Saturday, February 6, 2016

The ZEN of knowledge management

Another thought blog by Visual Mapper

The ZEN of knowledge management

Nope; I'm not going all spiritual or esoteric on you (well just a little).

ZEN: that mindfulness state we experience when we've found ourselves to be in the zone of personal, academic and business productivity. That zone of pure focus, accelerated thought processing and a kind of connection with or realization of something. That something is often reported to be either deep within ourselves or something outwith our regular consciousness that is influencing us in a way we simply can't put words to.

The Neuroscience folk will say nope; you're simply experiencing new synaptic connections being made in your brain and you're just feeling or emotionalizing a surge of connectivity that you simply can't express other than what you value and believe.

Okay: I go with a mix of the two, as I, probably like you, have been indoctrinated with religiosity and or spirituality from childhood, and yes we are or become, to an extent, what we have been led to believe.

But the Zen of Knowledge Management: what is it? Well like me I believe the knowledge manager may agree with me that the Zen of anything is a mix of the two stated above.

Of course the word Zen is borrowed from eastern religion, a system I personally don't tune into, but for the sake of a definition that almost everyone may relate to, Zen is most certainly a state of mindfulness while performing a task and that task being extremely productive while in other circumstances you may be less productive without Zen.

How do we get to that place of Zen? For me it's very subjective, and my methods may not be your methods, but there is a common Mindset associated with entering into that Zen state. Mindset is in my experience the result of tried and tested processes accomplished by performing procedures that support the task/s at hand. Process is what we do and procedure is how we do what we do.

But in environments, regardless of system, many you may have the opportunity to ask “what is your job here” they'll proceed to tell you how they do their job. Nope it's not semantics, I believe we are conditioned into (just like spirituality and religion) to misunderstand the difference between procedure and process.

Is the Zen of Knowledge Management accomplished by using specific tools? As I stated above, it's very subjective and your methods like mine may not be appropriate or even acceptable to your friends, colleagues, suppliers, clients or employers.

Here's what I've found: The herding instinct of humans comes into play regarding tools, methodologies and mindsets. I've come across many knowledge handlers, workers and thought leaders who use tools that I just can't get my very small brain around. And this is what makes and distinguishes the subjectivity of knowledge management and the resulting Zen experienced.

Here's a short list of tools and methodologies that seems to take some into a Zen like state where the creation, management and exchange (sharing) of data, information and knowledge seems to be of importance.

  • Bullet points (Yup, some say this is it)
  • Infographics (Becoming more popular)
  • Graphical charting (Flow-charts, Gantt & charting in general)
  • Concept mapping (Synaptic mapping for sure)
  • Mind mapping (A huge arena)
  • Knowledge mapping (An expansion on Mind mapping)
  • Cloud computing (May become the core function of human connectivity)
  • Social media/ social software models (Transparency being the accepted norm)
  • Personal database models (May be the encrypted secure and safe preference)


The Zen of Knowledge management is certainly not dependent upon any specific tools, but the tools and methodologies we are exposed to can and often does assist in reaching a mindset that becomes your subjective tool-box for personal, academic and business Zen productivity.

But in any case; I have found my particular approach to knowledge management Zen to be very similar to others who have reached their own experiential Zen.

As usual I blab on and go off on way too many directions, but the focus of reaching your knowledge management zen must be important to you; maybe enough to share what yours is.

What is yours? I'd love to know.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Your knowledge companion

Another thought blog by Visual mapper

Your knowledge companion

Regardless of where you're thought processes are right now with respect to personal databases; having one is a reality that may give you less knowledge management stress.

Now; if you're following these short thought blogs at you'll be guided by my thought processes regarding the evolution of the mind mapper through information mapping to knowledge mapping.

At this point of the 21st century we're experiencing a quantum leap in technology. And this leap, is to me, like a fork in the road. To the left, technology offers a social media model of complete transparency, and to the right; technology offers a personal database model of encryption, security and safety.

Yes a vast majority of the connected world has a social media account; I do too, Twitter and LinkedIn is the extent of my social media exposure these days. I need to though, control my exposure due to business security and NDA's, and a personal database supplies me with absolute control.

