Maps are valuable tools for presenting information visually and depicting processes in a concise and meaningful way. Mind maps, for example, are a powerful way to capture and organize your ideas, knowledge and other information. But mind maps aren’t the only means for depicting information visually, as Tom Wujec explains in his excellent creativity book, Five Star Mind: Games & Puzzles to Stimulate Your Creativity & Imagination. In the chapter “mental maps,” he outlines six valuable types of visual maps that are valuable in business situations:
The future map: “Choose a subject, and surround it with the factors that affect its future. This kind of map encourages you to consider a wide range of data, such as taxes, consumer tastes, interest rates, change in color preference and lower manufacturing costs. Many trend-watch companies use idea maps to generate maps of hundreds of publications and piece them together.”
The team map: Idea maps are great tools to use in group brainstorming sessions to capture everyone’s ideas. By displaying them on a screen with an LCD projector, everyone can see all of the ideas the group has generated, which provides stepping-stones to even more ideas. And that creates positive momentum that results in more productive brainstorming sessions, Wujec says.
The here-to-there map: First, draw a map with two locations – here and there, where “here” represents your current situation and “there” your desired future state. Next, surround the word “there” with the factors that will characterize the ideal outcome. Finally, work out the path from here to there. What steps do you need to take to realize your ideal outcome?
The force field map: Put your idea in the center of a map. On one side, list the factors which support your idea, and describe the best-case scenario. On the other side of the map, list the factors which resist your idea, and outline the worst-case scenario. Finally, look at the map and brainstorm ways in which you can maximize the supporting factors and minimize the resisting factors.
The context map: “To better consider several points of view, create a map which includes you, your client and the two levels of management above and below you. A mind map works fine for this type of diagram, with your idea as the central topic, you and your client on either side of it horizontally, and upper and lower management positioned above and below your idea, respectively. “This map should help you to find new relationships, connections and common factors. It should also help you identify the means of selling your idea to the people who matter, both inside and outside your company.”
The idea grid map: This type of map consists of a 2×2 grid of boxes, where the horizontal axis represents the two extremes of one set of factors (for example, bad and good), while the vertical axis represents the range of another set of factors (such as active and passive). You can then plot ideas, emotions and other information in the proper quadrants of the idea grid. This will help you to see which ideas are most valuable and which are likely to face resistance or challenges. “A grid can show new contexts and identify gaps in the market, predict the demand for new market ideas, assist in strategic planning and help you distance your firm from competitors,” Wujec explains.