Take Your Concept Maps To The Next Level with BigPicture

If you’re a mind mapping or concept mapping enthusiast, you know how effective these tools can be.  Ideas, processes, and decisions are clarified and presented with powerful visuals–something BigPicture for Excel software does with ease:

hypothese bp map closeup

BP chart image

But BigPicture can go beyond these diagrams. One of the software’s stand-out features is its ability to link to Excel spreadsheet data, and automatically reflect any changes in that data should it change–creating what we call a ‘live-linked data map’. This feature allows you to automatically display your data as visual maps that can be manipulated, customized, and hyper-linked to other resources.

That means you can take data, such as a compiled list of the final MLB (Major League Baseball) standings, plus other information, for the 2014 season:

mlb data sheet

This data sheet has one row for each of the 30 MLB teams. It lists the team name, division, league, location, and two hyperlinks for team information. It also lists the number of wins and losses, the winning percentage, and total runs scored for each team.

 

That information can be easily converted into a map that looks like this:

mlb data map

 

This map displays  League and Division, and features end tables of the teams in a given division, along with their wins, losses, winning percentage, and runs scored. The end tables also show markers and hyperlinks for the teams and their locations.  All that data from the spreadsheet is now shown in a visual, logical map that can be easily read and understood.

Want to learn how to do this yourself? Head over to our BigPicture Help Manual, and check out the step-by-step guide, “What is a Data Map and how do I create a Data Map?”

 

 

BigPicture Example Series: Where to Start a Business

In the BigPicture Example Series, we’ll show you different ways you can make BigPicture work for you.  You can check out all these example files with your copy of the BigPicture software, which you can download here. Get BigPicture today and start playing with these fun and informative example models. The possibilities are limitless.

 

This example is based on the Harvard Business Review case study “Where to Launch in Africa.” In the case, a young executive is trying to decide where to open a new packaging manufacturing business in Africa. The entrepreneur is originally from the small country of Malawi, but has been living and working in Kenya for years. He must weigh many competing factors, both economic and personal, in deciding where to start his new company. How large is each potential market? How much help and support can he get? What will his cost structure look like? What are the political risks? Are there barriers to expansion? How competitive is each market? What will his lifestyle look like?

africa1

 

It can be very difficult to understand and analyze a decision such as this, especially with so many qualitative considerations and personal preferences.

africa2

 

BigPicture enables you to visually organize the issues at stake and navigate through the options logically. Features such as color-coded topics, visual markers and icons, and expandable/collapsible topics allow a decision-maker to categorize, understand, and communicate the issues. This example also uses hyperlinks to web resources the entrepreneur might be using for each country being considered.

 

africa3

 

Check out the full example model in BigPicture’s ‘Example Spreadsheets’ section under the Help menu:

 

help

BigPicture Example Series: Strategic Planning for New Drug Development

In the BigPicture Example Series, we’ll show you different ways you can make BigPicture work for you.  You can check out all these example files with your copy of the BigPicture software, which you can download here. Get BigPicture today and start playing with these fun and informative example models. The possibilities are limitless.

In the Harvard Business Review case study Bet on One Big Idea — or Diversify?” , the fictional big pharma company Caliska faces an important decision on whether to continue research on a promising new probiotic drug, L-39. The drug has had somewhat disappointing results so far in clinical trials, and there has even been some evidence of safety issues. However, Caliska’s strong research team believes that with further development, the drug can be made more effective and safe, and that it has the potential to be a breakthrough drug for the company, as well as for patients suffering from the gastrointestinal ailment called Crohn’s disease. The alternative is to make a quick profit by marketing L-39 as a dietary supplement (a nutraceutical), a decision strongly opposed by the research team but with some support by the CEO.

In this example, a map was created in BigPicture to graphically summarize the issues, risks, and arguments presented by the executives and researchers in the case study. The map first lists some facts:

 

pharmadecision1

 

Then the two alternatives are listed, along with positive (green) and negative (red) consequences:

 

pharmadecision2

 

Finally, criteria important to the company are listed to the right, as they relate to the consequences of the decisions. The goal is to provide a summary map that can be used to review and discuss the possible options and come to a consensus decision in a strategic planning environment:

pharmadecision3

 

The map illustrates the benefits of using BigPicture to visually summarize complex set of relationships and issues in a diagram. When a diagram is used, people are more likely to understand those relationships, analyze them, and remember them. People tend to be more engaged when working with a diagram, and remember its concepts better:

pharmadecision4

Check out the full example model in BigPicture’s ‘Example Spreadsheets’ section under the Help menu:

help

 

BigPicture Benefit: Collapsible ‘Many-to-One’ Relationships Between Topics

Those who know and use mind mapping and concept mapping with other software tools may have run into a frustrating limitation of their software’s capabilities: the inability to easily create collapsible and expandable ‘many-to-one’ relationships between topics.