Of course the social media user may say “hey these two things are the same thing”, I disagree. I experience very little control after I post, upload or share via any social media models. But it's clear the vast majority who use this model either, wilfully ignore the traps of transparency, or are simply conditioned out of believing encryption, security and safety are relevant.

The personal database models allow the user to have absolute control as to what is shared.

My personal choice for creating, managing and exchanging (controlled sharing) of my personal, academic and business data/information/knowledge is done via the only product that has proven to offer me the best secure, encrypted desktop to cloud sync capabilities to date.

This product/service? It's called TheBrain and you'll find it at Most who view the brain are inquisitive knowledge management seekers who've been encouraged to take a look at it by enthusiasts and power users alike. Your first your reaction may be similar to my own when I first viewed TheBrain.

My reaction was something like: “WTF is this?” Hey I'm a Glasgow boy born and bred; I naturally react this way. But I must admit, I was very negative towards the graphical structure of this product initially. I am now a great admirer and supporter of this awesome product. You see; I was an evolving mind mapper who was stationed at a place called Visual Mapping.

My evolution was wrapped up in the environment I worked within at that time; it was the Quality management field, and boy I was struggling to manage my data and information via my traditional usage of mind maps and flowcharts and even rudimentary info-graphics.

I eventually settled with my graphical mapping product of choice and to date I can't be moved to use any other product range; as my charting and graphical charting needs are fully met within the ConceptDraw pro product.

My mind mapping usage has more variation that includes but isn't limited to using iMindMap, SimTech MindMapper, ConceptDraw MindMap, MindGenius, Xmind, MindManager, Comapping and Goalscape. How's that for a clear indication of graphical ADD, OCD? But alas due to the nature of my consulting work, I am compelled to keep tabs on and use most of the relevant mainstream visual mapping products to have a choice of excellent product to use to get the job done.

As much as I use and abuse many products associated with Visual Mapping; the one aspect of absolute need that has not been delivered to me by these mentioned products to date is the expansion of their single file architecture into a database file architecture. I've harped on about this in previous posts and I'll do it again no doubt.

But it is true; For all the products I use, not one of them have escaped from the single file, so restrictive, architecture. Yes I had that WTF moment when I saw TheBrain, but now I am almost in love with the TheBrain product/service. It has transformed the way I create, manage and exchange my database existence and I have complete control.

So this blog title “Your knowledge companion”; I say TheBrain can and does become your knowledge companion after you get past the WTF first impression. Visit, download the product, play with it, become frustrated with it, discover the realities it contains for your knowledge handling and after you take a step back for a bit; realize it can become your most important knowledge companion.

TheBrain: it really is yours to discover

Monday, January 25, 2016

Better equipped to produce at optimum

Another thought blog by Visual Mapper

Better equipped to produce at optimum

The visual mapping knowledge manager of this part of the 21st century has the luxury of having access to a myriad of graphical tools and methodologies that infuse a forward thinking knowledge mindset: many of those graphical tools are awesome, some not so awesome.

This forward thinking mindset seems to place the knowledge manager in a position where she can indeed produce at optimum output regardless of arena of usage. The driver of this mindset? The absolute understanding of how knowledge, as an integral part of the information economy must be created with focus, managed effectively and reinvested as an improvement tool. That refers to the Information Economy spoken of in previous posts.

Producing at optimum, for me; seems to be a natural progression, development or evolution for the information handler who uses the tools and methods of mind to visual to knowledge mapping, thus developing themselves into the forward thinking knowledge manager.

But; recently I was given an insight from a colleague who is a notable professional knowledge manager. This insight? Well I was as usual encouraging my colleague of the merits of using the tools and methodologies of mind/visual mapping; that's what I do, I'm a visual mapper.

Now this colleague is a most visually expressive knowledge manager; but not at all interested in mind, visual mapping in general; PowerPoint (Nancy Duarte rules PP) and Photoshop (I use PS too) is her preferred tools for visualizing. And this got me started on a string of thoughts that challenged me to realize a few undeniable things about knowledge management, as a visual mapper.

