Guide to knowledge mapping

What is a knowledge map?

A knowledge map is a visual aid that shows where knowledge can be found within a group or organization and how to find those with the most expertise. The map shows who or what resources have the knowledge and where to find the needed information by linking sources together with nodes of additional information for an entire overview of an idea, process, or proficiency.

With a particular subject as the focal point, resources are spanned out with linked nodes drawing the connection between a subject and the authority on the matter. Each previous node can be expanded by identifying key information holders within the links.

Also known as an inventory of knowledge, these linked resources make it easier for companies to collaborate on areas of expertise and advance their current understandings of a topic, procedure, or skill. Knowledge maps serve as a visual database representing ideas and their resources.

Types of knowledge maps

Knowledge mapping is different from simply gathering information. When we look at knowledge as the practical application of information, we can see how knowledge mapping will help us communicate how to apply that information. Knowledge maps can be categorized in one of three ways:

Procedural knowledge maps

Efficient companies have a defined process or procedure for everything that they do. Procedural knowledge maps can effectively document and communicate these procedures across an organization. Procedural maps break down standard functions task-by-task.

Consider how much information is shared during the new employee onboarding process. It's overwhelming for new employees and essential for them to know the fundamental operational processes in the company. Procedural maps help companies streamline the knowledge transfer process, getting new hire employees engaged and productive as quickly as possible.

Even for seasoned employees, procedural mapping can provide an invaluable operational asset. Take, for example, incident reporting practices. While every employee within your organization may handle reporting threats, breaches, or quality concerns, the truth is that these incidents may not occur routinely. Procedural mapping provides a documented reference for reporting procedures so that every incident is handled similarly.

Conceptual knowledge maps

Conceptual knowledge maps expand on ideas or topics. These mind maps feature a central idea or theme with branches of related issues, concerns, or ideas. Concept maps allow you to see how multiple issues are related to the first by creating subtopics. Using MindManager, every new subtopic can have an additional link to outside resources, providing a visual problem-solving tool.

Businesses face complex problem solving and creative brainstorming daily. Figuring out how to navigate supply chain disruptions or solve a common customer complaint takes a lot of thought. Visual tools that put thoughts or ideas on paper can be an invaluable collaboration resource, helping teams to make smarter decisions in less time.

Competency knowledge maps

While procedural maps identify tasks and concept maps help with ideas, competency mapping illustrates behaviors. Mapping employee competency shows core skills, leadership abilities, and training areas, providing the framework to develop strong teams based on areas of excellence.

Competency maps help a company identify training needs to build its necessary proficiencies. This visual tool can be an effective foundation for solving internal skills gaps and feeding the right talent into the right areas at the right time.

When to use a knowledge map

When to use a knowledge map

Knowledge mapping helps communicate information. Since knowledge mapping can be used for tasks, ideas, and processes, these visual tools make an essential aid in all areas of operations. Knowledge mapping tools can help find knowledge gaps within an organization and help connect employees to the right people and resources for the project.

Knowledge maps work well for things like:

  • Communicating onboarding information
  • As a knowledge resource
  • Sharing ideas across a team
  • Strategic planning
  • Complex problem solving
  • Documenting brainstorming sessions

Knowledge maps can be used to document and share processes, like how to investigate a quality concern and who within the organization needs to be notified. They can be used to analyze a situation, like understanding organizational competencies and evaluating what a company is doing well and where they have growth opportunities. But most commonly, knowledge maps are used to express an otherwise intangible thought process.

For example, taking a concept from an idea and turning it into a productive plan is easier with visual support tools like a knowledge map. Instead of relying on a team's verbal communication skills alone, mind mapping software enables a company to visualize a problem and how it relates to different organizational processes.

The human mind naturally excels in relational learning, so mapping out relationships is integral to solving a complex problem. Instead of one person holding all the information and mentally working to solve the problem, the entire team is provided with a common starting point. As each person begins to work through the thought process, individuals are empowered to share ideas that help expand the knowledge map keeping the whole team moving in the same direction at the same time.

In other words, it's the key to turning an average brainstorming session into an easy collaboration that drives innovation. Mind mapping tools provide an easy-to-share format that enables multiple people to contribute and edit as needed. A simple idea can take flight with a little structure to the group-think process.

