Using Mind Maps for Knowledge Management
In this article, we’ll what a look at knowledge management. Actually more than just knowledge management – we’ll examine how knowledge is created, what it is, and how you can use it.
In these days of information overload, the compact way of representing ideas that is embodied in Mind Mapping is essential. You can summarize a huge amount of information in a very compact space.
From Data to Information
We are fed with a huge amount of data all the time, and we are pretty good at sorting through the incoming data and applying our understanding of the relationships between the different pieces of data and its meaning to us, so we can turn the data into information. In this process, we:
- distort, and
the data to fit our understanding of the world. The raw data is turned into something that is summarized, described and defined in terms that fit with the information we already know.
From Information to Knowledge
This massively reduces the amount of material we need to deal with, and also helps us process new data as it comes along, but still we are overwhelmed with the amount of information. We need to turn the information into knowledge, so we generalize the information and look for overall patterns that fit with our current knowledge. Knowledge allows us to have the concept of how things work, so we can develop strategies and methods that we know from experience will work. We will also be able to more easily process information because we know the patterns that we expect the information to fall into, and are able to recognize those patterns with new information.
From Knowledge to Wisdom and Understanding
Now if we purely operate from the level of Knowledge, we are able to implement strategies that are effective at dealing with issues, but we will not be very good at creativity or invention of new solutions.
So beyond knowledge there is what we can call Wisdom or Understanding. In order to go from knowledge to wisdom, we need to understand the principles behind the patterns we see, and the reasons that the strategies work. We recognize meta-patterns in the knowledge – patterns that define the patterns we observe. Once we recognize those reasons, it builds a framework of “truth” around our perception of reality, so we are able to form hypotheses as to what the principles are, and test them to form principles and archetypes that we can use to drive creativity, invention and coming up with new paradigms which either fit with the truth of our reality or challenge it in new ways. Having this framework of wisdom in place helps with good decision making, efficient processing of options, and creative thinking that stems from solid principles.
Between Overload and Boredom
We thrive on being at the edge between overload on the one side and boredom on the other side. If we have inefficient ways of dealing with data and turning it into information then we will have data overload problems, and if we have inefficient ways of turning information into knowledge, then we will have information overload. What most people term information overload is actually a combination of data overload and information overload. If we get overloaded by either data or information overload, we are likely to either withdraw from the information flow and adopt a “whatever” or “I don’t care” approach, or do some sort of more mundane task or work, or blob out in front of the TV, or distract ourselves from the actual task we should be doing. In one way or another, we either cut down our input or our processing of it to avoid the feeling of overwhelm.
On the other end of the scale, if we are not stimulated with enough data, or the data we are receiving already fits with what we already know in every way, we get bored, and sometimes do things that actually sabotage situations or relationships because subconsciously we have become bored.
As you can see, our typical reactions to overload are unhelpful because we get into stuck states and just give up completely, and our reactions to boredom are often unhelpful because we sabotage things just to make life interesting.
While it is possible to go through life with very few tools and strategies to be able to cope with overload or boredom, if you live your life like that, you are likely to be very unfulfilled and accomplish very little. On the other hand, when you use the right tools and techniques to be able to deal with increasing amounts of data, information and knowledge, you will enter a “flow” state where you are able to achieve massive amounts in a short space of time, and be able to be creative and a visionary. It will both make for massive personal growth and productivity, but will also allow you to feel in control of the situation, going with the information flow.
If you feel bored, and develop the skills to be aware of that situation before you artificially introduce drama, then you will go and seek out more stimulation – more data, more challenges to tackle, and you will get the immense satisfaction of dealing with the hard problems and conquering them.
When you are dealing with a lot of data and information at once, it’s like a pipe, and if that pipe gets blocked, then all the information and data piles up behind it and very soon you have an overload situation and everything shuts down and you start using your tactics to get rid of the incoming information, or ignore it, and the whole flow process stops and you stop learning, stop gathering knowledge, stop creating wisdom, and stop being creative. One of the most common causes of this happening is when you get stuck making a decision, but now you have an excellent tool to make decisions – organizing the options using Mind Maps helps you clarify and break down the problem and potential solutions and achieve clarity to be able to make and implement good decisions. You never need to feel that blockage again.
But the more subtle issue is if you have more data than you can handle going in to the pipe, and the pressure gradually builds up and builds up and you don’t know how to handle it, until it eventually explodes.
If the knowledge is inaccessible, or difficult to understand, then it is useless to you or whoever could benefit from it. When the knowledge is readily accessible and actually used in the decision making and problem solving processes, and creative green field thinking, then you have the sum of the knowledge and experience of everyone and every situation that contributed to that knowledge at your disposal to allow you to make the most of every situation.
Of course this is where Mind Mapping comes into play.
As you gather the data, you can put it into a Mind Map as keywords and short phrases representing each topic and subtopic. As you do so, you are naturally deleting, distorting and filtering the data to become information and to match with the knowledge and information you already have. This helps deal with data and information overload. As you arrange the Mind Map, you are starting to group the information so that the linkages between the ideas convey meaning. The organization is exactly the same as when information is organized in your brain. At this stage you are still operating mostly from a left brain logical perspective, but at the same time you are naturally creating an image that is attractive to your right brain too.
As you graft the topics and use the colors and topic shapes and images to indicate the commonality of ideas, you are building the understanding of the patterns within the information, and generalizing back to the root topics. This allows you to gain the level of overview of information that is necessary for it to be knowledge where you understand how it all fits together, and how your objectives are going to be met.
So you are automatically turning the data into information and the information into knowledge as you create and refine your Mind Maps. This knowledge consists not only of the keywords on the topics, but also the colors, positioning and connections the topics have, as well as the images, boundaries, task information, priorities, topic notes, attached files, and all your hyperlinks to other documents, web pages and resources. They all go to make up the sum of the knowledge contained in the Mind Map. The compactness and richness of this visual representation of the knowledge makes Mind Maps excellent knowledge management tools, so that when you (or somebody else) need the information, it is right there in an easily understood format, and with all the richness of the information and data behind it.
Having the knowledge represented graphically in this way is a great help in going the next step to wisdom and understanding where you get the picture of the principles and the underlying patterns in the knowledge, and can therefore propose archetypes and principles that can drive forward through a brainstorming process to new and innovative solutions.
Using Mind Maps in this way ensures that you can manage the volume of data, process it efficiently into information and package it up into knowledge without getting overloaded. This means you can move through wisdom to true creativity based on a solid foundation of understanding. To my knowledge, there is no other tool better suited to this process of creating and maintaining close to optimal performance than through Mind Mapping.