Two months ago we received a letter for Tony Buzan from a company in Orlando, Florida, inviting him to come and take a tour of their facility. One month ago, when Tony and CEO, Chris Griffiths, were in Florida for the ThinkBuzan Licensed Instructor Course, they took them up on the offer and paid a little visit. What they saw there was a company that had incorporated Mind Mapping and creative thinking into their process so perfectly, that even Tony couldn’t find any room for improvement.
The company is The Proposal Center, part of TechServ Inc., and they help other companies to develop and write government proposals. 16 years ago partners Carl K. Selfe and Dr. Arnold J. Meagher took a hard look at the proposal development process and identified what they believed to be the key weakness.
“We found one large weakness in every proposal effort and within every company with which we worked. The proposal startup or “kickoff” to every proposal effort was chaotic, resulting in wasted time and debilitating false starts.
The worst failures of these short, poorly structured Kickoff Meetings were: 1) the assembled brainpower of subject matter experts, engineers, writers, and graphic artists was largely left untapped; 2) key requirements were left under-developed and under-articulated; and 3) with no consensus on approaches, writers had no clear guidance on how to build a coherent presentation.”
They needed to find a way to tap into the knowledge and skills of all Kickoff Meeting participants and create a proposal plan that they would all buy into. After much research into client companies and how they approached proposal development in-house, they came across The Mind Map Book – How to use Radiant Thinking to Maximise your Brain’s Untapped Potential by Tony and Barry Buzan.
“As we read and re-read the book, we knew we had found something that had the potential to give a boost, even a big boost, to our approach to proposal development and writing.”
Unsure how best to incorporate Mind Mapping into their process, they did a test run of a multi-step Mind Mapping approach to capturing and reviewing the ideas and facts put forward during the Kickoff stage.
“What amazed us was: 1) the clarity of the articulated insights of the group, and 2) the transformative reaction among the participants as they looked at what the exercise accomplished. Not only were they very proud of what they had produced, but they had individual ownership of the end product. This stood in marked contrast to the discontent we had experienced in previous Kickoff Meetings.”
“We now have 3-day kickoff meetings for all of our proposals, creating consensus on the foundation stones and giving writers a clear roadmap to the development of a cohesive winning document. No one else that we know uses Mind Mapping this way in the proposal development process.”
What impressed Chris and Tony was not just their obvious understanding of the importance of creative thinking, but the extent of their commitment to it – even down to the walls of their offices.
“Since psychologists tell us that we do our best thinking in a relaxed, even playful, environment, we work hard in creating such an atmosphere throughout the three-day process.”
A Creative Environment
As you walk through the halls of The Proposal Center you will see row upon row of proposal documents pinned to the walls, allowing a continuous process of review to occur in a fresh environment, away from the meeting room. Every meeting room also has whiteboard-lined walls for proposal teams to brainstorm on and gather ideas.
Perfectly adhering to the brainstorming ‘steps’ we advocate, they also split the team into smaller groups before bringing them gradually back together at different stages. This prevents the reactive thinking that normally results from a large group attempting to generate ideas. Screens depicting a group’s Mind Map can, in an instant, switch to show the map of a group in a different room, allowing the teams to compare ideas and perspectives. Every inch of the facility is designed to maximise creative thinking and collaboration. Much to our delight, they even include incubation periods in between sessions to allow ideas and information to sink in and associations to form.
With an unheard of win rate of almost 83%, on proposals worth billions of dollars, The Proposal Center team have found a way to turn a dry, lacklustre process into something creative, stimulating and highly successful. Taking Tony’s Mind Mapping principles, they have created a process that utilises and maximises the creativity of individuals within a team and provides a fantastic example for any business looking to tap into staff potential.
All photos, artwork and Mind Maps provided by TechServ Inc.← Coming Soon: Tony Buzan’s Life-Changing Graph! iMindMap Freedom coming soon… →