[This blog post gives a quick overview of the conference with some of my observations and thoughts. At the end of this post you can download a free report which goes into much more detail about what was actually covered including my personal mind maps taken live at the event].
This week I attended the inaugural BiggerPlate mind mapping conference held in London at New Zealand house. Put together by Liam Hughes from the BiggerPlate website which over the last few years has become the largest repository of computer-generated mind maps on the Internet.
Towards the end of last year I received an e-mail from them telling me about this mind mapping conference and so with an avid interest myself I thought I would attend. The event promised to be a gathering of some of Europe’s mind mapping elite to share ideas and to explore possibilities of how to help this amazing thinking tool become mainstream.
Now I have been around the mind mapping space in the UK for a few years now and so I was somewhat surprised to only recognise one or two people there from when I first got involved in using this powerful tool. However I was really quite excited to see about 50 to 60 key advocates of this powerful thinking device. Included in the guest list for this event were trainers, coaches mind mapping software vendors, authors consultants and a whole variety of people genuinely interested in mind mapping.
Liam Hughes opened the conference stating that the aim of BiggerPlate was to create a greater level of collectivity and collaboration between those involved in the mind mapping space. And as the launch event for a series he was planning, he wanted to use this as a start to help drive progress in the mind mapping industry (as it was described at the start and continue to be described throughout the day) – though I’m not convinced there is an actual mind map industry.
But clearly here is a man with passion about mind mapping because of the tremendous impact it had on his own life and his goal and that of BiggerPlate is to be the best source of mind mapping information in the world.
Now what is interesting about Liam’s drive is that this isn’t a venture with strong commercial drivers but this is about someone who has benefited from this tool and who wants others to do the same. Of course there is bound to be some for the business interested but I was struck by his honesty, his integrity and his genuine passion for helping people reap the rewards of mind mapping in the same way that he is done.
So once Liam had introduced the conference he wasn’t there to be the centre of attention, he was bringing a variety of experts and people to share their thoughts on the topic and so he started off by introducing Chris Griffiths from Think Buzan, the originators of iMindMap.
Now Chris is quite an amazing fellow. His background is in business – he sold his first business when he was 26 and then ran a public limited company. His driver is about his fascination with technology combined with the latest brain processes. To cut a long story short he approached Tony Buzan and from that iMindMap was born.
Chris shared with us how iMindMap has developed and a gave us an insight into the future. Fundamental to message, and this is no surprise coming from the Buzan camp, is that the hand drawn process is still going to be the first port of call in the development of iMindMap.
I have known Chris for a few years now having first met him at a dinner hosted by Tony Buzan but I’ve never heard him speak. It was a real pleasure to see someone not only passionate about mind mapping share their views, but also someone who is not only capable of making the difference as you will see with the way iMindMap has proliferated around the world will also someone who is actually doing it.
Now after Chris spoke Nick Duffill shared with us how to communicate more effectively with mind maps and specifically with smaller mind maps. As an avid user of mind mapping software since 1997 he has a broad experience of understanding how to use such software in a variety of circumstances and situations.
One of his passions is understanding how it can be used most effectively in communications and his experience has shown that it is at its most impactful when it is used in what he calls inductive communication. He spent some time hoping to turn the concepts of mind mapping communication on their head and his statement was “the big picture is the centre of the map and not the whole map”.
I think his ideas made sense and his comparison between a large hand drawn mind map and the more condensed inductive version revealed that in terms of communication, simplicity was the key.
The conference wasn’t just about speakers standing up and sharing their views, but there were three panel discussions held throughout the day where some of the speakers fielded questions from the audience.
This always had the potential for being a bit of a bunfight, but one of the things that was most impressive throughout the day was Liam Hughes’ management and handling of the questions and the compering of this interactive part of the day. He controlled the conversations with style and panache and refocused the conversations back to the key points (which he had to do on a regular basis) and I think what we’re seeing here is the evolution and development of a true champion and future market leader in this field.
The first panel discussion consisted of Nick Duffill, Barry Mapp (a long-standing hand drawn mind mapper0, Andrew Wilcox and Chris Griffiths. There was an interesting discussions with the opening question around looking at what barriers are there to people learning and understanding mind mapping and how could they be overcome.
There were interesting contributions from the floor including from yours truly and I think the conclusion we came to was that it was more important to get focused on how to apply mind mapping and the benefits of it before really getting into the how to.
One suggestion from the panel was to use a SWOT analysis other way of demonstrating how the tool could actually be used.
The topic of education was skirted round and an interesting distinction was shared by Chris Griffiths from think Buzan about an experience they had had in India where they had introduced mind mapping in education. Having taught the kids how to use the mind map and getting some great initial results they found that later on, the impact had dropped off. They discovered the teachers were creating the mind maps for the kids and taking away the power and the benefits of the creation process itself from the children which meant its impact was greatly and significantly reduced.
