How to use mind mapping for problem solving

Mind mapping is among the business analysis techniques that provides a visual representation of ideas, thoughts, problems… anything. It’s a great brainstorming tool for generating new ideas and exploring a problem.

There’s no real rules to using mind maps. You just enter your central idea, maybe it’s a requirement or a problem, and then start adding everything that comes to mind.

Mind maps are excellent in interviews and workshops, or as a personal thinking tool.

Here’s how to create a mind map…

Step 1 – Identify the central idea and add it to your mind map

Maybe you’ve been told to develop requirements for a new system. The business has stated “We need a new bug management system because we are getting too many product bugs reported back to us by our customers.” At this point it would be easy to assume that we should indeed investigate a new system or, exploring the issue closer, there may be other factors that could be resolved first.

I use the free software called FreeMind to create my mind maps. However, some requirements management tools, such as Sparx Enterprise Architect, also offer mind mapping functionality. You could also use Visio, Powerpoint or any tool that can draw circles and lines.

Step 2 – Identify the main areas that impact the problem

When you’ve added to the central concept to the mind map just start adding your ideas around it. To organise my thinking I use the six categories for describing a problem: strategy, service, process, applications, information and infrastructure. It helps to have some structure or starting point for generating ideas. The diagram below shows the “high level of product bugs” example with the six categories as a starting point for generating ideas.

Mind Mapping Technique for Problem Solving

Step 3 – Brainstorm things that impact each of the 6 categories

Around the central idea or, in this case, the central problem, I added six categories and then let loose on a few things that may be a contributing factor to the “high level of reported product bugs” problem. The ideas were written down as they were identified and in no particular order. Reordering and culling can come later.

The important thing is to continue generating ideas until all of the obvious ones are exhausted. This way the real thinking and creativity in exploring the problem can begin.

Mind Mapping Technique for Problem Solving

Mind maps are a powerful business analysis technique for brainstorming ideas and uncovering the root cause of problems.

As you can see in the example above, a lot of ideas were generated from a quick 20 minute session with a mind map. The new identified ideas could be used as central concepts for further analysis. For example, under the “process” category above, the issue identifying poor QA and release processes could be used as a central concept for further exploration. This is because maybe a new system is not required.

A review of current processes, some re-engineering, and re-configuration of the current system may shed better light on how well bugs are being managed and resolved before they are found by the customer. That way management can implement new strategies to reduce the level of report product bugs.

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