As human beings trying to make sense of an increasingly complex world, we often fall into the trap of binary thinking – yes/no, for/against, love/hate. But today’s world requires us to take a full-spectrum approach to thinking. Mind mapping software can help.
How we got here – the roots of binary thinking
Our focus on binary thinking begins in our childhood. Our schooling deeply embeds binary thinking into our mindset. For every problem, there is only one right answer. Tests employ true/false and multiple choice questions, each of which have only one “right answer.” And of course, we’re graded based on the number of right answers we provide.
This mindset continues to be reinforced by our work and society as we grow up. We identify ourselves as part of social groups and economic strata. We label people as good or bad, for us or against us. Acceptable or unacceptable. This type of superficial thinking helps us make sense of our world and feels comforting as we confront uncertainty. But it doesn’t always serve us well, according to marketing guru Seth Godin:
“These distinctions are almost always wrong. Not just wrong, but unhelpful, because by ignoring the stuff in between, we isolate ideas (and people) instead of seeing them as part of a continuous whole.”
Bob Johansen author of Full-Spectrum Thinking: How to Escape Boxes in a Post-Categorical Future, puts it even more simply: “Categories move us toward certainty, but away from clarity.”
Johansen calls the antidote to binary thinking full-spectrum thinking. He defines it like this:
Full-spectrum thinking is “the ability to seek patterns and clarity across gradients of possibility—outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories—while resisting false certainty.”
Instead of making assumptions and broad generalizations, adopting full-spectrum thinking empowers us to investigate the nuance and explore the gray areas.
The role of mind mapping in full-spectrum thinking
Mind mapping can help us to develop more nuanced thinking and to see challenges, people and ideas as part of a continuum. How does it do this? By enabling us to capture and organize our thinking with a high degree of flexibility. It also empowers us to step back and “think about our thinking.”
In other words, by enabling us to make our thoughts tangible, we can easily see what nuances and perspectives are missing. We can easily add them and rearrange them until we come to a more complete understanding of the topics or idea we’re mapping. It supports the brain’s immensely powerful ability to generate associations.
One area where mind mapping software excels is helping us imagine and give form to “white space ideas.” These are ideas that exist in the space between existing products or services or in the previously unexplored fringes of your industry. Although you may have never heard the term, you’re familiar with it by example. How many times have you seen a type of consumer product where several deeply entrenched competitors have “owned” the market for years. They literally DEFINED what the best-selling products should look like, the features they should have, what they should cost. Then, out of the blue, someone comes along and changes the rules. They create a new category that no one else imagined before.
One of the most famous examples of this happened to the music industry 20 years ago. Consumers bought CDs or listened to music on the radio, streamed it online or downloaded it illegally using services like Napster. The first generation of MP3 players had emerged on the market. But it wasn’t easy to convert your existing music collection to MP3 files and then download them onto your player.
Apple saw an opportunity to innovate the market. They introduced the iPod, and made it part of a digital ecosystem via their innovative iTunes software. Suddenly, millions of songs were instantly available – legally – for purchase and download. They created a whole new product category in the WHITE SPACE – unexplored territory. This was an unmet set of consumer needs that only they could see, and they capitalized on it.
Mind mapping software, with its ability to add new branches between existing ones, is an IDEAL tool for exploring white space opportunities.