This issue was described in a post on Sociamind, a blog produced by Gooding Davies Consultancy Pty Ltd. The author, Alex Gooding, describes how several mind mapping software tools are designed to have many topics branching out from one, and not the other way around.  Furthermore, it’s very difficult to expand and collapse these many-to-one groupings. The only way he can achieve something close to this effect is by incorporating invisible topics and connections, as he details in his post.

BigPicture has been designed to be much more flexible, allowing users to easily create, collapse, and expand “many-to-one” topic relationships, as well as continuing on and going back to a “one-to-many” situation for sub-topics.

bigpicture many to one example 1

 

The above image demonstrates how BigPicture’s concept maps allow for topics to branch from one to many, back down to one, and then back out to many with ease – rather than having to create invisible floating topics and relationship lines as described in the Sociamind post.

Gooding’s other challenge was finding a way to be able to collapse one of these sub-topic groupings as a whole unit. He did an amazing job coming up with a “workaround” that involves some laborious efforts. Here, we show how BigPicture allows for a much quicker method:

bp-many-to-one-collapse

 

Just place your cursor over a connection between sub-topics (in this case, the orange connector between the light blue and orange sub-topics), the red collapse icon appears. Click on the red collapse icon, and the orange subtopic and all its children collapse and disappear. It is as simple as that! And it is already part of BigPicture’s standard capabilities – no invisible topics, no extra effort, just a click of the mouse.

bp-many-to-one-collapse 2

 

Any and all combinations of collapsed and expanded sub-topics can be created just by clicking either the associated red collapse or green expand icons to bring the grouped topics out of, or into view.

bp-many-to-one-collapse 3

 

If you want to see just the orange topics you can easily collapse the others by clicking on the other collapse icons.

Interested in trying this out for yourself? Download the beta version of BigPicture for free and start experimenting with your own map, or check out one of our example files such as the Big Pharma Decisions to see it in action.

Why Map with BigPicture Instead of Just Excel? It’s Easy to Change and View!

BigPicture uses Excel shapes and connectors for its free-form maps. Those same shapes and connectors can be used to create maps and diagrams in Excel without BigPicture. So, you might ask, what’s the difference?

A lot, actually. In this series of blogs, we take you through some of the key benefits to using BigPicture vs “Excel-alone” for free-form diagramming in Excel:

Changing Shape Type

In BigPicture, if the type of a shape is changed (say from a rectangle to a circle), existing connectors stay attached to the new shape type at appropriate connection positions. When using Excel-alone, all connections are lost when the type of a shape is changed.  The user must then manually re-attach connectors to the new shape type.

Changing Shape Type

Collapse and Expand

In BigPicture, child shapes may be collapsed and hidden from view when the Collapse shape is clicked at a connection point, and expanded when the Expand shape is clicked. When using Excel-alone, there is no capability for “folding” or collapsing and expanding connections.

Collapse and Expand
Want to see more reasons for using BigPicture rather than just Excel?  Check out our other blogs that explain how our software makes concept mapping that much easier!

Why Map with BigPicture Instead Of Just Excel? Adding and Labeling Shapes!

BigPicture uses Excel shapes and connectors for its free-form maps. Those same shapes and connectors can be used to create maps and diagrams in Excel without BigPicture. So, you might ask, what’s the difference?

A lot, actually.  In this series of blogs, we take you through some of the key benefits to using BigPicture vs “Excel-alone” for free-form diagramming in Excel:

Adding New Shapes and Connectors

In BigPicture, a new shape and connector can be added to a map simply by dragging the mouse from a connection point and releasing the mouse.  In Excel alone, a multi-step process is required. First, the new shape must first be added.  Then a connector has to be added and attached manually to the original shape and the new shape.

Labeling Shapes

Both BigPicture and Excel (alone) support using cell references to label shapes. Accessing “live” Excel content in a diagram is a major benefit of making a mind map in Excel. The labels of shapes update automatically as the values of cells they reference in Excel change. However, only BigPicture supports using multiple cells to label a single shape. With Excel alone, you can only reference the contents of a single cell when labeling a shape.

Auto Labeling of Shapes

Shapes can also be automatically labeled by BigPicture when they are added, with “auto-labels” updating as labels are added to shapes.  Excel alone has no facility for auto-labelling shapes.

Labeling Connectors

Connector labels are automatically positioned by BigPicture and adjust properly when shapes and connectors are moved.  If a label is placed on a connector when using Excel alone, Excel does not move or position the label properly when shapes and connectors are moved.

Labeling Connectors
Want to see more reasons for using BigPicture rather than just Excel?  Check out our other blogs that explain how our software makes concept mapping that much easier!