TheBrain Blog

Shelley Hayduk
Mar 30, 2009

Visualizing Decisions and No Limits Brainstorming:

Today we are all under pressure to do more with less, and to do it quickly. This is why getting the big picture on projects and not losing sight of new ideas is challenging. Visualizing key decision points, company objectives and business processes can ensure that higher level goals are reached and that you are taking the best approaches now and for the future.

Visual Brainstorming

Critical business decisions and key drivers can be intelligently identified through free flowing brainstorming and visualization of key decision points. By seeing and exploring all possible outcomes, PersonalBrain can help you resolve issues faster and plan your success without overlooking anything.

Brainstorming can be done as a group with PersonalBrain projected on your conference room wall or individually on your desktop. To begin an idea generation Brain, create the key goal or objective of your session as your starting Thought. Under this Thought create child Thoughts below for all ideas that may lead to achieving this goal or support this objective. At this point anything goes so don’t be too analytic or discriminating. The idea here is to free your mind and capture all ideas. Then you can see where they lead.

Under these Thoughts, you can even create another level of child Thoughts that your initial ideas might lend themselves to. (To learn how to create Thoughts quickly watch our previous tip of the month)

Once you have a set of possibilities, it’s time to start reviewing them and fleshing them out further. Typically there will be some new ideas that may not have been considered in the past. Your next step is to decide which ideas make sense to expand on.

Visualizing Decisions

You can create “Pro” and “Con” Thoughts to help your analysis on important or far reaching decisions.

Visualizing Decisions

In the above example a clothing company is evaluating a new material for their winter line. An actual “Pro” and “Con” Thought is used to distinguish each side of the debate. When making these decisions you can use PersonalBrain’s expanded or outline view to see additional generations of Thoughts.

If you prefer more of a free flowing brainstorming session you can simply Brain dump all your thinking about an issue as child Thoughts below and then come back and move your Thoughts under “Pro” or “Con” areas.

An alternative method is specifying “Pros” and “Cons” with Thought Types as shown below.

Pros and Cons

In the above screenshot Thoughts are further defined using Thought Types. Green for Pro and Red for Con.

You can also use Thought types with colors and icons to highlight your best ideas. For more information on how to create Thought types watch our recorded Webinar.

Thought Tags can also add a level of priority, feasibility or timeframe for execution. This works especially well if you are not necessarily using a Pro/Con format.


Tagging Thoughts as a follow up to your brainstorming session helps clarify the practicalities of your ideas.

In the above screenshot once all ideas for the company’s “Market Expansion” were captured, Thought Types are used to signify a primary attribute of an idea. In this case, something that is a “Greenlighted project” or a “Hot topic” has generated much debate is identified with a Thought Type.

Often the ideas generated aren’t necessarily a clear “yeah or nay” so you can create tags that will highlight the feasibility of each idea. In the example above there are Thought Tags for “Cost” and “Timeframe” because these are key factors on executing these ideas.

By categorizing and further classifying ideas, unconscious reasons why something is a good or bad idea becomes more concrete, and an objective criterion for making decisions can be readily identified and implemented.

Even if you know the right steps to solve an issue, crystallizing the process will ensure that key contingencies are accounted for and your desired outcome is achieved by all team members. PersonalBrain’s visual interface can act as a decision tree. Clicking on a Thought triggers other dependent issues or next steps as Thoughts so you know what to do.

Decision Trees

Creating Link Types that depict preconditions can help you readily identify the best course of action.

You can use PersonalBrain’s “Link Types” to specify key contingencies that you don’t want to create other Thoughts for. In the above example, whether or not a drug is FDA approved is an important factor in prescription. However, if the client resides outside of the United States, and also has “Condition C”, “Medication Z” may be a better choice.

Visualizing all options and the applicability of products and services in PersonalBrain can help customer service and sales reps make better recommendations to clients, boosting company sales and customer satisfaction.

Visualizing Options

A special offer is connected as a Jump Thought to the company’s most commonly sold health product. The Link type “Valid if under 30” specifies eligibility, so the agent can make the best recommendation to customers depending on their age demographic.

Your SWOT Analysis Brain

Understanding and visualizing market strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats can be a very effective method to reach key decisions and spur new ideas for growth. You can create a SWOT Brain for your company or project to ensure that all aspects of your plan are iron clad and that you are moving in the right direction.


Furthermore because all Thoughts can be connected associatively you won’t have any problems of running out of space like you might with conventional 2D mind maps. Something that fits under one idea can be under as many other concepts as you need. For instance, in SWOT analysis you should try and look to see how you can turn threats or weaknesses into opportunities. To visualize this you need an associative interface like PersonalBrain.

For example an auto manufacturer might have “slowing economy” listed as a weakness. This could be linked to a corresponding opportunity: “new low cost models”. Something that if developed is an opportunity, but is related to and driven by the fact that people are more cost conscious because of a slowing economy. With PersonalBrain this idea can be connected under both Thoughts easily.

Associative Interface

TheBrain’s flexible, associative interface enables ideas to be linked under many categories without limits.

One of the advantages of PersonalBrain is that there are no limits to the number of Thoughts or connections you can make. This means that your brainstorming results are not simply a throw away sheet of paper or static poster on your wall. You can now add documents, web pages and all necessary research to make your plan a success. Your Brain becomes your information portal for all the right data.

So when you go and access the files you need, you will not loose sight of the big picture and strategy, because your information now is stored and accessed in an intelligent and meaningful context.

Smarter Context = Better, Stress Free Results

Whether you are deciding on the best treatment for a patient or hammering out a new market strategy, thoroughly examining and capturing all possibilities will not only lead to smarter decisions and those “eureka” moments, but it will also enable you to execute on them in a stress free, productive manner. Capturing everything in your digital Brain helps eliminate anxiety so you can use that energy to focus on completing the task at hand.

With PersonalBrain you can execute in an intelligent manner because when you click on any idea it will trigger all the right information and you get a complete visual briefing on your strategy. Everything you need is right there. Your strategic Brain keeps you on course by showing you where to go next and why you are going there in the first place.

Tags: Brainstorming Visualization Decision Making

Filed under: Applications: How You Can Use TheBrain Getting Things Done Mind Mapping and Information Visualization

More posts by: Shelley Hayduk