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8 Mar 2018

NBlog March 8 - brainstorming awareness ideas

At this early stage of the month, although we have some ideas in mind for the content of the next awareness module, they are unstructured. We need to clarify the scope and purpose of the module, developing themes to pull things together and 'tell the story'.

Mind mapping is our favourite technique for that: we sketch out the topic area on a single sheet starting from a central topic word ("Assurance" this month) and arranging a few major themes around it, connecting the words to show their relationships. 

On paper, it starts out simply like this with 3 key themes:

Then we expand on those initial themes with further details ...

... and keep going until we run short of inspiration and decide to move ahead to the next stage ...

On paper, with my handwriting, the rough diagram is quite scrappy but that's something we can work on later, normally by redrawing the mind map in Microsoft Visio. In Visio, it will be easy to amend or adjust things, for example rewording the nodes, moving and linking them, changing their sizes and using colour. The whole thing will end up looking neat and tidy - literally presentable in fact as we use mind maps in the seminar slide decks and briefing papers. At this stage, though, we are much more interested in the themes, concepts and linkages than the appearance. The roughness is strangely stimulating.

Stepping back from the page, we clearly have quite a bit of stuff to say top right concerning "Proof" with less under "Confidence" and "Trust". Maybe that's just how it is, or maybe we need to do something, perhaps splitting up "Proof" into distinct (but linked) themes, and exploring the other aspects further. The purpose or reason for gaining assurance, for instance, is implied by the main themes but it might be worth drawing out explicitly. Why is assurance necessary? What makes it valuable? What does it give us (or what issues does its absence cause)? Who needs it, when and how? 

Those thoughts and questions emerged with and from the diagram - the creative process in action.

Something equally magical happened as the mind map sprung to life on the page. Using "Analysis" to link "Proof" with "Confidence" triggered the thought of examining the process of gaining assurance, hence we scribbled "Process" in the handy space below trust ... but in fact the process relates to all parts of the diagram. It might even be a fourth key theme, or a separate layer.

In this particular example, I've only used words and lines. Sometimes it helps to draw little pictures, icons and doodles usually, reminders of thoughts that occurred as the diagram was being created. A simple example is to add stars and underlines to emphasize key elements. The double-headed arrow between "Certainty" and "Doubt" reminds me to think about degrees and confidence limits, and metrics. Oh and the philosophers in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Regardless of when it gets translated into Visio, I'll keep the original rough diagram beside me on the desk for the hours and days ahead in case I think of something else, or to reorient my mind if (when!) I meander too far or get lost in the weeds.

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