Agony Aunt

Aunt Sally answers your tough questions about mind mapping softwareAunt Sally answers your awkward questions about mind mapping software

Tough love from Aunt Sally. She understands that you might not share her views.


Dear Aunt Sally,
I can’t print out my magnificent 750-branch map.

Dear Simon,
Well, don’t. Your software is trying to tell you something. Your desire to print out a big map is a symptom of a problem with its design, not a solution to working with it. You would be better off spending your afternoon on making it smaller rather than spending it on your knees, trying to line up fifteen sheets with sticky tape.  If you do succeed in printing it, you will probably find that most of it is empty space anyway.

Dear Aunt Sally,
People exchange glances when I start using creative and colourful mind maps at work. Why don’t they understand?

Dear David,
Make yourself comfortable – I have sobering news for you. You work with successful, influential, knowledgeable and skilled people. Their opinions are worth listening to and learning from. Some of them think mind mapping is for children. They expect you to have done your homework beforehand, to work with them on their level, and to share things that are designed to be shared. They are not wrong, and you are not wrong – it’s a matter of preference and business culture, not education or enlightenment. In this situation you should focus on sharing results, not methods.

Dear Aunt Sally,
Everyone is an expert these days. Who can I trust?

Dear Bob,
Tell me about it.

Dear Aunt Sally,
People tell me to be more imaginative and visually exciting with my maps, but I like them how they are.

Dear William,
You are right to choose a style that helps you and others focus on meaning rather than distract from it. There are situations where emotionally rich mind maps work perfectly, but there are also situations where they are an Important Mistake. You already know this. To adapt to different situations, you need a range of techniques. Next time it happens, remind them that de Bono described Six Thinking Hats, not One Thinking Hat.

Dear Aunt Sally,
I have been browsing through the maps on the gallery sites. How do I know what is good and what isn’t?

Dear Emily,
It’s not a question of  “better” or “worse”. A map might be loved by one person and detested by another, but if their judgements are based on different characteristics, then both can be right at the same time. Many of the maps on the gallery sites are judged on their performance as infographics – their visual impact takes precedence over the message they contain and how it is structured. Infographics catch the eye. Visualisation communicates meaning. There is a difference, and it’s important.

Dear Aunt Sally,
I have been given some mind mapping software because my boss thinks it will solve world hunger, but I don’t really know what he expects me to do with it.

Dear Sarah,
It is such a shame to hear this story, but you are not alone. We can all be forgiven for assuming that the widespread availability of software must mean that there is also a well-known framework for using it effectively in a business setting. But beyond personal or small-group mind mapping, consensus is scarce. Your boss had the right intentions in providing the tool, but getting everyone aligned around productive collaboration techniques does not happen by itself. Harport Consulting is your friend here. Talk to us.

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