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X’Talk: Using Mind Maps at Different Stages and For

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X’Talk: Using Mind Maps at Different Stages and For

image Eric Prouzet is a chemist, a material scientist, and a nanomaterial expert who worked in many domains: lithium batteries, dye-sensitized solar cells, electrochromic materials, inorganic membranes or self-assembled nanostructured materials. He created systems for CO2 capture, photobioreactors, nanoceramic surface coating and even patented a new document search engine.

Having been an academic researcher for 40 years and working in different countries, he also possesses another identity - an “accidental entrepreneur”, or in other words, someone who jumped out of his comfort zone to try to make things happen.

An Accidental Entrepreneur

Beyond his academic activity as a Senior Scientist at CNRS in France or Asso. Professor in Canada, Eric has always tried to reconcile research and Innovation, creating two startups, one on biotechnologies and one on information technology.

And this is how Eric became an "accidental entrepreneur", or in other words, someone who jumped out of his comfort zone to try to make things happen.

Eric: “My first project and first startup was on biotechnology. I developed a platform to convert carbon dioxide efficiently into valuable biomass. The technology worked - still works - well, but the business side could have done better.”

“The second project and second startup was on Information Technology, specifically developing and patenting a new search engine concept based on document content analysis, with the ability to create a map of content for every document, whatever its size, and a query interface without the need of boolean logic or keywords. Still, the technology worked very well, but it came several years too late, as everyone was getting excited about AI. There was no more interest worldwide in anything else…”

“Finally, my third project is on developing specific nanomaterials for the long-term protection of surfaces exposed to harsh environments, like aircraft. This project seems more promising than the previous ones.”

These three projects were different: biotech, IT, and nanomaterials. Still, they shared one thing: using mind maps at different stages and for. For Eric, the term "mind maps" seems much broader than it looks.

“I created maps when I had to explore ideas, analyze a problem, or collect random information in one place. Whenever I had to assess a new item, my first move was to start with a map because (mind) maps, unlike long lists or texts, are the best way to have everything visible in just one place.”

How He Discovered Xmind

Over the past decade, Eric has explored and experimented with a variety of platforms. But the result turned out to be disappointing.

Some have been uncomplicated and free, offering ease of use but limited functionality, which can become limiting as his skills and demands grow. Others have been feature-rich and intricate, carrying hefty price tags that require justification through consistent usage.

However, Xmind emerged as an ideal solution, with its compelling array of features accessible even within the free tier, presenting a balance for his requirements.

“I discovered Xmind (initially XMind 8) in 2019 on a post with someone claiming its performance and friendly price. I tested it, and it rapidly became my favorite platform.”

How He Uses Xmind

Eric finds that Xmind greatly enhances his ability to be creative, analyze information, and collect content.

“Mind maps are natural tree-shaped structures that allow us to report ideas as they randomly come to our mind and organize them in a structured and hierarchical way. Mind maps are also well aligned with the way our brain works. Our brain can shift rapidly from global to detail, which is the rationale for the mind map structure.”

For Creativity

”Unlike mind maps, documents have a limited hierarchical structure made of chapter titles, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs. They are excellent for finding specific information or digesting the information in a linear mode. Still, they cannot display all this information at once.”

”Creativity means randomly integrating ideas or facts, the way our brain works. If you make lists, there's always a relevant idea that doesn't fit your logic. You need to figure out where to put it, and you usually forget it. This doesn't happen with a mind map since you can insert the idea in your map and create connections later on. It's the best way to help you create a vision that fits your random brain process and be sure you get everything.”

For Analysis

”Analysis is almost a reverse mind process. You identify a study case or problem and try to discover all possible causes. It's a situation where mind maps work very well with their radial hierarchical structure. For instance, you can successfully apply the "5 Why" or the "1H5W" rules. Still, maps are the perfect support for integrating ideas as they come, which perfectly fits brainstorming meetings.”

For Content Collection

”Maps also work very well for content collection. Unlike text documents or tables, mind maps allow you to see everything simultaneously. Their structure gives you access to a 'low resolution' (the main topics) to a 'high resolution' (details, notes, figures, etc.) level. Suppose we see a text like a 1D support (reading it linearly, without seeing what is on the next page). In that case, I see mind maps like a 4D support: the 2D dimension of the page + the 1D hierarchical structure with different sizes + the 1D colored items. Content creation is the domain where the software performance counts a lot because one wants to insert any information. Writing text, of course, but also inserting figures, PDF documents, or web links. XMind Pro works excellently to deliver these features.”

How Xmind Impacts His Work and Life

By leveraging the comprehensive and versatile capabilities of Xmind, Eric has seamlessly woven this tool throughout both his work and personal life. This integration has not only streamlined his workflow but also fostered a more organized thought process. As a result, he has experienced a significant uptick in productivity, matched by a tangible elevation in the quality of his outputs. His use of Xmind's rich features for mind mapping, brainstorming, and project planning has transformed his approach to tasks, yielding enhanced outcomes with greater efficiency and clarity.

“I use Xmind to shift progressively from pure brainstorming creation to a highly structured plan. I used it a lot for creating courses or training sessions. You begin thinking about the main topics that should be addressed, and you continue by filling them with more details and associating the sources of information you must consult. Working with Xmind allows me to reorganize all parts easily in a second and finish with an explicit course curriculum that can be shared. I also use Xmind to share information (documents, figures, weblinks) in one file or collect experimental parameters for chemical syntheses.” image

How Xmind Impresses Him

After experimenting with several mind-mapping tools, Eric felt limited by platforms that offered only a radial structure. However, the more flexible organization of Xmind proved to be a game-changer, seamlessly facilitating his transition from conceptualizing ideas to implementing actions and managing tasks. This adaptability not only solved his initial dilemma but also left a lasting impression on him. image

”Ideas come randomly, with more and less details, which ideally fit the usual mind map star-like structure. Once this step is over, we can reorganize the branches as a tree-chart, rank,  organize the items in actions, and add all additional information. Finally, we can insert priority and advancement flags and even convert the map into a time-line.”

”I like the ability to insert additional information in nodes (web links, pictures, pdf, etc.). It makes the map a fully comprehensive document containing all the required information in one place.”

Insights into AI Technology

Although Eric has been a loyal user since the Xmind 8 era, our first direct interaction occurred during a recent Xmind webinar where he participated as an audience member. As our developers are deeply engaged in creating AI-powered mind-mapping tools, we had an extensive discussion about AI on the webinar. During this exchange, he presented distinctive perspectives that diverged from the typical AI enthusiast's viewpoint.

While he acknowledges the importance and inevitability of integrating AI into modern solutions, Eric’s insight is marked by a discerning and realistic attitude toward the technology's impact on today’s environment.

“AI is only a way to process current information, not a way to produce a new one.”

For Eric, AI serves as a valuable aide and swift problem solver, yet it can never supplant the unique creativity of the human mind, particularly in the realm of innovation. Compared to a rapid and accurate outcome, isn’t the process of creating more charming and attractive?

”I still need to see how AI can help. I suppose it's about automatically providing the required items. In that case, it will miss an important step: the brainstorming process that forces people to think about a problem/topic and see all the facets of it. If we let AI do the job, AI will repeatedly bring the same features, based on past experience, not on the possibility of thinking ‘out-of-the-box.’”

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