Another feature that the BiggerPlate conference offered was the opportunity for small short speed sessions on technique and the first one was from Andrew Wilcox who shared his insights into how people can find our mind maps on the Internet and the challenges some people may find in doing so.
Before the lunch break we were treated to probably what was the highlight of the day for me and that was hearing from Craig Scott who is the developer of the most popular mind mapping On the Apple operating system and that is iThoughts.
Craig shared with us his background about how he first started developing his app when the iPod Touch was released and he based it on the popular free mind mind mapping software. To cut a long story short after launching on the iPad where it was the first mind mapping app on that platform he developed a sufficient enough income to be able to leave his day job and develop iThoughts full-time.
After Craig we had a delightful session with Jim Mather who talked about real-world collaboration. This is a seasoned Scottish politician who is clearly passionate about collaboration and how he believes it is the key to the future. He created a very compelling case about the importance of collaboration and how mind mapping facilitates it so very well.
With a business interest in mind Genius the mind mapping software Jim has been introducing collaboration and mind mapping into his business and his political life. He shared a story about how he had used the two together in his constituency to help create a sense of purpose which had the impact of sending his successor to Parliament at the next election taking the majority from just 815 to over 8000.
Another speed session by Stephen Rothwell took us through the step-by-step process for creating documents from start to finish using mind mapping software. This was a very interesting session for me because I wrote my last book on memory improvement using this technique and what Steve showed what a way to take this from cradle to grave and how to do it in the most effective way.
As I mentioned earlier there were some of the leading mind mapping software vendors in the room.
We heard from Chris Griffiths the founder of the company that created iMindMap at the start of the day and then later on we heard from John Barber from MindJet. Now if you’re not familiar with MindJet, they are the people who make mind manager, probably the longest standing mind mapping software in the marketplace.
Now MindJet is a heavy hitter in this and it was no surprise to see them here not only represented but also speaking. However this was probably the most disappointing session of the day.
The corporate sales feel to the presentation contrast it significantly with the open honest and authentic way the other software vendors shared their ideas and information in their sessions. Now PowerPoint has got a really bad name because of people standing up and reading from their slides. Here we saw a perfect example of exactly the same thing with using mind mapping software.
This audience didn’t need to know the evolution of mind mapping, social media or technology and I thought this presentation really missed the point of the day. Not only that but it lacked the passion and an authentic enthusiasm so evident in all of the other presentations.
Then we contrast it the presentation of another software vendor, this time MindMeister. This is the online collaborative mind mapping package that is popular with many mind mappers.
Here Thomas Thornton gave a laid-back but passionate presentation about how MindMeister has been used and could be used in education as well as giving an example of the collaborative nature of the software and how it can be used to engage and interact visitors to websites.
Thomas believes that as far as mind mapping software is concerned that in terms of the technology adoption life-cycle we are in the early adopter phase and that it is only a matter of time before we enter the early majority phase.
The day closed with another panel session with many people sharing observations about the day and asking questions about mind mapping and its many uses and applications in all sorts of fields.
An interesting observation about gender bias was raised and it appears that as many as three quarters of MindMeister users are male. Looking around the audience less than 20% of those attending were female.
An interesting conversation ensued and I certainly don’t want to even attempt to pass judgement, offer comments or even try to record that part of the discussions but there does seem to be a largely male bias to the users of mind mapping software. Perhaps that is a topic for a future post.
So overall this was an interesting and enlightening day that explored mind mapping, mind mapping software and the many uses of this powerful tool.
This was the inaugural BiggerPlate unplugged events and there are others planned around the world over the coming months. I expect as the next few months pass we will start to see more and more people take up this tool.
I think a critical mass has yet to be achieved but with the passionate encouragement of people like those in the room, we will soon see mind mapping being a feature in more schools more businesses and according to Jim Mather, more political environments.
So should you go to one of these events if you see them advertise locally to where you are?
Well at the moment in the early stages you will find that this is a meeting of minds of those who are passionate and experienced advocates of mind mapping. So if you want to be inspired and rub shoulders with people who could help you understand then use this then this is a good place to start but understand the next couple maybe more for those who already experienced practitioners of this powerful tool.
Nevertheless I expect great things from BiggerPlate because they are bringing together what to date has been probably a disparate group of people for the greater good.
In the future I think these events need to have more round table discussions amongst those who attend as well as more practical demonstrations and case studies of how this tool has been applied in a variety of settings and environments. However for a first event this was a really good start and I will certainly take every opportunity to attend more of these when I can.
So well done Liam and the BiggerPlate team and look forward to hearing of your successes at the future events.
Click here (right click and “save as”) to download my free report on the proceedings of the first BiggerPlate Mind Mapping Conference, that includes all of my Mind Maps taken on the day as well as a key summary of each session and some exclusive photographs from the event.