Posts Tagged projects

Mind Mapping: Online Collaboration Tool


Note: This guest post by Richard Egan has a focus on education but the principles covered can easily be translated into other settings.   Collaborative tools like MindMeister are powerful ways to bring people and their ideas together.

Online Collaboration

Online collaboration has become very popular in both education and business. We now have the ability to easily and freely share all file types using different cloud based platforms.  People working collectively on a project or assignment no longer need to be in the same room or even in the same country for that matter.

Collaborative platforms have enabled educators to create online learning environments where students can benefit from sharing ideas and communicating with each other, their mentors and external organizations.

Mind Mapping and Online Collaboration

Mind maps are an excellent method for individuals to graphically represent and structure ideas or thoughts. It is a very valuable tool which can be used for project management, creating to-do lists, idea generation, planning articles or papers.

Mind mapping can be implemented for collaborating and brainstorming, it gives students a platform to work simultaneously and a facility for learning together. Introducing mind mapping to students is a great way to encourage group participation and when managed properly will generate great results.

Benefits of Collaborative Tools:

  • Easier project management
  • More informed decision making
  • Promotes critical thinking
  • Meetings and brainstorming sessions conducted remotely
  • Develop new skills for a business environment
  • Files stored in one place i.e. no waiting for a document to be emailed
  • Improved communication between students, lecturers and research groups

Collaboration: Mind Mapping Uses

Using mind mapping for collaboration presents students with the opportunity to share ideas with peers and to think creatively through social inspiration. I have made a list of some of the situations where mind mapping can be used as a solution for online collaboration.

  • Managing group projects
  • Class assignments
  • Sharing lecture notes
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Study sessions
  • Group presentations

The video below is an example of multiple users collaborating on one map – they are creating an IKEA shopping list for their office. All changes to the mind map can be seen in real-time by all collaborators

Mind Mapping Example: Project Management

The next time you are assigned a group project in school or college I would encourage you to use a mind map from the beginning. To get started you can follow these easy steps:

  • Create a mind map with title of project
  • Invite all teams members to be collaborators
  • Have a brainstorming session with all collaborators

At this point you should have a map with many topics, ideas and tasks to be completed. The next step is to appoint a team leader who can:

  • Sort and structure all the information in the map
  • Delegate tasks, create deadlines and set reminders for each member

Once this has been completed you will have very quickly created a project plan and a great starting point for the project. In addition to this, create another mind map with all details of each team member i.e. contact details, to-do lists and daily schedules; it can then be linked to the main map. The purpose for this is that everyone can see what the other is doing, progress can be monitored and meetings can be easily scheduled to suit everyone.

Some of the mind mapping software providers also support smartphones and tablets meaning that members can literally participate whenever or wherever they may be!

Conclusion

Online collaboration is becoming ever more important and is being used by businesses all over the world to increase productivity and creativity. Following the principle that two brains are better than one many companies are taking advantage of new software being made available to them. Collaborating online has many benefits in education but it is also very important that students are prepared for such working environments after their studies.

New online collaborative tools are emerging every day with numerous platforms for saving and sharing files, conducting meetings and managing projects. Mind mapping is one such tool but with a bit of a difference, it is a visual tool. Not only can files be stored and shared on the cloud but you can also see and watch how the whole thought process evolved and how a conclusion was formed or how a plan was made. And because each collaborator can add to a mind map simultaneously no one person can dominate the direction or outcome!

This is a guest post created by Richard Egan, a mind mapping specialist at MindMeister — a leading provider of mind mapping solutions.

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HootSuite Extends Google+ Pages to All Users


This is a big deal for anyone that manages multiple pages across several social media platforms.  Up until now, adding content to your client’s Google Plus pages was an large extra step.  You couldn’t schedule them, so you had to use your calendar to remind you to update a campaign post.  Well that all changes now!

HootSuite Extends Google+ Pages to All Users

gplus header 600x300

HootSuite is pleased to announce that Google+ Pages is now available to nearly 5 million users worldwide!

Whether you’re on a Free, a Pro or an Enterprise plan, you’ll be able to efficiently manage Google+ Pages alongside other social channels, providing brands a better way to capitalize on the social power of this rapidly expanding social network.

To add Google+ Pages: Access your Profile from the side menu, then select + Add a Social Networkunder My Social Networks.

I know the HootSuite Pro account had this already, but it’s a nice add for the smaller companies still using the Free version of the tool.    Good Job HootSuite!

Good Hunting!

