Utilizing Mind Mapping to Encourage Design Thinking

Written by Vanessa Rombaut

Business innovation is much more than investing in a new SaaS, hiring edgy employees or toying with new ideas. It is a deep, long-term project that produces structural changes within your company. At its heart, innovation is about changes observed through the passage of time. And if you’ve ever dove head first into an innovation project you’ve probably discovered that while business innovation is exhilarating, it is also difficult. Generating new ideas requires tools, process exploration, the ability to condense big data into insights and a plan for action.

Design Thinking is an innovation tool that allows you to delve deep into your stakeholder’s world and offer them products or services that they don’t even know they want or need. But to get to that stage you need to lay the groundwork.

Mind Mapping for Deep Insight

I start the Design Thinking process by assessing what is — who the customers are, what they think of the product or service prototypes, and what resources there are for further development. This exploratory stage helps identify data that needs to be translated into useful insights to help fuel the business. Mind mapping is a tool that helps distill a huge amount of data into information and insights to be easily communicated. It’s a great alternative to PowerPoints, spreadsheets and charts.

Design Thinking mind mapping captures and represents the minds of the customer. This means you need to enlist your customers help to truly gain deep insights. If you want to get the best results, all stakeholders need to be involved in the mind mapping process — this includes colleagues (you need them on the same page about the challenge the company is facing). Mind mapping creates meaningful data and allows patterns to emerge that might otherwise be missed.

Mind Mapping Exercise

  • Create a place for interaction
    Invite customers and stakeholders to interact with your product or service and give feedback. Find a comfortable space and aim for at least 10–50 customers and stakeholders to participate — this will ensure that there is enough useable data.
  • Encourage ideation
    Equip each participant with paper, pens and sticky notes. As they interact with the product and service ask them to highlight what they think is good about it, what could be improved and any new ideas they might have. Remind them that no idea is a bad idea — sometimes the best ideas are initially the least obvious. Allow roughly 30 minutes for the note taking stage.
  • Organize the data
    Once the note taking is complete, it’s time to workshop. Split the group up into 5–6 participants per table. Before inviting them to share, have them group their ideas into clustered themes. Then have one participant present the theme, for example “Productivity”. After that, have another participant add any sticky notes that fit under the theme. It’s crucial not to ignore additional outlying ideas at this stage, simply group them together.
  • Turning ideas into insights
    Challenge participants to come up with an insight statement — a few words that turn what is implied by their thematic observations into a genuine insight. A good way to get started is to start asking “So what?”. Participants might need to be asked this several times until an insight is uncovered. Once it is revealed, write the insight statement down on a stick note and put it at the top of the theme.

The mind map is now complete; you’ve made the switch from what is to what if in the design thinking process — which are the conditions that design solutions must satisfy to solve customer problems.

I’m always interested to hear about the ways businesses are using Design Thinking for Business Innovation–let’s discuss on Twitter.

Originally posted on the Bulldog Drummond Blog.

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