Mindmapping Our Learning Processes (#18)

Let us compare the types presented in the previous blog post on “12 Types of Learning” with data from actual experiences. Below is a sample group mindmap resulting from a KM workshop I designed and facilitated at the Ambedkar Institute of Productivity in Chennai, India. This mindmap summarizes the answers of workshop participants to the question: “How do I learn?”


(While pressing “Ctrl”, left-click HERE to download the original image file; if you wish to receive image files of mindmap outputs from other workshop groups, please email me.)

The objectives of the workshop exercise were:

  • To illustrate the conversion of many (private, inaccessible) individual tacit knowledge into a single (public, accessible) group explicit knowledge, namely the mindmap;
  • To examine the various ways and patterns in how we learn;
  • To illustrate how a mindmapping software can facilitate thinking and deciding together;
  • To appreciate how our thoughts can be made visible for everyone to see and study.

The steps of the exercise are:

  • Individual writeshop begins by issuing each participant several metacards and a thick felt-tip pen (e.g. Pentel Pen). Metacards are thick paper or cards about 4 inches by 12 inches on which short phrases can be written down, and posted (using pieces of masking tape) on the whiteboard or wall for everyone to read.
  • Each participant writes down his or her answers to the question “How do I learn?” in the metacards. Only one idea or answer is written per card.
  • The participants submit the metacards to the facilitators who post them in front in related clusters.
  • Unclear answers are explained by the writer and rephrased. The participants examine the answers, suggest moving a metacard to another cluster, and combine or split clusters.
  • The participants decide what label best applies to each cluster.
  • The result is inputted in a mindmapping software (there are many commercial and open-source software available) and displayed using an LCD projector so everyone can observe how the mindmap is changed to suit their evolving consensus. The participants suggest rearrangements and repositioning of the clusters, branches and sub-branches. They also finalize the labels of the major branches. The mindmap evolves before their eyes to reflect their group decisions.
  • The group studies the result and discusses any pattern they see, insights and lessons that occur to them, further questions and finally comments and evaluations the entire process.
  • The final mindmap of “How Do We Learn?” is printed for each participant.

Some of the lessons and insights that frequently emerge are:

  1. Formal education is only one of numerous ways we learn.
  2. We learn by interacting with people, especially the experts in our field. Many answers are in this cluster. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of a Community of Practice.
  3. We learn by reading books, watching TV, surfing the Internet and listening to the radio. An application of this common modality is the web-based Video-Visual Manual such as that used by Toyota Motors in training its workers.
  4. We learn by doing, from practice and work experience and through experimentation, trial-and-error and even mistakes. Many answers fall under this cluster. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of Organizational Learning. The insight is a realization that we all learn while doing, but this learning is semi-conscious and inefficient unless we use systematic means such as various tools in Organizational Learning. I teach graduate-level KM at the University of the Philippines using Workplace Practicums that must be integrated into actual workplace processes and approved by the student’s boss.
  5. We learn by observing other people. This is one of the advantages of Demonstration-Mentoring over classroom-style instruction.
  6. We learn by reflection, analysis and self-study. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of After-Action Reviews or Lessons-Learned Sessions, where the review is directed at eliciting what works (=knowledge) and what does not work (=obverse knowledge).
  7. We learn if we want to, if we are Motivated.

In learning anything new, I recommend the following sequence (see my previous blog post on “D4- Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge and vice-versa”): reading or listening to a lecture, watching an expert demonstrate the skill, study under a mentor (if available), constant practice, compare notes with similar practitioners, reflective dialogue with similar practitioners, and more practice!

If you wish to read more about mind mapping, check out the books of Tony Buzan. After reading, do not forget to practice!

(Note that there are embedded links in this blog post. They show up as colored text. While pressing “Ctrl” click on any link to create a new tab to reach the websites pointed to.)

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One Response to “Mindmapping Our Learning Processes (#18)”

  1. Lavra Says:

    Thanks for this interesting article on mindmapping. I enjoyed the Tony Buzan’s books.
    I’ve tested conceptdraw on the advice of author and I am very impressed with it, as this helped me when I’ve started my new position. Big plus is the ability to export to MS Word, MS Project and Evernote.

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