I did some work recently with an audience that was a mix of military and civilian personnel at one of those places that had lots of high barbed wire fencing around it with gun carrying sentries at the gate.
I had managed to secure this work because of my own military background which also included several years working alongside the Civil Service. There are a number of benefits of this – first of all I understand the sort of environment these people work in and under and secondly I can personally relate to these people because I used to be one of them.
It always tickles me when I arrive at a military establishment and have to go through the rather lengthy (and of course very necessary) security checks. Gone are the days when I could have waived my I.D. card at the sentry and just saunter through the main gate. Of course I don’t miss it but I do occasionally get a little nostalgic.
I have no regrets about leaving the military but it is amazing how a shift in circumstances can alter your perspective a little. When I was in the “mob” we used to look at civilians with a sort of superior military disdain and think that they were odd and that if they just knew what we knew then they might appreciate the world a little differently.
Of course now I am a “civvie” and have been for over 8 years now I look at military personnel with a sort of superior civilian disdain and think that they are a little odd (but at least I know why) and that if they knew what we knew then they might appreciate the world a little differently.
Anyway, I digress.
Mind Maps As Efficient Tools
So I was working with this group of people, readjusting my ways to accommodate their unique view of the world, teaching them how to deal with information more effectively. Of course one of the really powerful tools that helps with that is Mind Mapping.
On the face of it, it is a really simple tool – create a central image, draw some main branches, add some smaller branches, use key words, colour and pictures. Yes it is simple but like so many powerful and influential devices it takes minutes to learn but a lifetime to understand, appreciate, harness and ultimately master as a thinking tool to support whatever it is you do.
I taught my group the skill of Mind Mapping, got them to appreciate and understand the benefits of the tool and then unleashed them onto a series of exercises and activities carefully designed to develop their ability.
To say that they loved it was an understatement. Typically in the group there were people who had never seen the Mind Map before and at the other end of the spectrum there were also people who used Mind Mapping regularly (or at least thought they did). I always enjoy seeing the realisation of the Mind Map’s awesome power and potential dawn on the faces of newbies and experienced users alike and this course was no exception.
I discovered later that Simon, a senior NCO on the course who was initially sceptical (often the default mindset for military people – it is a safety mechanism) was so impressed with the Mind Map once he “got it” that he went home and shared his new found knowledge and enthusiasm with his 15 year old son.
Well at least he tried to because I understand that there was a classic “duh” get with it Dad moment from his son as he pulled out an array of Mind Maps that he was already using in his English lessons at school and had been for at least a year.
Mind Mapping With The Family
What I find remarkable about this is that doing a Mind Map is not something you can hide quite easily and for his son to have been using them for that long and his father not notice says volumes about the relationship they had. I say “had” because for the first time Father and Son suddenly had a common interest albeit in the form of a colourful diagram with keywords and pictures on it.
It has been a few weeks now since this happened but I understand that the pair of them used to have a difficult relationship. Father in the military, away quite a lot, teenage boy growing up in that difficult phase for young males – all factors which created difficulties for them both.
Now the Mind Map didn’t solve their problems but what it did was create a catalyst for a new phase in their relationship. Communication at the level of peers instead of the parent child level that hadn’t shifted as the son matured. Now they had something in common that they could talk about on an equal footing and for the first time Simon could show a genuine interest in his son’s school work that went beyond criticising him for the stuff he didn’t do so well at.
I believe Simon and his son have been talking like they have never talked before and their relationship is becoming more harmonious. However I also discovered that Alpha Male rivalry between the two of them has stimulated a race to be the best Mind Mapper(boys will be boys). But I suppose if they both benefit from it then alls well that ends well.