Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My favorite box

My favorite box is the plain box.  It has three great uses:
  • Brainstorming
  • Categorizing
  • When no other box will do
In bCisive (Online and desktop) and Rationale you can get an empty box by just double-clicking on the workspace.  This is great for brain-storming -- just getting ideas onto the workspace:

Brainstorming for this article

The next step is to bang them together into a basic structure:

Same ideas, with an initial organization

And then assign the boxes a type, and elaborate:

Same ideas, elaborated

Sometimes you have lots of related ideas, questions, whatever, and it is helpful to introduce categories to break things down.  The plain box can help.  For example: What was one option can easily become a elaborated into a number of variations.

The plain boxes group related options

Throwing in an plain box can be visually effective in giving a break from all the strong graphics.  This act of categorizing (also called abstracting) works well whether you are working top down or bottom up.  Top down you start with the original idea and then break down into several variations.  Bottom up, you start with a long list of ideas, and then cluster them when you notice which ones are related.

When no other box will do
Sometimes I get bogged down because I don't have the exact right box type for a particular idea.  In bCisive Online I can just change a heading (e.g. relabel a "Pro" as a "Reason"), but sometimes none of the images seem appropriate.

When no image fits, just use no image!  The plain box saves the day again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Video: Plan and write a great essay with Rationale

Along with free-form mapping to encourage the development of critical thinking skills, Rationale includes a nifty Essay Planner to help students learn how to plan and produce clear, well-written essays.

We've produced a 3-minute video showing the Essay Planner in action: (To watch it at full size, click Play and then click the title or the YouTube logo)

If you'd like to try it for yourself, download a free Rationale trial.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Customized methodologies

Visual thinking is probably most effective when using a suitable methodology as an aid to construction and communication. Simply said
Visual methodology = visual language + rules of thumb
For example, bCisive Online comes with the following set of boxes, which together making up its out-of-the-box visual language:

This set descends from the non-visual Issue-based information systems (IBIS) methodology, and is suitable for activities including Dialogue mapping when working in a group or facilitating a meeting, and Issue mapping when working solo.

A map using the default visual language

An example of another visual language / methodology is the set of boxes and templates that we designed for use with bSelling, based loosely on the non-visual Solution Selling methodology (and simplified a good deal):

This set is designed to help a salesperson understand the needs (pain points) of a prospective client, the cause of the pain, who else is affected, and what capabilities would help address each pain.  Here's an example of how visual thinking using this visual language can help lay out a picture of the prospect:

Diagnosing Customer pain with the bSelling visual language (click to enlarge)

So different visual languages work better for different purposes.

Rationale is mainly built around a visual language for argument mapping;  bCisive has several; with bCisive Online we plan to offer the possibility of organization-tailored visual languages plus templates.
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