In a product startup you may need to deal with lots of information about your own product features, your market, your competition, your competition’s product features, results of internal brainstorming sessions you may conduct or information about who you can partner with for various aspects of your business.
Mind-maps provide a great way of organizing all the information you gather or generate internally, and create documents or pictures that capture the relationships between them precisely. Most importantly, it can help convey the same concepts to your investors, co-founders, colleagues, employees and partners. It can help you organize mentally for your own use or convey a large amount of information to others in a short amount of time.
A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.
Typical ways you can use MindMaps in Product Startups:
- Analysis of the Market: How does the market you are looking at addressing organized? Mobile devices could be tablets, smartphones and feature phones. Tablets could be smaller or larger. Within each you could have iOS and Android Devices. Within Android devices you could have different versions supported by different devices, and so on. All of these branches could be captured effectively in a mind map.
- Product Ideas Generation – What are all the different product ideas you could consider initially and in an on-going basis. How are they organized with respect to the various products and versions that you are already producing or planning to produce?
- Generation and Organization of Product Feature Groups and Ideas – Very useful for product managers modeling existing feature groups and features, new features generated and where they might fit in.
- Analysis of the Competition: Competition in the market is not always straightforward. Competitors may offer products and services that may be in a related market, overlapping markets or completely unrelated markets. Competitors may be offering a service that may compete with your product. All these nuances can be captured effectively in branches off branches.
- Analysis of Pricing Models: If you considering different pricing models – One-time licensing vs Subscriptions, Annual or Monthly, etc., you could capture all the different variations in mind maps.
There might be plenty more uses for mindmaps once you get comfortable with what it does and how it can be used. Some of the Mind Mapping tools come up with ways of annotating each node with additional notes that can pop up once you hover over a node in the mind map with the mouse or a pointer. This can come in handy in naming each node with a short name and including more descriptions in the additional notes.
Mind mapping can come in very handy at the start-up stage even before you have a plan for your business. When you are doing your preliminary research or putting together your business plan later on. Or when you are already operating and your product management takes on a formal function!
There is a huge selection of Open Source and Commercial Mind Mapping Software that you can use – more details here in Wikipedia.
I have had very good luck with the Open Source version of FreeMind. It allows me to create mindmaps in their proprietary format and send them to others who have the same software (.mm format). For others who may not have FreeMind, I export the mind maps to PDF formats and send them along. You can check out downloading FreeMind available for various Operating Systems and playing with it here.
Here are a few examples of Mind Maps I created using Free Mind. These are PDF versions of two mind maps I created when I read two interesting books sometime ago:
A Picture is worth a Thousand Words! – Anonymous