Last week, I posted a prediction that mind mapping software will hit an “inflection point” in 2009 that will result in substantial growth, and that this technology will finally enter the mainstream of business.
This post has generated a record number of comments, and they continue to roll in. Commenters have generally agreed with my assertion, but there have also been some people who have highlighted some compelling reasons why this WON’T happen. It’s been a lively debate, and I encourage you to check it out and add your opinions to the mix.
As a next step, I decided to ask the developers of mind mapping software to comment on this prediction. They are closer to the actual users than most of us, which puts them in an ideal position to see the future direction of this software niche.
Here’s what they had to say:
Mind mapping, as a technique, is relatively unknown in the business world outside of a handful of countries like Germany, where it is taught in schools. Until now, it has been difficult for mind mapping enthusiasts to get the word out on the technique and many information workers remain unaware of the technology and its benefits. Mind mapping software tends to enter businesses through individual enthusiasts rather than through the IT department.
The primary way that someone learns about mind mapping is to observe a business associate who is using a mind mapping application to accomplish a specific task. What’s more, in the past, the only way for a business user to share their maps with others was to send a static PDF or “reader” version of their map, requiring the recipient to download a compromised application in order to interact with the file or view a flat image of a mind map.
Now, mind mapping software manufacturers are making the experience of an information map much more readily available to non-users with things like the “Mindjet Player” that allows map producers to send fully interactive maps embedded in a PDF file that gives anyone the multi-dimensional experience of working in a map. In addition, with the expansion of online mapping, people are able to collaborate remotely around a mind map with an experienced mapper in the driver seat giving non-mappers live exposure to the actual mapping process anytime, anywhere.
For the last 10-15 years, business users believed they had enough productivity tools. In fact, most of them believe they have too much unused productivity technology at their disposal. Now, with business environments getting more and more competitive and access to information creating even more stress, people are once more looking for a better way of doing things. People in information-intensive professions like project management, sales and marketing, IT, web development, and other areas are looking for ways to make themselves stand out and be more competitive.
However, just seeing mind mapping technology in action is not enough to convince most people to take the necessary steps to change the way they work every day. It must be viewed as relevant and useful to the task at hand. More and more companies are using the technique as a central tool for project management, sales force enablement, of repetitive consulting s, strategic planning and more.
As the technique becomes more and more embedded in mission critical business applications, not only will individuals gain more exposure to the technology, but the technology will become a mandatory tool for success of work groups.
— Neil Mendelson, VP of Development, Mindjet
It totally depends on your definition of mainstream – if mainstream means that more than 50% of the population access and use mind mapping techniques on a daily basis, then the answer is a categorical No Chance!
For mapping to go mainstream it requires a significant change in human behavior and in doing so break the (bad) habits of a lifetime – the adage of teaching an old dog new tricks comes to mind!
Don’t get me wrong. You will always get exceptions to the rule, but in my opinion we are a generation away from mapping being truly mainstream. Sorry to burst the bubble, but ultimately I am a realistic Scot!
That does not mean to say that growth in mapping cannot be significant in 2009 and the years ahead – I genuinely believe it can, but it won’t happen simply by developers pouring additional gimmicks, bells and whistles into their applications (although that will always appeal to a small minority).
The bottom line is that mapping will go mainstream when a significant number of senior people within organizations (say 20%) recognize that the results they achieve by using mapping techniques (as individuals and as teams) far outweigh anything done previously. This improvement must be attributed directly to the use of mapping techniques across their business. It’s simple in concept. It’s just the that is a bit challenging!
Mapping lets you do things that were not practical before – drawing comparisons around successful outcomes is a no brainer!
I genuinely believe you have a role to play in making mapping mainstream, but focusing on functionality is not going to impress beyond the early adopters or the gadget chasers. Instead I believe we need a body of people conveying at every opportunity the outstanding business results that can be achieved through mapping techniques. The emphasis has to change.
You will notice I have dropped any reference to mind mapping in my discussion – it is deliberate, it is dated, it carries too much baggage and doesn’t really represent our industry at all. What can be achieved using mapping tools these days far outweighs ANYTHING associated with a sheet of paper and 4 colored pens!
— Donald Maciver, General Manager, MindGenius
Definitely 2009 will be a critical year. I’ll approach it from 2 points.
From the mind mapping software developer’s point of view, our software is becoming more than just a mind map software. We have mainstream features built into our MindMapper software, such as MS Office integration, project management and Gantt charts, Internet search, etc. We can also “draw” so many different types of diagrams than just the traditional mind maps, so users will be able to easily adopt MindMapper into their every day usage.
From the user’s point of view, mind maps are gaining awareness more than ever before. And now the products in the market are mature enough to satisfy a wide spectrum of mind map users, from novices to mind map professionals.
— Patrick Koh, MindMapper USA
I would argue that it has entered the mainstream already. Ten years ago no one knew what mind mapping was, today it has entered the business vernacular. We hear customers say to us all of the time I need to map out what I am doing. Maps are used everywhere now. I do not think that you could visit a single company that is over 2,000 people and not find mind mapping used. When we visit customers we see maps printed hanging on the walls, we see maps written out on whiteboards in conference rooms. Mapping is in the here and now, it is not just some futuristic maybe in ten year idea.
What I think we will see more of in 2009 is the benefits that come from people mind mapping. The ability for people to get the 10,000-meter view of what is important to them. Few other tools can deliver this macro view in such clarity. There will be more discovery in 2009 because of the mind map’s ability to present this. I see that mind mapping will have a big effect on non-technology oriented companies as they look to implement best practices in 2009.
— Matt Lewis, CS Odessa (developer of ConceptDraw MINDMAP)
If you have an opinion on the future direction of mind mapping software and its adoption by business, please share it in the comments area below.
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