Thursday, April 22, 2010

Roadmaps and Knowledgebase Navigation (KnowNav™)

For nearly ten years I have researched effective uses of "mind mapping" for a variety of communication and collaboration purposes. Part of my research and usability testing was done as Director of Technology Programs at Maricopa Colleges Small Business Development Center in Phoenix, AZ. The opportunity provided by the Maricopa College SBDC to publicly test the results of my research is gratefully acknowledged.

I dislike the term "mind map" originally employed for this technique. I believe it is a confusing term with new-age overtones that has hindered its acceptance and that of derivatives and tools to implement it. For that reason, and for the particular use I make of it, I prefer the terms Roadmap and Roadmapping, which are more descriptive of the knowledge domain navigation process enabled by the map.

Roadmapping is particularly powerful to navigate complex knowledge domains where a problem solution is sought which cannot be readily optimized. In that case, optimizing the exploration and reasoning process is the next best thing. I call this process Knowledgebase Navigation or KnowNav™.

KnowNav™ allows users to explore alternatives and their associated facts through the prism of their personal preferences. To this goal, the domain expert lays out in a roadmap, as objectively as possible, the alternatives and all the judgmental considerations that could be made about each. Users then can navigate the knowledge-base, in an almost random-walk fashion, intuitively attaching relative personal preferences to each of the considerations identified by the expert.

The roadmap's power comes from:
  1. ability to taxonomically organize the knowledge-base hiding the overwhelming size of the data set
  2. ability to open and close branches at will thereby switching from macro to micro views
  3. keep open only the branches relevant to the user at any given moment
  4. express options and features in one line statements thereby breaking down the complexity of any concept
The expert's challenge involves:
  1. definition of the alternative navigation paths
  2. taxonomic organization
  3. break down complex ideas until they can be defined in one-liners
Following are some simple and abbreviated examples open to all. Some more detailed roadmaps are available to my consulting clients:

  1. Angels' Due Diligence
  2. Should I get a Patent?
  3. Should I file for a Trademark?
  4. Should I apply for a SBIR Grant?

Very large data sets and complex issues can be summarized and detailed so that the end user can navigate them with ease. More details on these methods are contained in my forthcoming book "KnowNav™and Roadmaps: Simply Reasoning About Complex Issues"

I use this technique because, folding and unfolding branches of the roadmap (read carefully the instructions at the top of each map), you can switch from a "30,000 foot" summary view to "detail" view of different parts of the issue and navigate the knowledgebase with continuous reference to the general context.

All content and roadmaps copyright of Marco Messina 2006-2010 KnowNav™ is a trademark of Marco Messina

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