There’s a rumor afoot that using Microsoft PowerPoint during a meeting lowers the IQ of all present by about 20 points. Whether you fall for that or not, there’s at least anecdotal evidence that using the ubiquitous “PP”—while fine for making presentations—is ineffective and costly as a decision-making tool. Tech columnist David Coursey offers an inexpensive, useful group decision-making tool, the MindManager X5, which counters the “lazy thinking” common to many business presentations and allows complex information to be presented more gracefully. MindManager is based on a technique called “mind mapping,” which depicts a visual flow of ideas radiating from a single key idea. All the ideas can then have branches, which can have branches—and more branches. The program’s real beauty is in translating tasks from paper charts and whiteboards into an electronic form, making its “business maps” more functional. Easy to edit and change, introduce graphics and other objects, the maps can be distributed electronically and easily turned into a PowerPoint presentation that walks the viewer through various branches that emanate from the central idea.

Cost is $199-$299, with a free trial version available on the company’s website 23 Jul 2004