Mindmapping is a visual way of representing information simply. Rather than lists of words, or pages of information that can be difficult for the brain to process and retain, mindmaps use key words, numbers, pictures and colours to express thoughts, ideas and information.
The basic concept has existed for centuries but the writer and educational consultant Tony Buzan is credited with formalising the use of mindmapping in the late 1960s. Since then, various books have been written on the subject and software has been developed that has transformed mindmapping into a business and project management tool, not just an educational technique.
Mindmapping for business
Provest Financial Management senior life and financial planner Kevin Chalk has been using mindmapping since 1998. He likens it to a directory system or the way Windows is set up on a computer, with a desktop folder comprising other folders that may contain related folders that ultimately contain files. “A mindmap is a visual representation of the hierarchy of that structure,” he says.
One area mindmapping comes in useful for Chalk is in summarising the key issues and implications of things such as Budgets and Autumn Statements. “The headers will be the main things like the Isa allowance and I add to this as the detail emerges. It’s a visual reference point,” he says.
“I know a lot of advisers are interested in mindmapping. Some have integrated it into the way they run their business, some use it for clients, some use it internally as a training tool rather than having to provide a training manual.”
Paraplan Plus founder Richard Allum – the first paraplanner elected on the board of the Institute of Financial Planning – also uses mindmapping. “I have used it for 15 years and use it extensively: for financial planning, business strategy, everything,” he says. “If I can see a picture of something, that triggers associated things. But it’s like Marmite, people either love it or they think it’s mad.”
Mindmapping with clients
“Over the last few years some advisers have recognised that some of their clients like mindmapping,” says Allum. ”Financial planning and paraplanning are about taking complex ideas and making them simple; that is what mind mapping does.”
Chalk points out clients can easily suffer from information overload.
“The FCA says advice can be succinct but consider this: I use an investment proposition that contains 15 funds and every fund has to have a key investor information document, so that client has 30 pages of information. I have to give it to them; I can’t dodge that. But with a mindmap I could give them the ability to see all the pages at the same time,” he says.
“What’s touched upon is always visible. You can move around it, go into the details, close the details. It tells a story that is coherent and memorable to the client.”
“There is a lot of mindmapping software out there,” says Chalk. ”I use Mindjet, which is not cheap but it does a lot more than mindmapping – it also does project planning. However, there are plenty of maps available free of charge,” he says.
Allum says: “Mindmapping software has developed over the last 10 years. It can help you expand mindmaps and fly around them to show clients where they are now, where they want to be, any threats or opportunities along the way, the recommendations you make.”
But you do not need software with a bit of imagination.
“A mindmap is just a blank piece of paper and coloured pens. It is important to have pictures and as few words as possible,” he adds.
However, mindmapping is not for everyone.
“About a third of people are visual but some are linear and they prefer lists and straight lines. Others, meanwhile, are auditory. A possible downside is that if you are a great fan on mindmaps and you use them with a client who is linear, they will run screaming through the door. You have to be a bit careful and you have got to understand people,” he says.
Chalk disagrees. “My view is that mindmaps work well with everyone, particularly older people as they don’t want to deal with reams of information. They prefer to see the big picture,” he says.
But Chalk does feel mindmapping only works in a large format. In his view, using an iPhone or iPad will not work. “I print out two large A3 maps in colour at the end of client meetings. It also works as a live experience. I have a 24-inch screen and a 27-inch screen, which clients can see live. They can point to the areas where things have changed and say ’can we talk about this?’”
While he concedes it can be time consuming for advisers at first, Chalk insists mindmapping will be worth the perserverance. “It needs a small investment in time to get access to all the information in the future but once you’ve done that it’s a huge timesaver later on.”