s an exciting set of stories to tell in my blog. There's also a lot of innovation going on in this space, which is exciting to me.
I view it as my mission to educate my readers about the best mind mapping tools and strategies for utilizing them to get work done. Part of this involves evangelizing mind mapping software to the larger business world, helping people who aren't using it today to understand what they're missing.
In addition, I survey my readers at least once a year to learn how they utilize mind mapping software in their work, and the benefits it provides to them. The results are usually very interesting and generate deep insights for me. Most importantly, the results of these surveys help me to stay very focused on the needs of my readers!
Finally, I really enjoy asking questions of my readers. Persuading them to share their perspectives has turned out to be very valuable to me and to other readers of the blog. There are some incredibly smart people out there. I don’t want the blog to be a monologue – I view it as more of a community, with many voices. I see similar benefits when I interview people for my Insider program. Inevitably, they shed light on some aspect of visual thinking that's new to me, which is always fascinating.
Q) How can you help Biggerplate members to do more with mapping?
A) Lots of the content of my blog is focused on tips and techniques for helping business people to accomplish specific tasks with their mind mapping software. Just because you have a canvas and brushes doesn't make you a Picasso. In other words, just having the tool doesn't give you the insights to use it to create something marvellous. That's why I publish so many tips and techniques for creating different types of business mind maps - because you need to step up your game to leverage extraordinary results with these powerful visual thinking tools.
Biggerplate members can learn a lot from reading the tutorials and tips I publish on my blog, and by becoming a member of my Mind Mapping Insider group - where they can get access to more advanced tutorials, templates, resources and insights.
Q) In your opinion, what are the merits of a site and community like Biggerplate?
A)One of the things that my readers always tell me they're looking for when I survey them is examples of excellent mind maps. A community like Biggerplate.com provides a huge variety of mind maps, which you can use as inspiration to help you create your own maps. It helps new users and people thinking about investing in mind mapping software to understand what’s possible with it. And it gives new users a sense of what others are doing with it. That’s a very valuable service.
Another big plus is that you can download and use the maps on Biggerplate.com. All of us are time-challenged today. Why create a mind map from scratch when you can download one to use as a starting point or a template for what you need to get done? That's very valuable!
I also love the fact that Biggerplate.com has expanded so much in the last year. A year ago, you only featured MindManager mind maps. Since then, you've added MindGenius, iMindMap and XMind maps, and I'm sure you plan to expand that further in the future, to include other file formats. The site is also very well organized and easy to use. That easily makes Biggerplate.com the best mind map gallery on the web, in my opinion.
I give you a lot of credit for not just building this site and then forgetting about it and letting the community take its own course. If that was the case, Biggerplate.com would be just like any other mind map community. But it's not. It’s better. You have a compelling vision for what it can become, and how it can serve the needs of mind mappers. That means the site is going to continue to get better and better, and extend its leadership in this arena. It has become an outstanding resource for visual thinkers.
Thanks for putting so much passion and effort into it! Mind mappers around the world thank you!
Q) Anything new and exciting coming up in your world?
A) My big push lately has been to grow content for my Mind Mapping Insider membership group. It provides people who are serious about visual mapping with exclusive content: Tutorials, tips and techniques, templates, interviews and other resources that you cannot find anywhere else. I publish one report a week. That keeps it manageable for me, and helps to ensure that my members don’t feel they’re trying to drink from a firehose! The program has been operational for about a year and half, so there’s already a substantial collection of resources there, with more added each week. There’s no obligation: If you join and then decide it’s not for you, you can cancel at any time. My gut feeling is that you’ll stay, however, because I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into creating the best possible collection of resources.
I also have another project in the wings that I hope to get started on soon: A video-based e-course that will teach non-users of mind mapping software how to get started with it. This is part of my larger mission that I told you about, to grow the use of mind mapping software in business.
Why is this important? Because there’s a great divide in business today. For the people who are utilizing my mapping software, it has become an essential productivity and organizational tool. They literally can’t live without it. I know this to be true, because I've asked questions in my surveys to find out just how important this software is to them.
The other half of the business world contains people who are linear thinkers. They tend to view mind mapping as frivolous and not worthy of their attention. They need to better understand what the benefits of it are. Some of them may be interested in trying it out, but don’t believe they can spare the time to become proficient with it. They’re afraid they’ll end up down the rabbit hole, having invested a lot of time with very little to show for it.
I want to provide them with an easy "on ramp" to help them get started with mind mapping software. I've come up with a simple approach that can help them with that "on-boarding" process, to make it fairly painless to get up to speed with visual thinking. I’ve got much of the content outlined – in a mind map, of course – and now I just need to get busy producing it.
In closing, thanks for the opportunity to be a Biggerplate.com partner, and thanks for all of your efforts to promote this genre of productivity software!