Benefits of knowledge maps

Knowledge maps visually represent complex ideas, solving communication barriers that hurt productivity. These aids effectively communicate processes, share ideas, and map out strategies to organize the thoughts and ideas of a group into a central, actionable direction. Here are some benefits of knowledge maps:

Helps employees quickly access knowledge assets

Presenting ideas and identifying tasks through a visual representation helps employees to retain and share information, placing necessary knowledge into the flow of work for a well-organized, efficient working model.

Improves cross-team collaboration and communication

When you use a knowledge mapping tool like MindManager, features like sharing and co-editing knowledge maps encourages cross-collaboration with employees in all departments across an organization, breaking down traditional productivity-zapping silos.

Improve the decision-making process with better access to all company knowledge

Utilizing a knowledge map allows key stakeholders to categorize priorities, track deadlines, and estimate budgeting issues while improving decision-making by giving widespread access to critical roles within the company.

Enhances productivity

Knowledge maps provide a visual representation of thoughts or ideas that can be challenging to communicate, facilitating the sharing of information so that teams can spend more time focusing on solutions rather than trying to understand problems.

How to make a knowledge map

Knowledge maps start with a central theme or idea and branch out into a linear flow or web of nodes representing related steps, ideas, or concepts. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of creating a knowledge map:

  1. Identify a focal point: Choose a singular idea, process, or proposal that needs clarity or communication. Use MindManager to work faster, better, and more connected by tackling information overload head-on with a clear picture of the whole concept, idea, or process. Start a new knowledge map project, identify your goals, and share it with your team.
  2. Branch out: Use the node feature to add a separate object or 'node' for each related idea, step, or concept and link back to the main topic. Explore the possibilities using dynamic views, tags, priorities, and conditional formatting.
  3. Expand ideas: Continue to add additional nodes. There is no limit to how far you can expand your knowledge map. Capture content from anywhere using MindMap Snap, feed in your data with Excel Data Mapper integrations and easily change your perspective with dynamic views that present your knowledge maps as a map, chart, schedule, or list of tags.
  4. Add context & organizational elements: Add contextual clues using keywords and additional connective lines as the MindMap becomes more complex. MindManager features a collection of industry-standard symbols and shapes for clear communication across the board.

Why use MindManager to make knowledge maps

You can make knowledge maps by hand, in any graphic design program, or with a program specifically designed for knowledge map making. MindManager, an industry-leading knowledge mapping software, allows you to create complex, detailed knowledge maps with ease.

MindManager's key benefits include:

  • User-friendly, intuitive interface
  • Extensive image library—over 700 topic images, icons, and symbols to add to your knowledge maps
  • Premade knowledge map templates
  • Convenient file storage, retrieval, and sharing
  • Powerful integrations with file storage apps like Box and OneDrive
  • Google Docs integration via Zapier
  • Various tools and features to facilitate brainstorming and strategic planning
  • Google Chrome extension—MindManager Snap—to easily collect and import text, links, and images from the web

MindManager helps you synthesize ideas and information by providing a simple, intuitive framework for organizing your thoughts. With MindManager, you and your team can clarify complexity and collaborate in new and unexpected ways.

Knowledge map templates

MindManager comes pre-installed with many knowledge templates. To use these templates:

  • Open MindManager
  • Click NEW in the navigation menu
  • Select the template you want to use
  • A preview screen will appear - check to see if you'd like to use your selected template
  • Select 'Create Map'
  • Customize the template for your specific project
Knowledge map templates

Knowledge map FAQs

What are knowledge assets?

The term "knowledge asset" refers to any intellectual property type that enables a company to operate, grow, and adapt. These assets range from employee skills and knowledge to policies, procedures, and customer preferences and patterns. Knowledge assets are naturally complex because they encompass all aspects of what each employee brings to the table, how the company functions, and customer relationships.

What is an example of a knowledge map?

Knowledge maps can be made using various designs. One example includes a spider map with the main idea at its center and lines going out from the main idea into subcategories. Another example is a flowchart that places steps or actions in a sequence.

Knowledge maps might be the tool you're missing

Knowledge map software like MindManager can ease the information bottlenecks across your organization, making collaboration easier and more effective, helping employees perform, and sparking innovation-driving creativity. These maps work because they cater to different learning styles, bringing intangible ideas into the physical world while tapping into our relational learning strengths to quickly understand new ideas and concepts. From communication to collaboration, knowledge mapping might be your team's best resource to boost productivity.

Visualize more with MindManager

Want to make a knowledge map? Give MindManager a try today and start building with easy-to-use templates. Work faster, better, and more connected with advanced features of mind mapping software.

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