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HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule – HootSuite Social Media Management


HootSuite / Hootlet has become one of my favorite tools to manage twitter accounts and my Facebook account and Facebook pages for myself and my clients.  I’ve tried many but this web based service seems to have the best of both words and I have come to expect it on all the machines I work on.

HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule

Post is in the News & Events Parent Category July 17, 2012 by Andy Au0

HootSuite adds more awesome to Hootlet with new features including AutoSchedule – a powerful new link share tool that determines the optimal time to schedule social media messaging. Now you can automatically queue messages throughout the day to maintain a consistent social media presence.

via HootSuite Adds More Awesome to Hootlet with AutoSchedule – HootSuite Social Media Management.

Hootlet – Time Saver

This Chrome extension is one of the first I add to any machine I work on.  It has saved me countless hours.  One of the new time savers is Auto-schedule feature.    When I’m pushing content to my to biggest twitter accounts try and space it out.  So you can imaging when you are pushing 20 updates the time management can get a bit tricky.  Now this is taken care of.   I have used it today and like it thus far.

Schedule Still Works

Now, if I’m managing a campaign for a client, I still manage the schedule manually.  I can release the updates to Twitter and Facebook based on the campaign we have designed.  This still remains so you don’t lose anything there.

Possible Improvements

Here are some ideas I would love to see in this new capability:

  • Load Balancing – As you put more updates in, they auto-adjust to spread out over time, maybe a range you give them.  9 to 5 or 7 to 7, don’t know.
  • More Automation – Since HootSuite is already watching, they should build in auto-responder capability.  That would be awesome.
  • 7 Drip Logic – Have a singe post/update  set for distribution X number of times.  The logic here is that a message doesn’t really sink in until it’s heard 7 times by the consumer.

So what do you think of the tool?  What other suggestions would you recommend to HootSuite.

Good Hunting!

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Google+ Local: Taking over Places?


English: Google+ wordmark

Mobile + Social Saturation

Here are some key things to remember when thinking about this topic.  The saturation level for smart phones is on the rise is all areas of the world.  In many parts of the word, people own more smart phones then PC’s in their households.  Phone books are becoming museum pieces (and catalogs are not far to follow).  I believe there is a big push in the industry to move consumers to tablet computing, making the desktop and laptop less dominant is the purchasing process.  Now with all that said, let’s look at the new shifts that are right in front of us.

Leverage Equals Change

Companies are working hard to get their data in the hands of mobile users.  Google consolidation or leveraging of applications and data into the Google+ platform is no different.  Right now Google+ is also providing mobile apps to access this information.  In my opinion, Google+ has been doing a better job then Facebook in this area.  It is yet to be seen if this latest change can be classified as an improvement, but Google’s actions are consistent with their past performance in removing older apps in place of newer ones.  For instance, we are seeing similar work being done to fold the Orkut users (still a large user base in Latin American countries)  into the Google+ platform so another app could be retired.

Lessons Learned

So what can we learn from this turmoil and churn in the social media and mobile space?  Below I have some thoughts for you to consider.  They all focus on the fact that life cycle of applications and the data of those applications are extremely volatile and need to treated as such.

Stay Flexible

Let’s face the facts, we are not talking about Yellow Page ads were we talk to a sales rep once a year and then mark in our calendars to review the purchase plan 11 months out.  We have to take a Guerrilla Marketing approach to this area of our marketing plans.  Be willing to invest in something, and leave it alone and move on if the situation changes.  Never holding on to something more then is absolutely necessarily.  Always attacking the mind of the consumer where ever it is found, and when gone, move on.  There is a reason why we are talking about Facebook and Google+ right now, and not MySpace, AOL, or Prodigy.

Be Vigilant

Stay on top of the trends.  Notice where your battle field (the mind of the consumer) is.  If the consumer moves to a new area, be aware of the change.  Stay on top of your stats.  If you start seeing a drop, find out why.  Never stop reading about what is happening in the mobile space.  Pay attention to the mobile app scene.  If this seems to much, then hire someone to do it for you.  Find an agency that will keep you in the right place so you can keep attacking the mind of the consumer.

Act Quickly

Back to the Guerrilla Marketing theme,  move into the space quickly.  Move out just as quickly.  Take over the areas you can master as fast as you can so you reap the rewards of being first, when the benefits begin to lose to the increasing costs, evaluate your position and consider making changes quickly.  Are you sensing the quick theme here.

The enemy advances, we retreat.  The enemy camps, we harass.  The enemy tires, we attack.  The enemy retreats, we pursue. – Mao Tse-Tung

Wrap Up

So for right now, you should be using both Google Places and Google+ Local (i.e. Pages) to drive people to your business or service.  Google is using both in search engine results, and I have evidence they are giving preferential scoring to them.

