Taking Sticky Notes to the Next Level, a.k.a. How to Give Structure to Complex, Fractured Ideas

18.11.2016

Sticky notes (or post-it notes) are heavily used in product development, especially in brainstorming and concept design. They serve nicely writing down new ideas and grouping them in meeting room situations. However, when the session ends, you either sit down and type in the ideas to a computer, or take a photo of the wall in the hope of doing it later. In the worst case you never get back to them.

More than a decade ago, I heard of mindmaps and ‘mind manager’ software, gave it a go, and I was immediately sold. What I noticed, was that this was exactly the thing that would provide the next level to the sticky notes. Mind manager is a very simple application organising texts into groups and further on to form a tree of thoughts. You don't actually need the software to create mindmaps, but having the dynamic properties available makes a big difference. Being able to temporarily hide the content of branches, allows you to concentrate on the big picture. Or on the other hand, you may start with writing down the outline, then fleshing out each branch, one at the time. I always have a ‘Miscellaneous’ branch available to capture any ideas on the fly without needing to worry about their final locations.

Don't get me wrong, mind manager doesn't do the creative thinking for you, but allows you to collect and organise your ideas on the fly. That alone is nothing short of a giant leap from the sticky notes. Not only is mind manager good for mindstorming and cracking larger problems, but I use it for almost anything; keeping a todo-list, sketching out new project plans, quotations, collecting random ideas to be sorted later etc.

There seems to be powerpoint people among us, also photoshop and, as scary as it may sound, even excel people. How about you? I'm a definite mindmap person myself. If you would like to make better use of your time, or would like to try another approach to tackling big problems, mind manager might be the perfect solution for you. FreeMind is a free, open-source mind manager downloadable from http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page . I've also used commercial ones, but I like this one equally much and it even runs on several operating systems.

This may not be the tool for you but it's definitely worth a try. Especially if you find your desk and the surrounding walls full of sticky notes that never ended up anywhere else ... but hey wait, why does my desk still look messy…?

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