Ever been on a project where you had trouble keeping all 'if' questions straight? "If this happens," you say, "we'll do one thing. But, if that happens, we'll do something else instead, but only on a Wednesday."
In cases like these, especially with high stakes, you may have drawn a diagram on a piece of paper. That way you could visualize forks in path ahead, while still seeing objective at end.
Diagrams map our reasoning and can be as simple as a few lines on a napkin, or as complex as computer models. Called mind maps, these diagrams help us make better decisions, or make difficult decisions more easily.
But, let's also think of them as a system for better communication. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, as saying goes.
Mind mapping helps us communicate in at least three ways: to illustrate components of complex situations; to show outcomes of a series of actions; and to highlight otherwise unrecognized linkages.
Whenever I redesign my website, I'm dealing with a complex situation. So, I draw a simple diagram, with boxes representing pages and lines showing their connections. It's only a modestly complex website, but keeping track of hierarchy and connections can drive me crazy.
So, you can imagine how hard it is, not only to work with a more complex situation, but also explaining it to someone else. However, a simple visual outline of components and their relationships can effectively communicate even most Byzantine of structures.
You can also apply mind maps to track outcomes of a series of actions. By way of an example, some manufacturers of consumer products wonder about selling directly to consumers on Web. First they ask themselves whether or not they think such an initiative would be profitable. Second, if it will be profitable, how much will they have to spend, and how long will it take? And list goes on.