I grew up with more curiosities and interests than I could handle. As a child, I used to sew and design clothes. I always had multiple projects lying on my sewing room floor.
Before long, I realized that my curiosity had brought a level of confusion. I was planning my next projects before I finished the current ones. Colleagues and friends would periodically tell me that I needed to focus. I thought I was focusing; I was just focusing on many things at the same time.
This is the backdrop of my life -- the wallpaper of my mind -- and the force that has led me to where I am today. I am the proud owner of a successful, 30-years-young business,Benchmark Communications Inc., that provides consulting services, executive coaching and thought leadership services to high-powered leaders, teams and organizations globally.
One day I might be formulating a road map and processes with a Fortune 500 client that wants to transform its product-centric business to a customer-centric business. The next day I might be working with three executive coaching clients, successors to the CEO, who need grooming. What I work on changes as frequently as my interests, and I would not have been able to work at this pace or with this level of complexity without the "mind mapping" techniques I learned long ago.
Seeing the World in a New Way
Early in my career, I was asked to review a new book calledMind Mapping by Tony Buzan. Buzan's work changed my life. It gave me the techniques to start to think differently not only about how to manage my own mind but also how to teach others to manage their thoughts and ideas.
Mind mapping is a visual approach to thinking. It is visually organizing information around a central idea, then adding branches of related details (ideas, notes, images, tasks, hyperlinks and attachments) to flesh out the idea. You end up with a big picture clearly before you, and branches for tracking all the details.
What is so exciting about mind mapping is that its framework offers a way to think both analytically and creatively at the same time. A common analytical framework is to organize material around big ideas and sub-ideas -- big concepts and then bulleted sub-topics. Yet for people who have creative minds, it's very difficult to think in a linear fashion. Creative minds make links that others don't think of or see right away. Having the freedom to create links that don't follow any type of logical order -- and to do it visually -- is at the heart of the mind-mapping approach.
When working out a plan of action, or trying to understand complex concepts and processes, my clients and I found that drawing ideas in visual maps or "mind maps" facilitated our conversations and enabled us to work out challenging ideas in a collaborative way. From this evolution of my work, I realized the power of people working co-creatively, and I created a concept called Creating WE. This became the core mission my company was destined to realize over the next few decades.
I knew there was something going on in the minds and hearts of my clients when we graphically mind-mapped change together. We could feel an organic shift take place that turned foes into friends, and my idea into our idea. The shift of moving from I to WE -- the essence behind my brand of transformational consulting -- was not just a process.
Creating WE is a neurochemical shift that takes place inside people to enable a level of bonding and collaboration (I call it co-creation) that few had experienced before.
Recent studies have shown that when we feel connected with others, our brains produce oxytocin. Nicknamed the "love hormone," oxytocin has been shown to contribute to behaviors such as relationship building, bonding and collaboration in teams.
As a scientist at heart, I yearn to understand the why behind human and organizational behavior. Why do people trust each other? Why is trust so integral for business success? I've spent the past 10 years studying the neuroscience behind this deep level of bonding to explain why the co-creation experience is so powerful. What neuroscience is helping us understand is that when leaders learn to shift conversations from I to WE, they actually quell -- or "down-regulate" -- the fear centers in the brain and activate -- or "up-regulate" -- the bonding centers of the brain. This enables them to deepen their connections and, as a consequence, achieve better business results.
The combination of mind mapping and the WE concept has been ideal for shaping the outcomes of my clients' businesses. One of the biggest challenges clients face is when team members act like competitors, and when they form silos or exhibit "us/them" thinking.
Creating WE technologies has enabled me to give clients ways to create a safe space for breaking down barriers to trust -- the most important area to focus on for business success.
One of the most exciting breakthrough practices I invented came from a unique application of mind mapping to business challenges. I call this new consulting process "double-clicking." Double-clicking came to me by observing and studying the difference between teams that were successful and those that were not.
I call it double-clicking because the process mimics opening folders on your computer to drill down into details. When I use this approach with teams, I ask them to delve into their individual mindscapes to share and compare word meanings and perceptions with each other. For example, most people define "success" very differently, but don't realize it. One person may view team success as a lack of conflict, another as the ability to share differing ideas, and another sees it purely as a financial measure. By drilling down to individual perceptions, teams can begin to understand each other's perceptions better and improve how they collaborate. Breaking down these barriers is the secret behind double-clicking.
Successful teams take the time to align their thinking around what success looks like from a WE-centric standpoint, not just from an I-centric standpoint. I teach workshops on double-clicking, where attendees learn to double-click on what success means from an "I" standpoint, and then learn a process for sharing their individual mindscapes to create a combined vision for organizational success. Teams that use double-clicking discover they work through conflicts better than other teams.
We all hold different views of reality, and when we double-click, we explore the unique connections that are at the heart of the matter. We are able to breathe new life and possibilities into a business and relationships -- the first step to creating organizational transformation.
Using Mind Mapping for Team Engagement
For almost 10 years I've worked with one of the world's most successful and fastest-growing luxury apparel brands. The company invests a huge amount of energy into developing leadership potential, and each year we use mind-mapping technologies and double-clicking as organizing tools for our key engagement projects. We organize the scope of the work and plan the phases, desired outcomes, roles and responsibilities. Without mind-mapping tools, this initial process would be complex and time-consuming.
When I first started working with the company's teams, I used to graphically map the project phases on the wall. Now I also use mind-mapping tools, such as MindJet's MindManager software, which offers pre-existing templates and organizing tools such as Project Planner, To-Do Lists, Weekly Planners and Meeting Agendas. We turn complexity into clarity and collaboration.
From Dreams to Reality
Recently I used MindManager software to write and organize my new book,Trust -- The Heart of the Matter (The Neuroscience of Trust and Distrust at Work), which combines neuroscience research from around the world with practical advice for creating trusting relationships at work. This project started like many of my childhood clothing projects -- many projects happening all at once. By using mind-mapping techniques, I was able to translate my multiple ideas into one cohesive thesis -- making this book another dream come true.
My personal journey to understand my own mind has been inspired by mind mapping. I have the energy to accomplish as much as 10 human beings. I am not superhuman; I have just learned to master my busy and complex mind.
Mind mapping is a great tool for any entrepreneur with big aspirations who is not yet sure how to achieve them. Mind mapping helps people play with new ideas and possibilities before trying them out. You can create different maps, each with different scenarios for what to do and how, and then evaluate the options before taking the risk. Mind mapping has no limits -- only those you impose on yourself.
Judith E. Glaser is founder and CEO ofBenchmark Communications, an executive coaching consulting firm. She is the co-founder and chairman of Creating WE Institute and founding partner of Creating WE LLC. Her new bookTrust -- The Heart of the Matter, will be available in mid-2011.