Would love to read your thoughts on this.  Please leave a comment.

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Continuous Learning: New Podcast List


The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

Image via Wikipedia

So if you are anything like me, you are in submission to the fact that there is more to learn in this world then you currently know.  The truly wise among us acknowledge that our current knowledge placed on the scale of all the knowledge will always find us wanting for the remainder of our days.

The trick is to stay on the cutting edge of information that helps us achieve our goals.  One of the ways I have tried to stay sharp on specific topics is by using podcasts.  I currently use iTunes (most convenient at this time)  and my Android phone, with the help of iSync.    There are a host of podcasts, mostly free but some cost nominal amounts, on iTunes that cover a wide range of topics.

New Updates on my Listening List

So here are latest additions to my listening list:

  • BeanCast – deep dive into marketing topics
  • EntreLeadership – Dave Ramsey‘s leadership and business podcast
  • Let’s Make Mistakes – design but irreverent with some foul language.
  • Marketing Over Coffee – quick ‘on they way to work drive’ worth of internet marketing news
  • Social Triggers Insiders – on of the authors I follow on Google+
  • This Is Your Life – leadership podcast

Dropped from my Listening List

  • No More Weak Days – Daily prayer and Bible reading.  Great concept but had a hard time struggling with the KJ and Message format in their reading plan. “1 Year Daily Audio Bible” is still my preferred choice for daily scripture reading (listening).

Lesson’s Learned

The important thing is to keep learning!  Don’t stop.  If you are starting a new project, search out a podcast and listen to it while driving or exercising.

I would love to hear about podcasts you have found helpful in your daily routine.  Share them in the comments.

Good Hunting.

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Unclear? Use a Twitter Summary!


English: A Twitter tweet

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever just stopped and thought, “OK, exactly, what am I doing here?”  Have you ever been asked to explain something and found yourself ramblings and your thoughts came out incoherent and and your thoughts are without any cohesion and almost on the verge of being labeled ‘verbal diarrhea’? (run on sentence intended for effect folks!!)

Force Some Discipline

There is a way you can attack this problem.  This idea comes from a book I’ve recently read call “Drive” by Daniel Pink.  (Good Read! Recommend it!) It’s one of the suggestions in the back of the book which you could easily overlook and just skiip by if you are not careful.

The concept is simple.  Use a tool, like Twitter, to force you to craft a message in 140 characters.  Twitter will only publish 140 characters of a person’s tweet.  It provides a nice clean interface with a gentile reminder of how many characters you have remaining.  It also provides you a negative number if you go over 140 characters, thus showing you how much you have to trim to have your entire message included in the twitter stream.  Twitter simply provides us a clean and straightforward page with the needed feedback to accomplish this task.

Twitter is not the focus

You could use any tool that gives you the feedback to understand how close you are to 140 characters.  Even the 140 characters are arbitrary and simply based on the fact that Twitter has this limitation.  I could also use any word processor that provide the basic functionality of ‘word count‘ .  You could write a simple Visual Basic program in minutes to perform the same task.  The tool is not the important factor here.  It is your ability to boil down your message to 140 charaters.

In the past we’ve talked about using elevator speeches, but this is more intense and to the point.  Only using 140 characters to create focus.

Twitter Summary Application

  • Front Office Staff – image the value you would bring if your responses were pithy and to the point.  How many of us have wished we met some of these staff in our travels.  Only to find out 2 minutes into a question answer session you picked the wrong person to ask ‘where the bathroom was?’ (exaggeration intended)
  • Meeting Prep – Wouldn’t we all like to come into a meeting and with a short burst from the moderator / facilitator know how much I need to pay attention?  In fact, I could then text my assistent to pull me out of the meeting in let’s say 10 minutes.  (Note to self: I bet I could write a quick program so that when I text mesage a certain code to it, it would then rendomly generate a ‘emergency text message‘ to my department member’s phones  so I can get them all the hell out of there before they waste another minute not doing their jobs!) (exaggeration intended)
  • Event Planning – When I plan out an event, each hour has something it needs to accomplish.  I would suggest having a twitter summary for each hour so that each hour can be easily reviewed by the facilitation staff and the owner / sponsor of the event.
  • Calendar Management – wouldn’t we all like to look at a calendar event and not ask the question – what in the world is this here for and who authorized it to be on my calendar?  Well a twitter summary would help there also.
  • Instructions to Staff – I’ve also heard this one called ‘commander’s intent‘ as well.  It would be a short burst stating what is the ultimate outcome or goal is for an activity.  Sometimes these are needed so that if something goes wrong, the team, using autonomy, can make adjustments to still hit the mark by the end of the assignment.
  • Classroom Setting – excellent use of a few seconds to start out the class.  Let everyone know what’s going to happen in the class for the next hour to three hours.  (Also see Meeting Prep above – for you resourceful students – but don’t try it in my class – I have you turn off your phones)

