Maps to change the territory

We all know the map is not the territory, and yet we also know changing our minds helps us change the world ... Not all the world, mind you, but just the part within our sphere of actionability: from the edge of your finger-nails towards the center. Yeah, that's where your keys, notepad, screwdriver and phone are.

Maps ... Over the past few weeks I've been talking to people about mindmaps, which has forced me to learn a few things about them (maps and people). Specifically when someone who's tried teaching her kids told me she didn't know what to do when they started growing very large branches, with ideas connected to ideas in an outward spiral, with no end in sight ...

Mindmaps are about self-control and balance. It's (apparently) not the kind of thinking you do when meditating, in which (I've been told) you stick to the center (your breathing, your mantra, whatever) until (again apparently) you're concious of conciousness itself (or something of the sort). It's also not the kind of thinking you do when you explore further and further away, like this lady's kids did, going from content to content to where external stimuli (aka "distractions") will take you. With mindmaps you grow a few central branches, you grab them, and you sort-of fish from them: you stay in place and throw the line, grab the fish, pull the line, throw the line again.

Mindmaps are also about reusable templates - where each template is defined by its main branches. You want recipies? Use the ingredients-tools-procedure-presentation template - useful for any recipe. You want to describe a novel? Use the location-time-characters-plot-style template - useful for any novel. You want to look at people opinions? Use the each-person-their-opinions template (issue as the center, main branches one for each person, secondary branches for each person's real views) - useful for individuals and even countries.

Mindmaps can also help with creative thinking, maybe using two simple questions: what's this an example of? What's another example of this? (I've seen this refered to as "chunking up" and "chunking down".) The simplest example is the car: it's an example of transport, and other examples of transport are bikes and shoes and airplanes. So, sometimes, in a mindmap - or at least in a corner of a mindmap - you start with the leaves (specific ideas) and work your way up to the branches (general concepts), and down again to more leaves (more specific ideas).

So, what's my currently favourite template? My "reusable template for changing the world" (a bit)? Simple: area-wants-haves-cans-first steps.

  1. Let's say we pick a small area of interest, like (this was talking with my friend) we want to improve education in our geographical area. We put that as the center of this specific map. (Have other areas of interests? Do other maps, later!) (Please note: not "(narrow) goals", but "areas of interest". Narrow goals are bad for you: you end up killing for money, etc.)
  2. What would we want to see, our wants? Maybe we want to see more people learning general future-proof skills, or people teaching what they know to others, or people learning faster and with less effort whatever it is that they must learn to pass their compulsory tests. And we certainly want to enjoy the ride itself, too.
  3. So what is it that we have? We know some teachers and some students, and other people who might have resources. We have some links to places students might use to get information from. We know how to use mindmaps, even with software. We may have some room (or, again, know someone who does have room).
  4. Next is, what are some things we can do? Maybe we can grow a business (wild idea), or write a blog entry (nice and simple), or create a group of people who might be interested in exploring this kind of interest (I started with one person, and then a few more). We might start from our own learning needs, or from stuff we can teach, or from people's needs if we see a mismatch between what is needed and what people do know.
  5. Finally, we look at first steps. All those possibilities - we really don't have time for all of that, do we? So what would we actually do, that's within our sphere of actionability? One or two things at most. Doable soon? We go for that, because - to be honest - all we wanted is to gain a slightly better understanding and then actually do something - and do another map at some other date in the future.
I'd like to do this big time. Maybe with 20 people and a 10 meter x 10 meter mindmap or, ok, maybe a smaller surface. For, you know, some area of interest: one of us invites, a number of us join in, there may be several maps/invitations. In ... 2013? So ... my first step was to write this blog entry. ;-) Then, maybe we can show how this is done in, say, some EdgeRyders' (or "Friends of EdgeRyders") meeting? Or should I start smaller and document that? I'll keep you informed!

Of course, none of this is doable unless enough people (one or more) want to. And if enough people want to, the specific tool may not matter much. But, if enough people want to, then the simpler the tool, the better. What do you think?

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