  • Knowledge management is not reliant upon graphical formats whatsoever
  • Graphical frameworks can enhance but are not the core function of Knowledge management
  • Knowledge management seems to be a mindset independent of both linear/non linear formats

I developed a funky little method called T.A.P
  • T: tap into your thought processes by dumping your thoughts into a work space
  • A: arrange and add logic by grammar, spelling, grouping and associating
  • P: present in a format that suits your intended recipients

I shared this in a left >>> right visual map format. But this colleagues insight reinforced my thoughts that the mapped format wasn't the driver at all; it was the textual procedure that was the explanatory driver. I am however a Visual mapper realizing the visual mapping tool-box includes but isn't limited to mind mapping. So the framework is the carrier, regardless of format, and the textual procedure associated with process is the explanatory and/or motivational driver.

So as much as my knowledge manager colleague expressed a disinterest in mind mapping as a format, I believe we visual mappers must, with clarity, state the format is merely the carrier of contextual information (usable knowledge).

To me; this confirms a disconnect between the mind mapping arena and the wider visual mapping arenas. On one hand the mind mappers believe it's best to express information and knowledge within the mind map carrier, and on the other hand, the visual mappers use the myriad of (mostly) graphical frameworks as carriers of expressed data, information and knowledge.

So when I stated above that “Graphical frameworks can enhance but are not the core function of Knowledge management”, I don't want to seem to contradict my firm belief that Knowledge management is best contained within a graphical format when used within a relational database environment. See TheBrain and Topicscape as examples.

The myriad of tools and methods we use to reach that point of knowledge management may or may not be via graphical formats, but I firmly believe we eventually end up with the intrinsic need for data, information and knowledge to be contained within a graphical framework such as the examples referenced to.

More questions than answers for sure, but the nature of my recent blogs insists on asking you for your unique answers. I do continue to believe the knowledge manager of this part of the 21st century shall eventually end up with a database architecture graphical framework. And she is better equipped to produce at optimum while using and utilizing graphical database frameworks. How you get to that point is a journey either inside or outwith the visual mapping tool-box.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Create, Manage, Exchange

Another short thought blog by Visual Mapper

Create, Manage, Exchange

Okay: make sure you have Tylenol handy!

I made my point some time ago that every human is an information manager; that's an undeniable fact; surely we all know this eh. Some of us are good and some not so good. Maybe the word “handler” might best describe what we humans do with information. For the most part we handle loads of aggregated data; that is the assemblage of words, images and numbers and we end up with information.

Information may or may not be useful, based upon verified sources, validated for authenticity and then contextualized to solidify content. But often the contextualization is missed or willingly ignored and information fades away as mere instructions that are soon forgotten or become irrelevant due to lack of revisions (Maintenance).

However; contextualized information indeed becomes knowledge, and this knowledge (metaphorically) becomes a living entity, as it must move forward to life by being improved upon by means of continuous improvement.

Wow; how was that for being long winded? But I hope I'm clear enough.

When we progress through the Create, Manage, Exchange processes; we are naturally using and hopefully understanding the relevance of what information is (aggregated data) and the further relevance of contextualization and further realizing of knowledge.

Knowledge must be usable though, as it becomes absolutely useless (static) if it isn't used as an improvement tool. Knowledge management is the improvement tool, and when used to confirm and improve upon this contextualized information (Knowledge), we may begin to see, realize and implement this usable knowledge into what may be termed “The Information Economy”.

For me: the tools, methods and mindsets associated with graphical visual knowledge mapping have provided me with platforms to utilize for my personal, academic and business models to be realized.

And the above mentioned Information Economy may or may not be to you, real or even imagined; but knowledge may eventually be monetized by the very tools you may use to create, manage and exchange information and usable knowledge.

The main focus at has always been to openly share, discuss and debate the relevancy of graphical information/knowledge mapping/management.
And yes; I often repeat myself via the blogs, so as to make it so clear that knowledge is not the destination, it is indeed the journey. The journey for me and so many others has been super charged by our use of the tools and methodologies of mind, visual and knowledge mapping software and services.

So I hope you are motivated to seek out, adopt, adapt and improve upon graphical mapping platforms and models, that may infuse a mindset that accepts the possibility of monetizing your Information Economy driven by usable knowledge.

