Problem Solving and Mind Mapping Software

September 28, 2006

Handwriting vs. word processing software, handmade mind maps vs. mind mapping software – in both cases there’s a similar tradeoff between creative craft and computer aided efficiency, versatility and tidiness.
It stands to reason that mind mapping software will become more important in the future.

Here are some ideas on how to use mind mapping software for solving problems.
The examples are done with FreeMind, a free, open source mapping tool. (Here is FreeMind’s homepage.)

  • Use templates:
    Start problem solving not with an empty map, but with a problem solving template. This template works as a scaffolding for the entire process of problem solving.
    Here is an example:
    problem-ideal.jpeg
    Here are some explanations:
    IDEAL stands for
    Identify the problem and explain how it can be an opportunity.
    Define at least three different goals for your problem-solving task.
    Explore possible strategies and new information that can help you accomplish each of the important goals listed above.
    Anticipate the outcomes of different strategies to help you decide which ones you will act on.
    Look back and learn.
    (This strategy is taken from the book “The IDEAL Problem Solver” by John D. Bransford and Barry S. Stein.)
  • Use tool maps:
    Prepare a mind map with useful tools for problem solving.
    During problem solving, you can swap (with CTRL + left / right arrow) between the problem map with the actual problem and the tool map which provides strategies, inspiration, warnings or hints.
    Prepare tool maps relevant for your area of work – e.g. tools for text analysis, critical thinking, math…
    Here is an easy example of a tool map.
    Problem Solving Tools Mind Map
    Wikipedia article on morphological analysis.
    The SCAMPER mnemomic is taken from Ron Hale-Evan’s “Mind Performance Hacks”, was developed by Bob Eberle and first published in Michael Michalko’s “Thinkertoys”.
  • Use colours for “goal management”:
    It’s rather easy to get sidetracked while working on a problem.
    To prevent this, highlight the important goals and subgoals in your problem map.
    From time to time, check these highlighted items and see if you have actually reached these goals – or why not.

Problem Solving Templates and Mind Maps

September 13, 2006

Here are two general problem solving strategies.
They both can be remembered by simple keywords – “IDEAL” or “ABCDE”.

IDEAL
Identify the problem and explain how it can be an opportunity.
Define at least three different goals for your problem-solving task.
Explore possible strategies and new information that can help you accomplish each of the important goals listed above.
Anticipate the outcomes of different strategies to help you decide which ones you will act on.
Look back and learn.
(This strategy is taken from the book “The IDEAL Problem Solver” by John D. Bransford and Barry S. Stein.)

ABCDE
Assessment – clearly stating the problem itself.
Brainstorming – for possible solutions.
Consequences – evaluate the likely consequences of putting your ideas into practice.
Do List – break your best strategy down into a logical list of steps to do.
Evaluation – did the process work?
(This strategy is taken from the book “Succesful Problem Solving” by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning.)

These strategies can be used in mind maps to get effective problem solving templates. The branches are to be read clockwise.

problem-ideal.jpeg