Video: 2 minute intro; Tutorial: Worked examples; Help: Contents

Nov 19, 2013

New bCisive Online!

Dear user of bCisive Online,

This message is to inform you that we made a new bCisive Online. This version is based on the bCisive software edition and is incomparable better compared to the old version: it has almost all the options the software version has.
The new bCisive Online one will have the option of working together online simultaneously in Spring 2014.

You can find the new bCisiveOnline here.

bCisive Online as you know it will no longer be available in 2014. All the existing users have received an email with an offer with strong discount for the new program.

This new bCisive will not be compatible with the old one: you cannot import the files you made until now on
When you do not want to loose the maps you have made until now in bCisive Online you have two options:
1) Make pictures of your maps by making screen shots.
2) Another way is to copy / paste the text out of your maps in a map that you make in the new bCisive.

Kind regards,
Timo ter Berg

Mar 27, 2012

Introduction to bCisive Online

bCisive Online is a web-based visual mapping tool from Austhink, aimed primarily at complex decision-making, individual and team problem-solving, presentation and facilitation.

If you are a mind-mapping afficionado, but have had trouble getting the rest of your team to work with mind-maps, bCisive Online offers an alternative path to visual thinking.  Our users have found that facilitating a meeting or problem-solving session is a great way to get buy-in from the group.

The modes of visual thinking supported in bCisive Online overlap with mind-mapping, but the visual and manipulatory conventions are a bit different. Here's a short video illustrating the basic mechanics of map-building and editing.

Notably, bCisive Online allows multiple maps on a workspace, and makes playing with ideas in a bottom-up or top-down fashion (or any combination thereof) both practical and enjouyable.

For the more experienced user, advanced features include:
A feature aimed at bloggers is the facility to publish completed maps to the web.  Similar to embedding a Youtube video,  or a Slideshare presentation, bCisive Online enables you to embed a readonly workspace containing one or more maps in your blog (or in any web-page).  Unlike a fixed image, this workspace is zoomable and foldable.  Here is an embedded bCisive Online map, based on an editorial in the New York Times:

Best viewed in full screen, try zooming in and out, and hiding and showing branches and sub-branches.  Clicking on a non-map area of the workspace to pan around at high zoom levels.

bCisive Online is free to try, and available at reasonable rates on a subscription basis.

Jun 21, 2010

Step 6: Driving a Hard Bargain (Buying a Car)

Back: Step 5 - Evaluation (buying a car)

My evaluation complete, I was ready to march into the dealership and drive a hard bargain for my car of choice, the Suzuki Swift. This meant not only getting the lowest price, but also getting the most value, which translated into:
  1. Minimizing the trade-offs of choosing the Suzuki over the Jazz and Yaris.
  2. Loads of free extras.

Minimizing Trade-offs:
From my evaluation I knew that the Jazz and Yaris were better in the following respects:
  1. The Jazz had the most spacious trunk, followed by the Yaris
  2. Both the Yaris and the Jazz had a full-sized spare, unlike the Swift's "compact" spare.
  3. The Jazz's speakers sounded better better than the Swift's.
This knowledge was useful because it allowed to me exert pressure on the dealer by highlighting the strengths of rival options whilst avoiding the points I was already sold on:

"I like the Swift, but some other cars I looked it have more space in the trunk -- what can you offer to make up for the fact that I can't fit my desktop computer in the trunk of this car?"
"The Swift is a fine car, but the sound system in some other cars is much clearer. What can we do to get better speakers in there?"

Note: the object is not to demand the unattainable, but exploit the weaknesses of your preferred option in order to minimize its trade-offs. This also helped to keep me from becoming enamoured of my first choice, which would have played into the dealer's hands.

