Increasingly teams are required to become more and more cross functional. The success of your business depends on the ability to stay nimble and adapt on the fly which means the number of decisions entrepreneurs make have increased and the margin for error has reduced.
For any sustained success, the quality of your decisions is highly dependent on the quality of the information available. Prioritising, sorting and having ready access to that information is key to making seamless business decisions.
Which means in this fast changing world where data is king, you need better systems to process, analyse and interpret it so that you find the shortest route between data, information and knowledge.
Seeing is Believing
Our brain has evolved to process visuals, so transforming information into easy-to-understand visuals allows for better comprehension and more and more businesses are using visualization tools as a platform for better decision making.
A concept map is a graphical tool that visually represents relationships between concepts, ideas, and data. A concept map is arranged in a hierarchical structure where the more general and inclusive information is given more prominence making it easier to draw connections and create associations.
Concept maps take visualization one step further and not only present information but show how they are related to one another.
They create a framework for visualising big, cross-functional ideas using boxes and connecting lines connect ideas or data and show their relationship to each other. In a concept map, each piece of information is represented in a node. The branches that connect two nodes are called cross-links. Cross-links have words that explain the relationship between connections.
Incorporating concept maps into business decisions can have many benefits including:
Increased speed: Concept maps can derive actionable insights from a large amount of information. The way concept maps are created allows you to easily see the relationship between information and better estimate the effect each decision will have. It is a great time saver for allocating resources, shifting priorities and identifying problem areas.
Improved accuracy: A concept map allows for the reduction in assumptions and personal biases while making decisions. While raw data provides decision makers with all the relevant information, it’s not always presented in the most consumable form. Concept maps showcase information in the same way the brain likes to think. By understanding relationships, it’s easier to see the impact on various factors. This eliminates the need for guess work or ‘gut-feelings.’
Simplified communication: Built into concept maps are cross-links that convey information about decisions and processes. Once a decision is made, it can be easily represented on the map which allows all stakeholders to easily get on the same page.
Collaboration promotion: Since the information and ideas are represented in a centralised location, various parties can easily access it. This allows teams from various departments of the business to get more context and a better understanding of decisions and the relevant information involved. They can then provide better suggestions, comments and feedback which facilitates healthy dialogue and leads to more informed, inclusive decisions.
How to Best Use Concept Maps in Your Business
Knowledge management: Concept maps are great for creating, sharing and managing all the information of an organisation. They provide a centralised resource where employees can not only access information but also comprehend it better and see how it relates to other processes. It helps to visualise everything from organisational structures to HR processes and can greatly streamline an enterprise.
Market Research: Concept maps can be used in the process of discovery where new information is constantly arising. A concept map allows you to connect two pieces of information, explains how they are related to each other and easily depicts its cause and effects. It easily allows you to list down findings in a meaningful way and because of its ability to link various concepts together it can lead to greater lateral thinking and better insight.
Brainstorming: Unlike mind maps which are more of a free form listing of ideas as they appear, concept maps help to crystalise thought and force teams to organise information more clearly. Concept maps can link ideas with greater reach and impact to more effectively arrive at actionable decisions.
Planning presentations: Concept maps can even be very useful while presenting information or ideas. They allow you to path a logical flow and create a more concise argument. What’s great about concept maps is that you can plan a presentation in an effective manner, creating an almost blueprint-like structure.
How to Create an Effective Concept Map
Concept maps are organized according to a hierarchical structure and are easier to read. Since the most general concepts go at the top and the more specific ones below, they can easily be read from top to bottom.
Keep a Single Root Concept
Concept maps are designed to give you clarity of thought. So it helps to have a well defined root. A single root helps to easily identify how concepts are constructed and helps you and others follow along easily.
Clear Focus Question
A clear focus question defines the issue or problem that the concept map aims to solve. The narrower the question the more targeted the resulting concept map will be. Try and be specific about the aim of the concept map and use specific language to define it.
Link to Resources
If you are drawing your concept maps with concept mapping software, you have the ability to make it more resourceful. When mentioning concepts, you can add active links to your concept maps allowing the reader to study the idea more thoroughly. Using software like Cretely makes it super easy to make your concept maps rich and filled with all the useful information you need to make efficient, informed decisions.