Using mind maps for proposal management activities

I teach a proposal management class and use mind map examples for some of the lesson topics. I’m often surprised to learn that many of my students are not familiar with the mind map concept. In this article, I briefly introduce mind mapping and provide a few examples of how your proposal team can use mind maps as you prepare your proposal.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a diagram used to visually generate, organize, structure, analyze, and classify ideas or information. It is an effective tool to capture and analyze information generated in brainstorming sessions. It facilitates collaboration, communication, learning, visual thinking, and problem solving. Mind maps can be used for planning, making decisions, and to facilitate outlining and writing.

To create a mind map, you begin with a central concept/topic and develop related subtopics or themes around the central topic, connecting each to the center with a line. Repeat the same process for the subtopics, generating lower-level subtopics as appropriate. The beauty of a mind map is that you can keep adding new branches, and you’re not restricted to just a few options.

The easiest way to understand the concept is with a few examples. These examples also demonstrate some practical ways to apply the mind map concept to proposal management.

1.     Analyze your customer using mind maps

Use a mind map structure to capture and analyze intelligence about your customer. Begin by selecting subtopics of interest, such as those depicted in the figure below (decision makers, relationships, risk tolerance, etc.). Each of these subtopics can then be further developed from collective intelligence gathered in a brainstorming session. You can use a similar construct for black hat sessions when analyzing your competitors, or for capturing corporate information related to a specific opportunity you are pursuing. Visually generate, organize, structure, analyze, and classify ideas or information for your proposal management activities using mind maps.

2.     Analyze risk using mind maps

An important topic for both your company and your customer, use a mind map to identify, analyze, mitigate, and monitor risks as in the mind map below.

3.     Strength-Based Solutioning™ using mind maps

Mind maps offer an effective way to develop solutions for each evaluation factor and requirement in the RFP. Develop alternative approaches and visually see which may be considered strengths or discriminators. The use of colors and images may be appropriate here. Note where additional information is required to substantiate a strength. Finally, migrate the selected solutions to your proposal.

Getting started

The easiest way to start a mind map is with a white board and markers. Use images or short phrases. Consider using different colors to categorize and organize.

There are also many automated mind map tools available. These make it easy to collaborate with virtual teams. They also enable you to export the diagram or to save it as an outline that can be used in MS Word or other word processor to start your writing.

You can also use MS PowerPoint to create a mind map as shown.

Mind mapping increases your creativity and productivity and is an excellent tool to help you generate more ideas and visually see related information. Give it a try, and keep it in your proposal management toolbox!

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.