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Biggerplate 2016: New Year, New Era, Same Mission

First and foremost, I'd like to wish all Biggerplate members around the world a very happy new year! I hope 2016 is hugely successful and enjoyable for each and every one of you, and I look forward to meeting and working with more of you this year than ever before!

It just so happens that my birthday is on January 5th*, and as such, I always have a double dose of new year reflections and resolutions at this time of year, as I not only move into a new calendar year (with everyone else) but also get one year older 5 days later, which is always a prompt for reflection and looking forward. A further coincidence is that the first version of Biggerplate.com was actually launched in January (17th January 2008 to be precise) and so each January also represents a Biggerplate Birthday (we're coming up to 8 years old), and a further excuse to enjoy a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of future-gazing! With this triple dose of looking back and imagining forward in mind, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the Biggerplate world at the start of 2016, as we embark upon our 9th year online! (I bet you didn't realise we'd been around that long did you...!)

* Those wishing to send me expensive birthday presents can find our office address on the website of course...

New Era...?

We finished 2015 on a real high, as December proved to be a record-breaking month for us as we had more new members registrations, and more maps shared in December than we have ever had in a single month, ever. While it's still early days, we are quietly confident (though we don't really do 'quiet' anything) that this represents the early results of our year-long API project, and may represent the start of a new era at Biggerplate as a result of more people discovering us directly through their favourite mind mapping software/app.

Our friends at XMind and iThoughts each released software updates towards the end of 2015 containing direct integration with the Biggerplate.com mind map library, enabled by our newly launched API & Developer Hub. The result is that a host of mind mappers have now been made aware of the community and resources available at Biggerplate.com, many of whom had probably never heard of us until a little 'Upload to Biggerplate' button appeared in their software in November (XMind) or December (iThoughts).

The increases we have seen in visits to the website and (more importantly) new member registrations and map sharing suggests these integrations are already proving effective in bringing new members to our community, and encouraging people to share maps by making it an extremely easy one-click process! While it is still early days, to see these increases in a month that is traditionally one of our quietest is very encouraging. With other software partners currently working on similar integrations over the coming months, it's possible that January 2016 may represent the start of a new era in terms of people discovering, joining, and actively participating in the Biggerplate community!

Same Mission

When I think about that first version of Biggerplate.com back in 2008, it is interesting (and I think reassuring) to note that while much has changed in terms of the website, our business, and the wider mind mapping sector, our fundamental mission has retained its relevance, and remained unchanged throughout. In fact, it has grown in relevance and importance with each year we've been working!

We set out to be the best source of mind mapping content, learning, and community in the world, and gradually, year on year, we've moved closer and closer to that goal. With each year, and each step towards achieving the goal, we have also become more obsessive and focused on the pursuit of it! The result is that our already myopic focus on mind mapping has become ever more laser-focused. You simply will not see Biggerplate doing anything that does not align with this goal, which means you won't see us doing anything that does not focus on mind mapping. It's why we've chosen to let some great opportunities go by over the years, and why (at times) even shut down our own projects when we realised that they did not support the best in the world goal enough to justify resources, attention and effort. Only through disciplined and dedicated focus on this specific goal can it be achieved, and we hope that this next (new) era will serve to prove the theory!

Of equal importance to the goal itself, is the 'why' behind it, which has also remained equally relevant, and is perhaps even more true now than ever before. Why do we do what we do? Because we believe that mind mapping software is the missing link and must have tool for modern workers in business and education. We believe the best way to illustrate and (if necessary) prove this is through a lively and vibrant community that shares learning, insights, applications, and best practice related to how mind mapping can help to improve working and learning. The foundation of this is the mind map library, which continues to represent both the heart and fuel for the whole endeavour. Over the years, we have designed and delivered an ever-increasing number of additional projects (both online and offline) to support and strengthen both the core map library, and the global community of mind mappers who have joined up with us as we pursue our goal!

As the community has grown, and we have been fortunate to meet and learn from mind mappers around the world, it has become ever more clear to us that the 'missing link' theory is correct, and that only through a thriving and active community of users can the real uses, applications, and benefits of mind mapping really be proven. Marketing messages from software vendors will never have as much validity and truth as we get from a community of practice that can show, in often un-remarkable ways, how mind mapping tools and processes have had a positive impact on their working and learning. The mind mapping tools now sits comfortably as part of their everyday working toolkit, thereby filling in the missing link they had before. Simple. It's not about magic, or mystical pseudo-science. It's about effective modern tools that fulfil a vital function: the visual organisation of ideas and information. This is why our 'why' feels more relevant now than ever before; it has been validated and supported by the thousands of mind mappers that we have engaged with over the years.