Oh my I do babble; don't I?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Oh my: that desktop to cloud sync question again

Another short thought blog from Visual Mapper

Oh my: that desktop to cloud sync question again

Yes the enduring question indeed regarding the cloud. I recall years ago when I was deeply involved with QMS, and whilst being a regular contributor to a very notable Quality forum, I posited that very thought.

That thought being; can your data (regardless of type) be guaranteed with a security level that does not permit snooping agencies and hackers (they're the same are they not?) to sift your personal, academic and business data?

The owner and operator of that forum I was involved with stated: “here at this blog and indeed anywhere on the web, if you believe you have total privacy and security; you're delusional”.

But here we are quite a few years later and that statement resonates with me as I become more involved within my use of Visual mapping that has evolved into knowledge mapping, with a heavy bent on desktop to cloud sync usage.

I am naturally concerned; as I speak with, consult with and teach many about the virtues, strengths and future of having access to our own personal, academic and business graphical database product/service. And the database approach is now being more and more offered, not merely as a desktop product, but as a desktop to cloud sync subscription service.

Like many of my preferred mind/visual mapping products; they offer a cloud version of their desktop product. And for the most part they're pretty good even in their cloud editions. Yes of course; for most complex desktop products, it's rather difficult to take all of the functions and capabilities into a cloud edition (that's understandable).

I would say a few developers have merely offered a convenient access to a cloud brainstorming and viewing capability, and further misunderstanding the needs, wants and demands of those heading into the cloud sync world with their heavy data load requirements.

There's few other products such as and that have successfully handled and offered a high data-load requirement by users of @50GB. But again I am wary of the quote above; can cloud sync service providers guarantee safe and secure spaces for our synced data?

The question has not been adequately answered by service providers, and yes snoopers and hackers are a reality. But who owns our data when it is synced, and what of proprietary knowledge that has a monetary value to it for personal, academic and business usage?

Oh yes; these are really hard questions that challenge our current and future use of the cloud as we are bombarded with this “Internet of Things” approach to how we are unwittingly being led into disregarding security of data, information and Knowledge.

What's your thoughts? Is it a real concern, or are we in an age where we've capitulated to complete openness via social media models, or are we just moving into a new era of open knowledge and the elimination of a capitalistic approach to ownership?

Yup I now need to go take a Tylenol too.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

There's really no need for more of the same

Another thought blog by Visual Mapper

There's really no need for more of the same

As I survey the landscape of what we call mind mapping software/services; I'm astounded as to the sameness of ALL the offerings to date. This sameness is a uniformity that has strangled, constrained and pigeon holed the Mind mapping arena as fringe.

I've harped on about this before, and so I don't wish to repeat myself unnecessarily but here I go again. Fringe has placed the mapping arena outside of the norm of accepted and permitted mindsets. And as much as the enthusiasts, developers, professional users and thought leaders use and expose the tools and methodologies; it's still fringe.

The answer may lie with the reality that we live in a capitalist business model for the most part and everyone has the right to capitalize upon opportunities for financial gain and capturing markets. But why the heck are we seeing a continuous flow of products that look just the same as the leading mainstream products and are undoubtedly plagiarized clones of the original leading developer.

The auto industry is a typically analogous with what we are seeing within the mapping arena. We see developers producing software that does the same as their competitors with very little variation. And thus price point is the capital gain for mere sales numbers.

Of course we've seen mergers and acquisitions over the years associated with a leading developer, but competing developers kill them with their parity of functions and capabilities and of course price point.

The format war was a pseudo war; with ALL competing products offering a read, import and even export to and from the (at that time) leading Mind map file format. But IMO this is even irrelevant to the furtherance of this arena. When the Xmind product, developed in China showed it became the probable dominant mind map file format; that definitely changed and shook up the mind/visual mapping developers world.

What we may see with the Internet of Things approach to visual information management, is the development of product that offers a wholistic approach to how we create, manage and exchange data, information and knowledge comfortably across a wide range of devices. Files and folders still rule.