Getting Loads of Free Extras:
In order to get loads of extras, I'd have to use good-old-fashioned haggling. There are a few things that made this difficult for, the two most pertinent being:
  • Experience in negotiations: the dealer negotiates a car's final price every day, whereas for me this is a journey into unfamiliar territory.
  • Recall under pressure: It's hard to remember everything when you're in the spotlight. Just think of any TV game show...
Enter bCisive Online, again:

Since bCisive Online had helped me to work out my car of choice, I decided to use it create an inviting checklist for the final negotiation:

Now here's a checklist I can follow under pressure!

Because bCisive Online does not rigidly conform to a particular methodology, it gives me the freedom to build a map to suit my purpose. This time, rather than use it to weigh up my options in pursuit of a decision, my bCisive Online map served as a road map for the journey to the dotted line.

After an intense session of haggling, we finally agreed on the following;

How much did I pay? To be honest, I slightly exceeded my self-imposed limit of $17,000 , but I got value for money. Had I been on a strict budget, I'd have been well placed to determine what to leave out and what to drive hard for.

Jun 2, 2010

Step 5: Evaluation (Buying a car)

Back: Step 4 - Analysis (buying a car)

My analysis in the previous step gave me a simple, elegant scheme for evaluation.  I looked at the criteria in the first category and simply ranked the cars in order of preference -- i.e. which car was best for me in this regard?

The beginning of my evaluation (click to enlarge)

I found that the Suzuki Swift was a clear winner in the criteria that mattered most to me.  Until then, the Honda Jazz had seemed very attractive as well, but prior to laying out and organizing the criteria I had struggled to make sense of it all.

Click the Full Screen button in the bottom right for the best view.

The results are in! Well done to the Suzuki Swift. (Click to enlarge)

I could have applied a quantitative scoring and weighting scheme to my raw criteria, but I do not believe that this would have led to as compelling a result as my qualitative analysis.

  • If I had to justify a purchase decision to a boss or other stakeholders, the map would be a great way to present my analysis.
  • In this purchase my categories were roughly of equal importance, but in a more complex evaluation I could weight the categories (and even individual criteria) if need be. 
At this stage in the process, here's what I was certain about:
  • Which car I wanted
  • Why I wanted it
  • What it lacked (i.e. what the others had)
As a final safety check I sought the advice of an expert, my car mechanic friend, to make sure that I had not overlooked anything important.  With his blessing I was now equipped to march into the dealership and haggle with the dealer for the very best car I could get.  I knew what other similar cars had, and I was well prepared to negotiate for the best possible deal.

Next: Step 6 - Drive a Hard Bargain

May 23, 2010

Step 4: Analysis (Buying a Car)

Back: Step 3 - Detailed research (buying a car)

My table in the previous step was a good way of listing the pros and cons of each car, and even counting the number of things I liked and disliked, but it didn't show me which criteria were the most important.  I could see that the Swift was a winner in many categories, but were they the most important ones?

To get a clearer picture I extracted my criteria from my notes and organized them into a hierarchy in bCisive Online in five steps:
  1. List all the criteria that come to mind (brainstorming)
  2. Identify all the major criteria (what's most important)
  3. Group the major criteria into categories
  4. Organize the minor criteria
All these cars had satisfied my original criteria, but in the course of my research I had identified many new criteria, which I hoped would serve to distinguish them.

To help me with this somewhat daunting task I turned to bCisive Online, which is ideally suited to sifting, organizing, structuring and refining a mass of ideas.  Its drag & drop and automatic layout allowed me to brainstorm and categorize, and play with different arrangements until clarity emerged.  Its flexibility allowed me to use both top-down and bottom-up styles of structuring, and to switch freely between the two.  Here's what I came up with:

My detailed criteria as a map (click for a larger image)

The new criteria, broken down into the categories that emerged, were:
  1. Handling: On the road, parking, acceleration
  2. Comfort: Height of the interior ceiling, feel of the gearshift, seat comfort
  3. Cost: purchase price, fuel economy, cost of parts and services
  4. Storage: Trunk capacity, size of spare tyre
  5. Safety: Crash safety rating, brakes
Now that my criteria and categories were in order I had a simple, elegant scheme for evaluating each car on its own merits, without losing sight of the big picture.

