One of the terms you hear tossed about in the worlds of mind mapping and visual thinking is CLARITY. It’s a quixotic concept that everyone hopes for, but it’s frustratingly elusive to achieve. As I was researching it for my new F.A.S.T. framework e-course, I discovered an incredibly savvy set of rules for achieving it in business.
Marissa Bracke is a digital business strategist who brings exceptional clarity to the subject of clarity in a business setting. What’s especially exciting is that her 5 rules for clarity are perfectly aligned with creating clear, concise, easy-to-understand mind maps.
Let’s take a closer look at her clarity rules to see what we can learn from them.
Rule #1: Make it as clear as possible to as many people as possible
Rule #1 is to make your information as clear as possible, to as many people as possible. In other words, name, organize, and document things so that they are as clear as possible, as immediately as possible, to as many people as possible.
Marissa says this is principle number 1 because it forces you to put clarity at the forefront of your thinking. Most people organize information and ideas based on what’s quickest and most convenient for them. As she explains, if you set things up so they’re convenient for you, you’ll tend to put your own brain and quirks first – causing clarity to suffer.
What it means: We’ve talked about this for years on this blog – YOU created the mind map, so you understand the meaning and context of the topics it contains. Others don’t. Without it, they may be confused and may quickly give up trying to make sense of your mind map.
Rule #2: The more obvious, the better
Rule #2 to achieve clarity is to make it as obvious as possible. Here’s how she explains this principle:
“The more you have to explain the system, documentation, name, or way something is set up or organized to someone else, the more it’s probably in need of being simplified, streamlined, and/or clarified.”
Even if something seems obvious to you, if others get stuck on it, are confused by it, or can’t follow it, then it’s NOT obvious. “Obviousness is a matter of function, not form. It doesn’t matter if something should be obvious. It only matters if it is,” she adds.
What it means: This principle reinforces the importance of mentally putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It may be obvious to you, but not to others. You need to view your mind map as they would, and modify it as needed to make it intuitively obvious.
Rule #3: The 2-year rule
According to rule #3, everything should be as clear and obvious two years from now as it is today. As she explains this principle, a quick note, a shorthand file name, or an abbreviated reference might make sense to you today, but it’s probably going to be foggy (at best) two years from now. She also adds that if your information violates the 2-year rule, it probably also violates principles number 1 and 2.
What it means: Think long term when you create your mind maps. Make them useful not just in the moment, but so they are relevant, understandable and valuable two weeks, two months or two years from now!
Rule #4: Simplify – but don’t sacrifice clarity!
Rule #4 is to simplify wherever possible, but only as much as clarity allows. Here’s what that means: More words don’t automatically mean more clarity; but short does not automatically mean simple or clear. In other words, there’s a happy medium you need to strive for.
Another example of this principle has to do with abbreviations, acronyms, and shorthand, which may be convenient for you, but often sacrifice clarity. Incorporate them only when they follow the other three principles. To summarize this principle: Make it was simple and concise as possible. No longer than necessary. But don’t sacrifice clarity.
What it means: Review the contents of your mind map with a critical eye. What can be said in fewer words? What can be re-stated so it’s more clear? What abbreviations or slang terms need to be replaced or spelled out?
Rule #5: Everyone and no one are temporary
The final principle of clarity addresses the issue of organizational change and its impact on clarity. Decisions about your organization, documentation or systems should not be based on the “everyone” and “no one” of your business. Why? Because they tend to be inherently temporary. They assume that your business won’t change in size, scope, or personnel. Obviously, that’s a bad assumption, especially in this day and age!
What it means: Try to anticipate future needs when you create your mind maps. Minimize use of specialized jargon. Make sure your topics have a logical flow that nearly anyone can follow. Clearly and concisely explain what needs it. And be ruthless about eliminating information that doesn’t add value to your mind map.
One final thought: If your going to share your mind map with others, consider creating two different versions: First, a more detailed one that contains all of your research, supporting information and resources. Then use that to create a significantly slimmed down version that only contains the information your audience needs to know.
This gives you the best of both worlds: Your audience gets a clear, concise, easy to understand mind map that meets their needs. But you also have a more detailed version, so if you ever need to go back and re-connect with your thinking or research, you can still do so.
Reach clarity on your challenges and opportunities
This article is excerpted from my new F.A.S.T. framework course. It teaches a simple 4-step process to help you create clear, concise, actionable mind maps. It empowers you to use the full potential of your mind mapping software so you can get more done and reach your objectives faster.