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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Folan

Getting Yourself Clear

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Weeding Through a Headful of Ideas, Then Moving the Best Ones Forward


There’s something smart about putting all of your ideas on the table…on emptying your head with all your good thinking.  Sometimes the best ideas surface quickly and allow you to move forward.  Unfortunately, other times, they can clog up your thinking and leave you feeling stuck.  The same thing can happen for teams.  “How do we get our arms around this and make the right call?”  Complicating things further, teams can end up spinning their tires trying to get out of the mud.  They can even completely lose sight of the initial important conversation they were trying to solve for.  Lots of time and lots of energy gets wasted when teams unintentionally make things more complex and cumbersome, as opposed to simplifying the conversation.  Here’s a tool that can help you move “from stuck to unstuck”.

Mind-Mapping is a quick, easy way to move a lot of seemingly monotonous data into a clear, well-organized visual that actually reflects the brain’s natural way of processing and getting things done.  Through free association, you populate all of the key elements of a situation or a system, then connect the dots where sequencing and dependencies exist.  You’re able to see the steps that can be combined.  You’re able to see redundancies.  You’re able to untangle what appears to be messy, then make it clean and clear.

Getting to it

Here’s how to get started.  A Mind Map begins with a “core” where you write down the overarching topic or question you want to consider.  From there, the map evolves like a “pebble in a pond”.  The first ring beyond the core gets populated with “big ideas” or concepts associated with the topic.  Supporting ideas follow in the next ring.  You’re beginning to create the major routes of a map.  Along the major routes you can now add key tasks, decisions, and processes that need to take place to achieve your desired results at the core.

One principle to good Mind-Mapping is to move quickly.  This is a rapid-fire process to paint a quick picture of an entire system.  It can be ragged and messy.  While it doesn’t always come naturally to leaders, it happens best when leaders can let their brains “wander around” a topic, not concerning themselves with too much order or exactness.  That will emerge later, once people create the map and have a chance to step back and examine it.  Don’t slow down or dilute the impact of Mind-Mapping by stopping during the process to try and solve for individual pieces.  Paint with all the colors first.

From there, teams can answer some questions.  “What’s most important here?”  “What are the first best next steps we should take?”  “Who can take pieces and run with them, at the same time taking care to stay aligned with our overall objective?”  “How do we create the right momentum to move the pieces and keep them in sync with each other to optimize the whole team’s efforts?”

With a Mind Map in place, the most important elements will be easier to see.  The small stuff won’t take on more importance than needed.  Priorities will become clearer.  Resource requirements can be more sharply defined.  Better weighting of work will create better balance.  Intended impacts will be realized and desired results will be achieved.


Betsy is the SVP, Organizational +Executive Development at pro-voke.

You can reach her at

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