Jim focused primarily on his experiences with mind mapping both as a Minister and at constituency-level as an MSP which he believes can re-energise politics.
During his time as Minister for Enterprise, Jim hosted 191 “National Conversations” with industries and local communities. These sessions averaged 48 people in the room, lasting for around 2 and ½ hours, and focused on asking simple questions such as:
- Does this community meet your personal needs?
- Who do you guys serve?
- How would these people you serve define your purpose?
- How should we measure actual performance in the delivery of that purpose?
- Who else can help us?
- What needs to change?
In Argyll and Bute, his largely-rural constituency, there were 26 sectors, including transportation, production, and farming, and during the sessions with sectors and communities a clear purpose emerged from the discussion: how do we get more people in our area into compelling and sustainable work?
The rationale for that being that the community saw a clear link between having more people in work and increased viability of shops, schools and services, as well as increased vibrancy in the local economy and a greater sense of societal cohesion. This resulted in greater interaction between individuals and different industries, such as transport and visitor attractions talking more closely to the hospitality and accommodation strands of tourism, and the food and drink industry speaking to hospitals and schools and working together more closely.
In the sessions, a huge MindGenius map would be created; Jim believes the equivalent of 60-80 flip charts. Using the map allowed people to see that their ideas had been listened to and were being considered. After the sessions, the map was distributed in map format along with MindGenius exports to PDF and MS Word to all attendees within 24 hours.
The process worked well in terms of the confidence built, the amount of information gathered and the speed in which attendees received their copies of the output, all of which made for momentum and things getting done. In total it was a phenomenon, which Jim believes would have been impossible with traditional methods.
As indeed was the fact that the knowledge gathered in these sessions could be maintained for future reference and people could see their input was making a difference.
One other indicator that this was an effective means of engagement was the positive electoral impact. As evidence that sectors and communities being given a new way to be more involved in their own futures, the voters of Argyll and Bute gave Jim’s Party an 8500 majority at the next election.
This in spite of the fact he was retiring from politics and standing down, that majority was up from the 815 majority he had in the area when first elected, an outstanding result considering the usual electoral penalty for standing down.
Jim has noted that all of his 191 sessions ended in applause: and explains that people were applauding themselves for having the guts to speak out, for being heard, for hearing other people and realising they weren’t on their own.
Jim believes that “Politics can be re-energised around conversations and mind mapping. It’s a way of modernising a system whereby politicians are usually sent away from the communities they represent to parliament whereas this system allows greater interactions between politicians and those they serve.”
Jim now has roles with Gael Ltd as Chairman, and as a visiting Professor at The University of Strathclyde. View Jim’s full presentation and find out more on the recent Biggerplate Unplugged event in London. Biggerplate Unplugged was a conference for the mind mapping industry, organised by Biggerplate, the mind map library. The next in the series will be held in Paris, find out more.