Taken to an Extreme

Anything could be taken to an extreme.  For instance, imaging you walk into your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  You ask, what you believe to be, a genuinely sincere, simple, innocent, open ended question and the response you get from behind the counter is “No”.  Not withstanding it was an open ended question, this all to common event, could simply be all the DMV’s in the world preemptively taking my advice to this pithy extreme before I even make this post available to the public (although I have my suspicions that this is not the case and something else might be going on)   So be mindful that this advice could also be taken to an extreme and you would want to avoid that s well.

Would love to hear how you could apply Twitter Summaries.  Leave a post and let me know.

Good Hunting!

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Make Some Magic


How many times do you find yourself in a slump.  We  need to shake off the old and create a new way of generating new ideas.  We need to make some magic, create some sparks, razzle and dazzle, have some fun!  When I read this post from Seth Godin it got me to thinking:

An end of magic

Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.

So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.

via Seth’s Blog: An end of magic.

How to Make the Magic

This is a fun exercise to take your team or department through.  You can read about the process in one my previous posts “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never“.  But basically, take several idea lists you’ve created and follow the “Innovation Bonus Exercise” in the above post.  Then take some of those ideas and create you own little science fiction episode of “Stargete”, “Sanctuary”, or “Startrek” in which your team runs accross a civilazation with advanced technology like some of the crazy  items on your list and they now have to revewrse engenere it to gain the benefits of the new found technology.

You might be surprised how many of the way-out-there crazy ideas turn into actionable realistic projects for your team to investigate further.

It’s a fun off-site day, especially if you have a bunch of techie scifi geeks on your team!

Good Hunting!

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Ditch the Office: Next Week is National Telework Week


More than 35,000 companies and organizations have pledged to participate in the event. According to the official Telework Week Website, this would save an estimated $2,451,069 and more than 1,600 tons of pollutants from entering the atmosphere. Where these numbers come from is not entirely clear, but it stands to reason that fewer people commuting would help save money and reduce pollution to some extent.

National Telework Week is sponsored by Telework Exchange and Cisco, which makes telepresence and communication products, as well as other tools to facilate remote working.

via Ditch the Office: Next Week is National Telework Week.

To: Non-Teleworkers

I would suggest you spend some time understanding what it would take to perform your work outside the office.  As I would explain to past staffs, just because a weather day or some unplanned disaster occurred, project deadlines remain the same.  If you and your manager, or if you are the manager, haven’t spent enough time creating a work force that is flexible enough to handle the unique demands of performing all department requirements outside of the normal office space, you will find yourself in the awkward situation of losing value to the company.

Disaster Recovery Planning

OK, maybe it’s because my first job in a large IT organization was helping implement the annual remote disaster recovery test plans that I seem to gravitate to this fact.  I ask all my clients, if your office burned down this weekend, what you do on Monday.  Close shop?  Declare bankruptcy? Put everything on hold until you get a new office leased?  What about your paper records?  How about your leads?  How about your contracts in progress? Are you’re files stored off-site, and if so how long would it take to get them back and running at the new location?

These are all questions that should bring a leader or manager to the point of understanding how important teleworking can be to this scenario and their organization.

Improved Productivity

An important factor in improving your productivity is to design a work environment that helps you accomplish your work faster and smarter then your competition.  Well how about all the time you are not in the office?  Are you tied to a paper filing system … how could you change that? (Evernote.com)  Can your assistant and team members update file and get them to your quickly? (DropBox.com) Can your team, partners, and client see your calendar and plan accordingly?  (Google Calendar)  Can you conduct training sessions without having to be on-prem at the client’s location? (WebEx) Can you brainstorm with your team, partners, and clients regardless of their geographical location? (MindMeister.com)  Can you manage your To-Do list, or better yet, can your assistant manage your list for you? (Remember the Milk).

My guess the most difficult thing to change in your work space is the paper trails you live with.  You probably have become so accustomed to getting something in paper, working on it, then passing it on.  Reguardless, it is possible to go paperless.  It’s worth the time to implement also.

My Office

Over the past 10 years I have moved to a paperless process.  That is how I had to look at it.  I focused on the process, not the piece of paper or some other physical object.  Many of the web based applications I mentioned above I use today.  It allows me to complete my client requests while knowing that all the items I need are right at my fingertips.