What next?

The mission then, remains unchanged: Become the best source of mind mapping content, learning, and community in the world, because then we can help spread mind mapping further by proving beyond doubt that it is a highly relevant, modern working tool that belongs on every computer in business and education. Not to mention government, the charity sector, and a myriad of other arenas...

Over the course of 2016, you can expect to see Biggerplate continue our pursuit of the goal in the following broad areas:

Community Insight and Analysis

Driven by our (currently open) Annual Mind Map Survey and the subsequent Annual Report 2016 (due in February), we hope to provide increasingly valuable insights into who is using mind mapping, in what type of contexts, and with what outcomes/benefits. We want to know (and show) where mind mapping is having an impact, and how. We want our community members to share their learning, experiences, and ideas for 'what comes next' in mind mapping. By gathering and sharing these perspectives, we hope to better amplify the messages, share the learning, and shape a more relevant future for Biggerplate and the wider mind mapping world. We also hope the outputs and research we share will help others more effectively make their case when trying to introduce mind mapping tools into other organisations, by providing a compelling picture of a valid 'business case' and body of evidence representing the experience of thousands of mind mappers around the world.

Not taken the Annual Survey yet? Cick here to take part (closes 31 Jan 2016)

Leadership in Learning

The 'learning' part of our best in the world goal was historically our weakest point, but over the last 2 years in particular we have been gradually designing, testing, and developing our 'learning' strategy.

While we have for many years delivered training workshops around the world, and provided online resources to help both new and experienced mind map users, these activities have lacked a connectedness and coherence between them, and they have not been particularly visible aspects of our work. 2016 will see this change significantly, as we launch an ambitious series of e-learning courses (view details here), to align with, and complement our most extensive calendar of Public training workshops ever. (View details of upcoming workshops, with more details coming soon on this page).

This is another example of us attempting to deliver our best in the world goal through a connected blend of online and offline activities, with a view to greatly enhancing the visibility and impact of both over the course of 2016!

Connected Community

The theme of a connected online and offline approach is further reflected in current planning and activities that aim to provide ever more ways and opportunities for our members to connect (in both online and offline worlds), share insights and experience, and (of course) learn from each other.

Our Annual Biggerplate Unplugged Conference returns to the USA this year, and will be taking place in New York City on 10 March (view details). The event is already shaping up to be a fantastic opportunity for both new and experienced mind mappers to gather and learn through a series of user presentations, as well as a number of lively interactive workshop sessions for all delegates to share their views and get involved!

Want to join the Annual Mind Map Conference in New York? View details here

Alongside the conference, we have further plans to expand the already popular Biggerplate Brunch Club, and hope to bring you news on upcoming Brunch Club meetings soon. Stay tuned to this page over the next couple of weeks.

In 2016, we're also going to be looking at ways to ensure that all of these great offline opportunities to connect and engage with the Biggerplate community are soon matched by improved functionality on the website to help people connect and engage more easily with other mind mappers online through Biggerplate.com. While we have exactly zero interest in building a 'social network', we're increasingly aware of the limitations in the current website related to how mind mappers might want to interact and engage with one another. We're already working on some ideas here, and again, your feedback and ideas are always welcome, either in the comments here, or (of course) in the Annual Survey!

In Conclusion? Get involved!

As we enter what (we hope) looks like a new era for Biggerplate and our members, it's extremely exciting to consider where this journey has led us thus far, and where it may now lead over the next 12 months. There is only one direction, and it's certainly onwards and upwards, the only unknown is how far, and how fast.

The deciding factor will as ever be the people in the community who engage with us, collaborate with us, and help us improve in all the many areas that we now find ourselves working. Many people are surprised to learn that the Biggerplate team is made up of just 6 people. The activity and momentum that people see from our organisation often looks too big to be the work of such a small team, and it's entirely true. All that has been achieved up to this point, and all that comes next is the result of 6 people with a great passion, working hard, and being supported and enthusiastically supported in a myriad of ways by a global community of over 90,000 members. In reality therefore, Biggerplate is a team of 90,006 or so... and we're excited to continue the journey with our extended team over the course of what promises to be an extremely interesting 2016!

Thank you all for your amazing support, enthusiasm, energy, and engagement over the last 8 years, and here's to a great 10 year party in 2018...!

Author image
Liam is the founder of Biggerplate.com, and tries (with varying success) to write about key projects and progress at Biggerplate, as well as the wider world of mind mapping and our place within it.
London, UK Website