Maybe we'll see a departure from the mold of the mind map and experience a shift towards a neutral graphical approach. I believe we have that already with a few notable products. And we must not forget the most noble attempt at infusing this approach by MindSystems (Australia) and the work of John England and team. Their AMODE product was a breath of fresh air to the arena that alas was a glimpse of the future for knowledge mapping that was sadly way too before its time. The failure of knowledge handlers to recognize that graphical framework was IMO an indication to the malaise that has infected the mind/visual mapping arena.

Yes of course; I just vented; AGAIN lol

As a knowledge mapper I always end up with resting at the place of most stability and of future potentials for the Information Economy. It is of course and undoubtedly a relational database approach, and yes; I harp on about this a lot and probably will until I'm told off again.

So the established mind mapping developers were successfully usurped by the price point of developers who basically cloned the functions and capabilities of the leading product, and in turn changed the affordability of mapping products. This may turn out to be the death of the leading products, or may force a creativity and innovation evolution that takes us in a direction we probably should have been on some years ago.

So please; no more of the same. We need innovation that transports us to a place where the needs and wants of the end user are listened to and acted upon. Mere mind mapping has had its day IMO, and we look to and deserve to have innovative developers who have tuned into what lies beyond.

Making your best presentation

Another thought blog by Visual Mapper

Making your best presentation

Presentations are for the most part tedious and stressful things; aren't they? No matter how good a communicator you are, presentations always seem to trip us up; Don't they?

Tedious because they always seem to take forever to layout what you actually want to convey to your audience, and stressful due to the amount of coffee or liquor you take to get you through the tedious part of the process. But all kidding aside, good presentations allude most of us.

For me, I've always had a problem taking the script of what I wish to say and convey it in a reasonable presentation. And even when I became a Mind/Visual mapper, it still seemed to allude me. Ah that place of good presentations; I've read loads of books on presenting a reasonable audience talk, but why the hell did I miss that nirvana like flow where we seem to visually present like a pro?

I guess the answer may be found in how we understand the spoken/written word and the visual associations we extrapolate. I noticed a gap (read chasm) between words and visuals, and that gap has for me been resolved (to a degree) by the range of graphical software products I have access to and use.

The radiant mind map layout, while really good at a personal use level, seems to be for the most part either inadequate or unacceptable to the majority of audiences in my experience. No matter my enthusiasm and deep passion for the mind map format, I just couldn't get ever enough buy-in from any audience outwith the religious like excitement from groups of mind mappers whom actually believe the whole world should be mind mapping.

I had to take a step outside the bubble of the mind mapping space and re-evaluate how I would create, manage and share (exchange) any presentation. Okay so my profile according to the Herman dominance measurement tool was just about 50/50 relating to linear and non linear, so I understood the need and use of both linear flowchart like graphics and radiant non linear like.

So what I did was to create my own little method for helping me, and ultimately helping many others to decide which format would be best presented. It's called the T.A.P method and you'll find it if you search through the Visual Mapper blog site. The great thing about this method is you really don't have to be a mind mapper or strictly linear thinker to use it.

Once you use T.A.P it leads you into taking another look at templates. Yup good old fashioned templates, and IMO Nancy Duarte basically cracked the code for ready made templates that cover almost any scenario for making awesome presentations. Nancy has written extensively on communication through the use of graphics; my favourite book was Slide:ology. I encourage you to go look at her excellent work.

Hey I've even looked at exporting disassembled mind maps into MS PowerPoint; yes PP still works even for the advanced Visual mapper like me. A contradiction for sure from a mind/visual/knowledge mapper, but beyond the use of mind/visual mapping we have this funky arena of knowledge mapping that seems to be, on face value, far removed from what we can accomplish with heavily graphical suits such as ConceptDraw Pro and others.

The question still remains though; how do we make our best presentations? And the answer must be; it's not down to any specific tool, but it might indeed be. I know many colleagues who use only one specific software for creating presentations, yet like me, many use a multitude of products to eventually arrive at a presentation. Of course I'll use T.A.P and I may even use one of Nancy Duarte's available templates. But maybe it's a shift in thought that produces a mindset of communication openness that in turn produces the insight of reasonable, good or even great presentations.

What's your thoughts? Do you use a single product or multiple? What are they; and what's the buy-in you've experienced.