Biggerplate.com, the world’s largest online mind map gallery, recently added in-person training to its repertoire. Here’s a closer look at this new service, which is aimed at the needs of business people.
Four courses are being offered initially:
- An introduction to mind mapping
- Mind mapping for marketers
- Mind mapping for business planning
- Mind mapping for innovation
Training will be provided on any one of the four mind mapping software programs that the website currently supports: MindManager, iMindMap, XMind and MindGenius, and can be tailored to the needs of specific clients and their needs.
I was curious about what’s behind this move, so I interviewed Biggerplate.com founder Liam Hughes via e-mail:
Chuck: What made you decide to launch this service? What unfulfilled needs did you see that you aim to fill with your training programs?
Liam: We have done various pieces of mind map training over the years, but it never quite felt like the right time to invest in making this a more structured and/or widely available part of the business. After the growth and success of Biggerplate.com in 2011 however, I felt that the offline side of our business was failing to match the standards set by the online side, and I wanted to change this. We felt there was a need (and a space) for more targeted training services that focus on particular processes or job functions using mind maps, and this is what our training products aim to do. We currently have a program focused on marketers, a program focused on business planning, and a program focused on innovation, with others in the pipeline. The idea is to provide a training experience that is entirely focused on practical contextual learning.
Another consideration was the huge disparity in the price of training services that we saw elsewhere, and the belief that we could be very competitive in this area due to the strength of our online business. We set ourselves the objective of designing a range of products that could be delivered worldwide at prices that were competitive, regardless of where the training takes place. With Biggerplate being a global community of mappers, it was extremely important for us to be global in our thinking about these services, which means ensuring people who want training overseas are not financially penalized for the fact that we are based in the UK! It’s taken a little longer than planned, but we are very happy with the outcome!
Chuck: Will you be the person who delivers the training worldwide, or will you hire others to do so outside of the UK?
Liam: All training around the world will be delivered by myself and the Biggerplate team, which we are very excited about! (We don’t get out much…)
It’s important for us to ensure the style, tone, quality, and delivery of the training experience fits with what people associate with Biggerplate and expect from our brand. At this stage, this can only be achieved by keeping everything ‘in-house’, and that’s why we do not hire others to do training on our behalf. We have been fortunate enough to establish a strong name for ourselves in the mind mapping world, and I would not want to damage that by having anyone feeling short-changed by us, or having a training experience that falls below the standards we set.
It’s also important and enjoyable for us to meet mind mappers and our members in person, and this is something we have been more focused on over the last year. Our aim is to combine training assignments abroad (and in the UK) with opportunities to host small public events for our members in the local area, with a view to further strengthening the connection between Biggerplate and our users around the world, as well as the connections within the mind mapping community as a whole, which is a key part of our overall mission.
Chuck: A number of software resellers already offer mind mapping software training. How will the training from Biggerplate.com be different, better or unique?
Liam: Our aim is to be specific and focused on the practical use of mapping and mapping software within a particular context. This means if you are a marketer, for example, we’ll show you the ways in which mapping can be used in specific marketing situations and processes, rather than giving you the A-Z of everything a particular mapping program can do. Software training can sometimes be like being taught to drive by the maker of your car. By the end of it, you may know everything about the body, the engine, the lights on the dash, and the service plans available, but that information does not exactly prepare you for the reality of the open road, or even how to pull out of the parking lot!
Perhaps an advantage we have is that we don’t sell mapping software, and neither do we need to make it look great; it will do that by itself when left in the hands of someone who fully understands the contexts in which it can be put to use most effectively. Our job is to give people that understanding, and the confidence to explore mapping in ways that make sense to their everyday working lives. The mind map library and community at Biggerplate gives us truly unique perspectives on how people around the world are using maps in a variety of organizations and situations. It is this knowledge and understanding that enables us to help others do the same!
Chuck: What kind of training materials will participants receive as part of your on-site training? (such as a manual or worksheets)
Liam: We call it “The Playbook.” It’s a workbook or manual that is specific to whichever training program a person is taking with us. It is used for various exercises during the workshops, and also contains a huge amount of practical “when you want to do this, click here” type information, as well as numerous map examples and templates to provide food for thought. It has a distinct Biggerplate “tone” to it, and also contains suggestions, ideas, exercises and activities that can be carried out after the training is completed to try and reinforce learning once participants are back to the reality of daily working life. It also contains information about other sources of quality mind mapping information, such as this blog, and some of the other great sites that mapping experts around the world are running for the benefit of others.
Chuck: What is your experience in a corporate environment? How does this give you a unique perspective on the needs of business people?
Liam: In the early years of Biggerplate (2007-2009), my working life was divided between developing the Biggerplate website and working within my dad’s small consultancy firm, delivering training and consultancy services to businesses all over the world. The business is largely focused on change management, strategic planning and executive training programs. It was what you might call a baptism of fire for someone who was straight out of university and looking to build a mind map library!
The experience was invaluable in helping me understand the value of making information and problems more visible and visual. I gradually integrated mind mapping into more and more of the work we were doing, usually with great effect. From small to large businesses, a key problem that many people have is that information, learning and problems are largely buried on hard drives or in “the cloud.” Working with people to overcome these issues served to reinforce my belief that mind mapping is a powerful tool to overcome these issues, provided people could see the relevance of it to their particular department, job role or challenge.
This is something I think the mind mapping world has perhaps been slow to deal with, and in many cases we sing the virtues of mapping, almost as if the map is the end goal in itself. It is not necessarily the answer to everything, and in many cases is simply another tool to be used as part of a set in order to complete a particular process. However, my work in this area served to reaffirm that people are far more able to make sense of complexity when it is made more visually accessible, and maps are a great way to do this!
As Biggerplate has grown into a fully-fledged business, I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with a number of interesting individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes around the world, who have helped me to further develop an understanding of where mind mapping can fit into daily life to improve performance, understanding and results. The training services we have designed keeps these ideas at their core, and when combined with the learning and experience we have from our library and community, we think the final products are unique in terms of their focus on context-specific learning and practical mind map training.
Chuck: Any thought of delivering this type of training via GoToMeeting, WebEx or other web conferencing applications?
Liam: It’s certainly on our radar, because this is obviously the way that much of the world is going. On a personal level, I prefer to be in a room with people and engaging with them in person. You can feel and respond to the energy and interests of the group in a way that just not possible online, ensuring people get what they want out of a training session. However, the realities are that you can’t be everywhere at once, and some people simply won’t be able to access our training services, no matter how affordable we try to make them, because of budgetary restrictions or other factors. We therefore need to come up with an answer, and perhaps online training webinars are the way forward.
We may go part of the way to solving this issue when we rebuild the tutorials section of our website later in the year. On the old version of Biggerplate, which as retired in March 2011, this was a highly visited but poorly constructed area of the site, and we decided not to rebuild it until we knew we could do it properly. The new tutorials area will pull together the best video tutorials on the web from software developers and mind mapping experts, to provide a learning hub that will hopefully help numerous people to get to grips with mind mapping without necessarily having to engage with paid training services. While we will be sad not to see them in person, if they can become a mind mapping expert by spending time in the new tutorials section, then we’ll consider that a win, too!