Generation Y – young people currently in their late teens to early twenties – are the future of business. Based upon a story I recently read about how they engage with mind maps, it looks like a bright future, indeed.
Recently, my colleague Jeffrey Ritter shared a fascinating story on his blog: The son of one of his friends was visiting for dinner, and he was encouraged by the friend to show the young man RitterMaps – Jeffrey’s version of mind maps, adapted to the legal profession. To Jeffrey’s surprise, his young protégé grabbed the mouse and proceeded to explore the mind map on his own.
“My guest was asking questions, opening and closing topics, experimenting with restructuring and re-organizing the content, engaging and interacting with the RitterMaps naturally and without any training, instruction, or guidance on how to do things,” Jeffrey recalls.
Upon reflection, Jeffrey attributed this to the fact his guest is from Generation Y – he’s a millennial who is extremely comfortable with exploring and manipulating digital information. Interacting with it is second nature. It comes to them naturally, much like walking and breathing, because it has been a constant presence throughout their lives, not something that entered their lives at a later stage and to which they’ve had to adapt. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, my contemporaries are either learning to embrace the near-constant advances in digital technology, or have shunned it, refusing to deal with its complexities.
“The current and future generations are simply being wired differently to interact with, explore, acquire and apply information,” Jeffrey explains in his blog post. “The inherent presence of the digital screen, and the near-infinite accessibility of information that can be transformed into knowledge, empowers individuals to point, click, explore, defy structure, and fearlessly persist in shaping the information into the knowledge structures they require to learn, work, and even play.”
Mind maps seem to be a perfect fit for this brave young generation, who aren’t intimidated by non-linear information structures and “playing” with them to see what happens. In fact, the act of drilling down into a mind map structure and then pulling back to a higher level view is quite similar to exploring linked web pages. We click on a succession of web pages, drilling down from Google search results into different web sites, then back up several steps and explore another “digital trail.”
Jeffrey concludea that mind mapping’s ease of use makes it very attractive to millennials like his friend’s son, who can explore information and use it to play “What if?” on their own – which makes it a powerful learning tool: “We are building tools that enable those ‘born digital’ to explore faster, to learn better and ultimately communicate with one another in a visual space that requires no training to navigate,” he explains.
But it may have an even deeper and more profound benefit. Mind maps “accelerate the capability of the learner to transform and share the information they have learned with others. A… mind map, allows the learner to immediately take the instrument from which they have acquired the knowledge, and present that same content to someone else – other team members (and) supervisors… It turns out this is one of the most important ‘knowledge strategies’ – to design and implement the means to share knowledge above the din of endless digital information.”
“If they can touch, edit, modify and adapt the content, each user becomes an owner of both the information and the knowledge they are experiencing. This control enables the user to construct their own architecture and, in the final analysis, use the knowledge to their best advantage,” he adds.
In other words, by interacting with the information at a deep level, we learn about it and can also interpret and mold it to our needs. That’s powerful, and it’s the essence of what mind mapping software enables. Sure, you can review, edit and track changes in a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. But these tools don’t make it easy to alter the underlying structure of the information – the digital “skeleton,” if you will.
That’s even more powerful than it appears to be at first glance. When we interact with information and manipulate it, we come at it with our own unique perspective. That enables us to see connections, ideas and solutions that others on our team may have missed.
Creative solutions are needed in nearly every business and industry to help drive future growth. And mind mapping software can be the tool, in the hands of young, fearless Digital Natives like Jeffrey’s young friend, who will lead the way.