So what have you done to make it possible to telework or telecomute?  I’d love to compare notes some time.

Good Hunting.

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Marketing Lesson: Smartphones Outsell PCs


According to IDC, smartphone manufacturers shipped 100.9 million devices in the fourth quarter of 2010, while PC manufacturers shipped 92.1 million units worldwide. Or, more simply put, smartphones just outsold PCs for the first time ever.

via Smartphones Outsell PCs.

The above quote should not come as a surprise.  Change happens.  The real question becomes, “How are we preparing our clients, or shaping our projects/campaigns for this shift in the marketing landscape?”

Nostalgic Deja Vu

I was just telling one of my classes yesterday that even though the assignments are focusing on 8×11 documents they need to keep in the back of their mind the fact that their message might be seen on a small screen so always plan ahead.

This problem seems to be resurfacing constantly in the technology sector.  I can remember, in my brief stint in development, which now seems like three lifetimes ago, the revelation that the developers I worked with all had power user machines: top of the line CPU’s, memory maxed to capacity, every bay in the tower loaded with the largest hard drives that could be purchased, the biggest fasted monitor and video board that was sold at the time.  Not a real problem unless you consider the average ‘consumer’ of these developers were running on machines three generations behind, and were loaded with the least possible equipment to save costs for the company purchasing the hardware.

At least we were lucky to have a great software development manager, my brother-in-law, who demanded no code go into production unless it passed a speed test on a machine comparable to what the user base was currently using.  So we always kept a box in the corner of the office with the current configuration our clients had.  This created some awkward moments when the entire development team would watch as one of the developers would run the cpu/memory/video gauntlet with a piece of code that ran like greased lighting on his box.

Some Possible Action Items

Here are some things you should do right now:

  • Test your existing site: get a smartphone, get several with different size screens, and test what you currently have out there being viewed by visitors to your site.
  • Update Project Requirements: only accept work that can be used on a smartphone screen.  It will cost more, but if your site works and your competitor’s doesn’t, well that’s just priceless.
  • Update Your Marketing Plan: Think mobile.  What items in your plan can change now as this wave begins to form, rather waiting until is past you and you are playing catchup.

Let me know if you’ve encountered feedback from your visitors about your site not working on smartphones and what you did to fix the problem.

Good Hunting.

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Marketing Success – Jackie Chan Style


In “Success” magazine (Success.com February 2011) I found a great article on Jacky Chan. In this articles they list Jacky Chan’s 7 Traits for Success.  I found his thoughts fit nicely into internet marketing as well.  So I’m going to take his traits but add my own thoughts to each of his traits.

1) A willingness to crash and burn

I can’t stress enough that each internet marketer should try to fail, often, and big.  Two phrases come to mind “Go Big, or Go Home!” and “Failure is an event, not a title!”  Your embrace of risk might be the deciding factor that helps you find your niche.

2) A discipline for fitness

The key word being discipline.  Fitness is needed for everyone, but in marketing, we need focus, intentional creative disruption.  We often try many tactics for our clients.  We need to perform our duties in such a way that our measurements tell us which tactic produced the results and then build on them.

3) A disdain for wasted time

As Zig Ziglar wrote in his “See You at the Top” recording your activities and understanding what it takes to create positive results in critical.  Equally important is understanding what is not helping you create success.  Avoiding time wasters are equally important then improving skills.

4) A need for alternative opinions

It’s important we seek out and study other disciplines and build on the lessons of those.  Reading materials from other continents, or cultures.   Subscribe to blogs from other marketers on other countries.  Spend time discussing ideas on twitter or in blog comments.  It will improve your ability to communicate your positions to clients and prospects.

5) A set of high expectations

Never be afraid to say “That’s not good enough” and demand more of the outcomes of your tasks and tactics.  With internet marketing it often a series of “shoot, ready, aim” moments, but that doesn’t mean we can expect some impressive marksmanship!

6) An accurate moral compass

A marketer with no moral compass is simply a politician.  Enough said.

7) A relentless sense of humor

By all means, have some fun.  If you can’t laugh and laugh hard at your work, you will often find yourself  ‘chasing rabbits’.  I know we call it work, but push the limits, always create a version of your latest project that is an exaggeration of the client requirements.  By creating this outlier, you will find your other ideas less risky and at the same time take some risks.

So which one of these traits caught your eye?  Which of these traits are you doing well at?  Which one of these traits do you need to work on?  I’d love to get your feedback.

Enjoy!  Good Hunting!

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    2012 Reading Challenge

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