Next: Step 5 - Analysis and ranking (buying a car)

Step 3: Detailed research (Buying a Car)

Back: Step 2 - Basic research

Now that I had a manageable shortlist of 6 cars it was time to compare them in more detail.  By the end of this step I wanted to have a clear and comprehensive list of criteria.  These detailed criteria would enable me to:
  1. Identify the 3 (or so) leading cars
  2. Articulate my criteria for purposes of comparison and ranking (for use in step 4)
  3. Start to prepare me for the bargaining process with car dealers (step 5)
As I considered the six cars on my shortlist I became aware of a further, hitherto tacit, criterion:
  • Does the car look good to me?
In my reading I also began to take notice of what the experts were saying.  While the experts would be applying different criteria and I did not have the patience to go through all the minutiae in their reviews, general consensus among experts carries some weight.  Hence:
  • Has the car received generally good reviews? 
    By answering these two additional questions I was able to narrow my selection to the 3 most appealing and acclaimed cars: Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris. 

    My next step was to visit a few dealerships, take these cars for a test drive, and grill the dealers for more information.  I noted what I liked and disliked about each car and after a few test drives I had a good idea of what to look for.  Here are my notes:

    Honda Jazz

    Suzuki Swift

    Toyota Yaris
    Spacious boot (trunk)
    Narrow body
    Fuel economy not great
    Full-sized spare
    tinted windows
    High safety rating
    Small boot (trunk)
    Wide body
    Excellent fuel economy
    Small spare
    Great around corners
    Excellent brakes
    Great acceleration
    Very good fuel economy
    Full-sized spare
    High safety rating
    Great safety rating
    Good brakes
    Cheap to repair
    Mechanics love it
    At this point my list of criteria was expanded (although not yet organized) and I had a much clearer idea of what to consider.  I had the reassuring feeling of being in much greater control of the process:
    1. I was no longer was paralyzed by choice, having reduced my selection to a very manageable final list;
    2. I no longer felt ignorant, having researched my selection and noted each car's pros and cons; and
    3. I no longer was afraid of paying too much, having ascertained the market price of my prospective cars.
    I was now ready to compare the finalists in detail and was only one step away from driving a hard bargain for myself.

    Next: Step 4 - Brainstorm and categorize

    May 16, 2010

    Step 2: Basic Research (Buying a Car)

    Back: Step 1 - Basic criteria

    Step 2: Do your research
    With my basic criteria -- price, car type, transmission -- in hand I set out to find what sort of cars I might consider buying.  In the case of looking for cars, there are plenty of search engines that allow you to search on these (and many more) criteria, so that's what I did ...

    ... and got 624 matches (click to enlarge)

    As you can see, there were plenty of cars that met my basic criteria, and I quickly added another criterion to my list - I sorted on mileage:
    New criterion in light of initial search results: low mileage
    However, I still had far too many to choose from, but I was heading (driving?) in the right direction.

    Tip: Stepping back from the car example for a moment, this is not an uncommon result.  If you are lucky (or very good) your initial criteria will yield a manageable number of options.  However, if your criteria are too tight, you may not have enough (any?) results to work on, which means that you need to  keep looking and/or loosen your criteria by dropping something.  If your criteria are too loose, there will be too many results, and you will need to identify additional criteria.

    At this stage there were a few things I could do to help me identify further criteria and thereby trim my results:

    Some ways to cut down the list (click to enlarge)

    In this case I was happy to use popular opinion as a guide, so I searched online for the most popular cars in my category:

    (Chances are someone else has been looking up the same thing on Google)

    And before long I had a short list of popular, highly rated cars that met my basic criteria:

    Honda Jazz, Holden Barina
    Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent

    Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris

    Next: Step 3 - Detailed research