The Changing Channel

Using MindManager To Organize Client Projects

There's only one "thought-processor" tool that has helped me develop perhaps thousands of different kinds of projects.

How many times have you said, "Let me organize my thoughts." What do you use to do that? The same brain that got them disorganized in the first place? I think not.

When I started selling, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the number of people, opportunities, deals, products, meetings, promises and other adminis-trivia I had to keep track of. I tried all kinds of lists, day planners and other tools to help me keep track of this information, but none really worked.

One day a new software product-evaluation unit called ThinkTank showed up at our door, and my world changed. Here was a simple onscreen outlining tool that allowed me to enter all my stuff and then move it around to organize it. I created priority sections and moved my tasks among them. I developed proposal outlines and dramatically sped up the time it took to actually get a proposal out. Soon the company improved the product dramatically and renamed it Grandview.

And then it was gone.

I never found out what happened to the company, but after a while, with no support, I eventually stopped using the product. A decade or so passed.

One Sunday I was thumbing through The New York Times and came upon a story about a new product called MindManager from a San Francisco-based company named Mindjet. It sounded a lot like my beloved ThinkTank, so I signed up for the company's training. And my world changed again.

Leonardo da Vinci took notes by starting with a main concept in the middle of the page and working his way out, adding nodes for each major thought and then subnodes off those nodes, and illustrations where appropriate.

The maps MindManager creates look like da Vinci's notes on my computer screen. I could enter new ideas, grab them with the mouse and move them. Place them under other ideas. Copy them. Color them. Write notes behind them. I quickly found I was able to do more than outline proposals and articles. I could actually compose them completely in MindManager and juggle the sections as necessary to get the sequence down perfectly.

I could then send the content to Microsoft Word or PowerPoint for finishing. I could even present using built-in presentation tools. The product also interfaces with Microsoft Project and has built-in features for resource detailing and dependencies. Far more than an outliner, MindManager is truly a thought-processor that has helped me develop perhaps thousands of different kinds of projects.

[Click on image for larger view.]
MindManager in action.

Recently, I started using MindManager maps in a whole new way that I think many consultative channel partners will want to try.

I sat down with some clients to talk about a new project. Before we started, I connected to their projector and put a blank MindManager map up on the screen. In the core concept box in the middle of the screen I had written the name of the project. As we began to discuss the high-level objectives, I began entering them. To start a new topic I simply hit return and got a new box at the same high level. To put sub-headers under that, I hit the Insert button.

The clients could vividly see how the different thoughts and concepts we were discussing related to each other, and everyone quickly understood how to juggle things around to get closer to the real organization of our thoughts. Rather than a rambling, ongoing meeting of tangents and non sequiturs, we had a highly focused and incredibly productive meeting. When we were done everyone had a full grip on what the project was, what everybody's responsibilities were and how we were going to proceed. It was nothing short of amazing.

Time is the only thing we all want more of, but have the same fixed amount of. The holy grail of the channel has been to find a way to use time more productively. Making MindManager maps to organize my thoughts, projects and documents has allowed me to do that consistently. MindManager has changed my thinking. Perhaps it will change yours.

About the Author

Technologist, creator of compelling content, and senior "resultant" Howard M. Cohen has been in the information technology industry for more than four decades. He has held senior executive positions in many of the top channel partner organizations and he currently writes for and about IT and the IT channel.


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