We took a look at and explored a “Ready, Aim, Fire” focus on growth a few weeks back. Today, I want to give you what I have used for decades to help me come up with worthy targets as well as the actual steps in knocking them down. Decades ago, what I am going to introduce you too was done on a piece of paper with colored pencils and is a form of dissecting a challenge or topic into its smallest parts, while adding a dimension of who, when, where, and how this process should take place. It allows you to take any challenge, analyze it, and solve the mystery of what to do and where to spend your time fixing it.
In a way, it is a sort of “self master mind meeting” or “mind dump” on one particular topic. The process allows you to build a “tree” of solutions and pathways of attack. It takes just a few minutes to do, and you will be surprised by the enate genius that pops up on paper. You will marvel at what you have written and, for some, wonder where this came from. It is intuitive, scalable, teachable, and the perfect problem-solving trick for any challenge.
When I first did this in the late sixties (yes, 1966-67) I don’t think it had a name. It was similar to a strategy I learned in military school and ROTC/OCS training. Back then it was a mental game that I really needed to put down on paper. In the mid-seventies, British author and TV personality Tony Buzan called it “mind mapping” and wrote several books about it.
If you have never done this, or perhaps did it in the past but do not currently use this as a leadership and management tool, let me encourage you to take another look at it and start the year by dissecting your challenges in a way that will lead you to solving the puzzle of consistent and constant improvement in your office. This goes way beyond new years resolutions and goal setting. I am asking you to mind map just one challenge, then delegate the solutions you came up with.
Let’s take a look at the actual structure of a mind map. Draw a small square in the center of a piece of paper and write the area that you want to dissect. For practice, let’s use the topic of New Patients. Write the main concern in one color of ink or pencil so it looks different from anything else you write. What we are going to do is almost like a mind dump of information and ideas on this diagram that we draw. Don’t worry about being neat or spelling, do it quickly without evaluating the idea or its consequences, and create a “tree” of ideas that lead to more ideas that then lead to solutions.
I took a photo of a 3-minute mind map or tree with branches of ideas connected to ideas. I use colors to separate the branches to make it easier for your brain to see the connections to each level of ideas. If you carry this out to its ultimate conclusion, you will have an entire plan for improving New Patient numbers. Take it a step further and you delegate each portion to a particular staff member with a deadline and anything they need to complete the task. It is at this point that you would introduce goals and goal setting.
The brilliance of this is that it gets you from your starting point to a quick and easy way to get down to the possible solutions and steps so that you can then translate this into an actionable vision for your office team. It is a visual representation of an actionable plan. It is where you should start. It removes the fear that drives procrastination and somehow extracts the thoughts that were impossible to pull out of your head in the past.
Let me add one more trick in getting started with vision and goals. Two of my kids have mild learning disabilities. In researching the possible steps in helping them when they were younger, I discovered a paper by Dr. Jean Ayres on Sensory Integration Therapy that linked me back to other examples and studies for using colored transparencies to increase comprehension, focus, and speed when reading. I shared this with my kids after experimenting on myself (I have ADD). Here is what I found out. A packet of forty or so colored transparencies of varying colors costs about ten bucks on Amazon. In the research they found that by placing the transparencies over pages of a book, computer screens, math problems, sheet music, etc., it stimulated both sides of your brain to partner into the reading and understanding of the material you were studying. Maybe, for the first time, the logical side and art side of your brain were communicating. The color did not matter, but they found that individuals had preferences based on the field of study and what they were doing. So, it might be a different color for each individual and each different subject. Here is where I am going with this. I found that my comprehension and reading speed almost doubled in less than a week, and that it was easier to stay focused on a task. So much so, that in 2020 I read 72 books during the year. I used to hate reading. This success for me started some 45 years ago, but I have continued to try and find studies that supported my own success and to my surprise this all started by accident in the late sixties when a music teacher had some transparencies sitting out as dividers for music scores for her students. A student picked up one of them and placed it over the music they were struggling to play and all of a sudden there was music. The student told her teacher that “while the transparency was over the music, she felt like this was the first time that her hands were connected to her brain”. The take away here is that I want to push you to use every advantage you can get to improve the vision and goal setting in your practice. Please don’t discount the value of mind mapping or using color transparencies by thinking “I will try it some day”. Some day is today.
One last thing. I currently also use a software program called Mindomo (www.mindomo.com) to do mind maps. It creates publishable outlines with color, photos, and varying shapes and designs for your mind map. It is great and, for those who take the time to learn the process, is a huge step up in neatness for mind mapping. On the other hand, digital programs can also become a handicapping negative if it becomes a distraction to putting your thoughts down quickly. Uninterrupted flow of ideas is the key to making this a huge asset in planning. There is nothing wrong with sticking to pens and paper and then transferring everything to a more presentable format. In fact, placing your hand to pen or pencil and creating this on paper is almost like signing a contract. There is a subliminal accountability when you do this by hand as opposed to using a digital device. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. For those that would like to use a digital format and learn more about mind mapping, I recently did a video with Dr. Nathan Ho and saved the presentation.
Simply CLICK HERE to view this presentation.