Be mindful of Mind Maps..

Back from India, and right into an insane schedule at work!  Unfortunately uberblog has been neglected the last little while, but with a new look, and twitter account, I am coming forth with a renewed enthusiasm about posting interesting articles on photography, SAS, data visualization, and the occasional link to anti-money laundering articles and websites.

I want to take some time to talk about mind maps, they really have been popping up everywhere on the web, and I thought it would be a good topic to share with everyone!  So what are mind maps?  Most of the ones I’ve seen are essentially flow diagrams on steriods!    But seriously, a more elementary definition:  a mind map is a diagram that uses words, ideas, tasks, links, or other types of items around a central word.  Generally speaking mind maps are used to organize your ideas or concepts (that is to create, classify, organize, visualize, and structure ideas), and to explore more creative concepts before actually building something out. Although they look similar, the organization and concept differs from that of a process or flow chart.

[Credit: presents the 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective in a mind map]

So why on earth would you want to use a mind-map?  By organizing ideas graphically in a non-linear manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to planning organizational tasks.  Also, because you are working more visually, in a radial pattern, it forces you to NOT work within a traditional framework of grouping ideas and concepts by some sort of hierarchy.  This approach is both flexible and collaborative in making connections to different concepts and areas without working in a linear mode (a -> b -> c).

A really cool site is WikiMindMap,  by entering a topic in the search field at the top of the page, it will create a mind map for you by data mining the topic on wikipedia and linking all related topics (with links back to their wikipedia page) together in a clickable, collapsable graph.  Only one note on this, make sure you choose ‘’, as it will search and link all english pages, otherwise it defaults to your country wiki.  Here’s an image of one that I created on money laundering:

[Credit:  Freemind open source project, and Wikimindmap]

This really is a great way to get a quick overview of a subject, and organize your thoughts around a particular topic.

While I was doing research on mind maps for this post, I realized that using mind maps is a great way of creating a social network analysis or visualizing a situation where there might be several complex layers and links.   I was thinking on how this applies to my work in AML specifically, but when you think about it if you’re trying to organize ideas around developing a strategy of any sort this is a very good way to brainstorm out scenarios.  Even documenting risk models would be effective using something like this, if not unorthodox.

Traditionally these maps would be drawn by hand with a piece of paper and pencil, but as you can see we’re in the 21st century, and there really is some great software out there that can help you do mind mapping, and also bring in non-traditional items to your maps (attachments like images, webpages, articles, documents like pdf, word, excel).  I found some excellent programs for my iPad that have been getting a workout:

Further reading on mind maps, or related software:




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