Sunday, September 26

Tooled-Up, or Not Tooled-Up?

There's a mass of information out there about the kinds of tools we "need" to gather and order our thoughts, and those of others.

Clearly this is an appeal to the person with a penchant for the popular displacement activity of acquiring the best possible tools for any job before starting.  But approaching things that way can be quite time-consuming in the DIY superstore of software applications that is the internet, so it's best to avoid this trap if you ever want to start actually doing anything!

So start with pen and paper, and use whatever notation you're most comfortable with for building-up a story or set of thoughts.  A "mindmap" format tends to work well for most people, so it's often best to begin with a central focus object, then radiate related ideas around it.  Each radial item can then see the same treatment.  Pen and paper are incredibly quick and flexible, and if you suddenly need a new type of shape, object or connection you can create it there and then.

The obvious downside of pen and paper is that correcting an error can be laborious at best, and impossible at worst.  But can you really make "errors" when simply transcribing a stream of consciousness onto paper?   This is a rather philosophical question, which I'll resist exploring here.

It's a balance then:  If you're sure you can maintain the speed and flexibility with your favourite office automation tool in place of pen and paper, and you're sure you can avoid getting caught-up in adjusting the style of your diagram when you should be concentrating on content, then by all means use a tool.

I've wrestled with this conundrum myself, only to find that a tool once recommended to me by a colleague seems to embody the best of both worlds.  If you feel you need a suggestion from me then try downloading South Beach Modeller.  It's incredibly quick to use ... and it's free.

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