Visual tools for the knowledge worker : PowerPoint and MindMap

Posted on July 17, 2007. Filed under: English, MindMap, Outils, PowerPoint, rules |

As industries get more and more productive (as measured by the increase of EBITDA/employee), we see the emergence of the knowledge worker (see Peter Drucker 1959's paper). This emergence can be measured by the growing importance of tacit interactions between workers, and as a result more and more intellectual capital (employee knowledge and abilities, in the form of information) is exchanged in a non-structured way. Tools like email, instant messenging, collaborative workspaces, allow synchronous and asynchronous exchanges of information and knowledge over a wide area (across different sites and organizational departments). But when the stakes get higher such tools are not enough. This takes place in several cases :

  • the information is complex and need to be synthesized / clarified
  • the targets (individuals, departments or businesss units) lack a common culture and do not share a common vocabulary
  • the communication is massive and/or urgent and/or critical
  • a common future vision (a new organization, market, product) existing as concept must be formalized, shared and people adhere to it

In such cases visualization has proven to be a useful approach, and the most widely used tool by managers is PowerPoint, but more recently another one has started to get traction : MindMap, named after Tony Buzan's early 90's work

Both tools have got their fans and their detractors, so let's look at the opposing parties arguments :

  1. PowerPoint
  • Detractors : the most famous vocal critic is certainly Edward Tufte, a recognized guru in information visualization, and his "PowerPoint is Evil" phrase is widely quoted. His thinking is developed in his book "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" and mainly states that the tool is misused, that information is buried in tons of slides, that the bullet point approach is terrible, … Other critics include the French entrepreneur Rafi Haladjian in his famous 2004 essay "Become beautiful rich and intelligent with PowerPoint", full of irony.
  • Pros : Donald Norman, a famous designer who has been the head of Apple Advanced Technology Group, teaches at various universities and co-founded the Nielsen Norman Group, has a strong stance against him (see Cliff Atkinson's interview and D. Norman's own defense piece). Another strong user is entrepreneur turned VC Guy Kawasaki with his 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint
  • Tools & resources : for software there is Microsoft PowerPoint of course, but also Apple's KeyNote, Google's recent acquisition of Tonic, a web-based presentation tool, and open source Impress from the OpenOffice suite. For good references and tips in addition to the ones listed above, see Cliff Atkinson's book "Beyond Bullet Points" and more on my Delicious bookmarks, updated regularly
  1. MindMap
  • Detractors : some recent research limit its scope and power, such as a 1998 study on college students and metacognition that indicates focusing too much attention to the tool limits content learning
  • Pros : of course Tony Buzan's, a British psychologist who started working in the 70's on cognitive abilities such as creativity and memorisation and is often referred to the "inventor" of mind maps (see his 1991 book "Use both sides of your brain:New Mind-Mapping Techniques") but also in France the French Heuristic School (see the scholl website and the Petillant portal, a key node of the mind mapping community in France)
  • Tools & resources : commercial softwares include the very good MindManager from Mindjet or Inspiration (more for the teaching/education environment), open source FreeMind and web-based Reference books and websites include the good portal, the book " " and my Delicious bookmarks, plus the following video from Tony Buzan "himself"

This post has only been a brief introduction to those tools … more in a future one !


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4 Responses to “Visual tools for the knowledge worker : PowerPoint and MindMap”

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In terms of tools and resources for mindmapping, I’d like to recommend my Mind Mapping Software Blog ( and my recently republished e-book (

I love using Mindmaps for all kind of purposes. For me mindmapping would literally reach another dimension , if I could several attributes or web2o speak use tags to classify each branch. Then I could rearrange the branches according to those tags, or produce mindmap tagclouds. This would also help using mindmaps for presentations, as I could quickly view the mindmap from a different angle.
On a recent project I came across 4 more online mindmap startups:, mindmeister,com, and The last one (at first glance) seems more web20 then the others using visitor evaluation like youtube for public mindmaps. See my qommunity blog for more).

Regarding presentations I love those styles popularized by Lawrence Lessig (see this video). Dick Hardt uses that style as well with his identity 2.0 speech (see video here) , hammering away the points at a very fast speed. Of course one could say, that the actual message is simplified. But at least I remember those messages, whereas I can’t say the same for most powerpoint-style presentations.

Hello Chuck and Moritz, tks for pointing me towards some very interesting resources. On the web versions I recently came across a quick study by
on MindMeister, Mindomo and a seemingly new one you might want to check.

[…] and online sharing versions of presentation tools such as mind mapping, and Powerpoint SlideShare. […]

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