Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Often the number of factors you need to deal with when making difficult decisions can leave you bogged down and feeling overwhelmed and helpless. What you need is a structured way of getting all the issues out there, uncovering and designing all the options, and a system for choosing the best options to pursue.

This video will give you power tools to be able to make even the toughest of decisions with confidence using Mind Mapping techniques. Watch the video now at :

The first step is to brainstorm the potential directions very much like what we talked about in the problem solving video, but once you have the decisions outlined, there are some techniques that come in very useful for exploring the potential decisions in detail, and also techniques for deciding which option to choose, and assessing the impact of any decision.

The supporting Mind Map for this article and video is available on NovaMind Connect.

We will talk about how to use Edward DeBono’s six thinking hats to examine the possibilities from six different perspectives. For each perspective, you put on an imaginary hat that only allows you to think from that perspective. We show you the structure of this in a Mind Map made using the six thinking hats method. White represents information needs and gaps; the red hat is where you put forward intuitive ideas without needing to justify them; black is where you are judging the ideas harshly and exercising caution; yellow is logical reasons why this will work; green is alternatives and proposals; and blue is the big picture. You can read the full details in Edward’s book called “Six thinking hats”.

Next is PMI, where you consider a concept from the point of view of positive or Plus aspects, negative or Minus aspects, and Interesting things about the proposal - things that are neither positive or negative, but instead have some interesting aspects to them. This is a slight variation on the listing of advantages and disadvantages which was propounded by Plato and Benjamin Franklin.

One really useful way to use this is by creating a Mind Map where the first level branches are each person or group affected by the decision, and their PMI reaction to the option you are considering. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they would feel about it, or survey them to find out for sure.

Another thing that you can factor in to the assessment is what is called a force field analysis, where you put the proposed change in the middle of a Mind Map, and on the left you have the forces for change, and on the right you have the forces against change. This is again a variation on the advantages and disadvantages lists, but is specifically directed at the environment of the problem.

These techniques allow you to generate different options and explore the potential decisions thoroughly, but what about actually making the decision?

Actually you are likely to find that the thorough exploration of the options makes the decision easy, but assuming it’s a difficult problem you still need to have tools to be able to choose the best option.

Often you need to narrow the list of options down, and you can do this by using the Pareto principle which in this context means that 80% of the benefits come from changes to 20% of the factors. This can be really helpful if you have a lot of options which could feasibly be implemented. To use this system, rank each of the options, and choose the top 20% of the options to implement. You can do this using the priority markers if you are using the Platinum edition of NovaMind. Otherwise, you can just number or color code or arrange the branches to indicate the ranking.

Say you were trying to increase sales of your products and you had listed a number of things you could do to increase the number of leads, increase the conversion ratio, increase the average sale, increase the number of transactions and increase the margins. Now you rank the options, and start by implementing the top 20% of the items, and it is likely that you will increase your sales 80% as much as if you had just blindly implemented all the options, and at a much lower cost and amount of effort.

A refinement on this method is to also include a cost benefit analysis in your assessment of the options. You can create a branch for the costs and another for the benefits, and if there are other things you need to consider like short term and long term impacts, and risk factors, these can be added in to the assessment. In order to make it more objective, it can be useful to have things like the assessed probability of success, overall benefit, risk factors, and preferences used as factors in a formula to give a better rating to each option.

But what if you have a number of options that still look good and you need to choose one to implement? You need a technique for selecting the best option.

Start a new mind map with the decision you need to make in the title, and for each solution or option, create a first level branch. In some cases the result will be an outcome, and in some cases it will be another decision that needs to be made. If the result of making a decision is that you need to make another decision, then add the options for that decision as child branches, and continue until you get to every branch representing a decision producing an outcome. In the video we use an example Mind Map where, we have a decision as to whether to do advertising or start an affiliate program, and the decision to do advertising leads to another decision as to whether to use Internet or Print advertising.

For each possible type of outcome, add a child branch. In most cases, just two or three outcomes will do, to indicate either success or failure, or optimistic, neutral, and pessimistic outcomes.

Now for each of the possible outcomes, give it a value which makes sense within the domain. In the case of a monetary benefit, like increasing sales, it will be dollars, but in other areas, you might have to assign arbitrary values to the relative value of that outcome. Next, assign a probability to each of the possible outcomes, representing the likelihood of that outcome happening, so that the total adds up to 1.0. For each option, multiply the likelihood by the value, and add them all together at that level. This is the value of making that decision. Now subtract the cost of implementing that decision, and you are left with the beneficial value of that decision. Choose the largest net benefit to implement. In this case, clearly creating an affiliate program is the best thing to do.

This is of course easier to understand when you see it in the video.

This works well if you have the factors reasonably well defined, but if there are complex subjective elements to the decision, you will need to use what is called a priority vector as a multiplier for each category. This is basically a way of weighting the factors that are more important in your decision. To work out the priority vector, we need to briefly switch over to a spreadsheet and add a row and a column for each category you are assessing, then for each square in the matrix, assign it a value according to these options:

  • Equal importance => 1
  • Somewhat more important or better => 3
  • Definitely more important or better => 5
  • Much more important or better => 7
  • Very much more important or better => 9

…and if it is less important, then use the reciprocal value, for instance if it is definitely less important then you would use the value 1/5. Of course when something is compared to itself it is the same, so the values are always 1.

The video example shows how to calculate the weighting for each thing that has a subjective weighting, and then apply that to the actual values for each option that is being considered, as well as combining the weighting with the beneficial value of each option.

This turns the uncertainties and subjective assessments into a formula that can be applied to give a decision that reflects all the relevant facts, probabilities of success, and the more subjective inputs, giving you a definitive decision that you can use with confidence.

These mind mapping techniques take you from the tools to find options, to simple decisions and right through to giving you top of the line tools for making very tough decisions that rely on both hard facts and more subjective factors. When you use mind maps in this way, they become very powerful tools for visualizing the options and making fantastic decisions.

About Mind Mapping

Mind Maps are diagrams that work the way people think -- they organize the information in the same way our brains organize information. They make it easy to understand, remember, and communicate complex information.

Our brains like thinking in pictures. The smooth curves and colorful pictures used in Mind Mapping create powerful images for your brain to remember.

Mind Maps cater to both logical left brain thinking and pictorial right brain thinking at the same time, which makes them a very good way of storing and recalling information, presenting things to other people, and brainstorming new ideas.

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NovaMind Mind Mapping Software

About NovaMind

NovaMind has been the top Mind Mapping program available on Mac computers for the last 6 years, and has been available for Windows for over two years. It is rapidly gaining recognition for its many unique and innovative features and ease of use. NovaMind makes Mind Mapping intuitive and fun.

For more information about NovaMind, please visit or e-mail Gideon King at gideon(at)

Gideon King
P: 07 3806 3038


This video will give you power tools to be able to make even the toughest of decisions with confidence using Mind Mapping techniques.


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