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

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

    Step 1: Basic Criteria (Buying a Car)

    Back: Major Purchase Overview (Buying a Car)

    Looking for a car can be daunting: in every category there are so many cars to choose from, and so many features.

    So we'll start with something simple.

    Step 1: Start with basic criteria
    I might not know everything that I'll want, but I do know some things.  These explicit criteria are where I start.  Later in the process (step 3) I will uncover further criteria.
    My basic criteria
    • Price: $10,000 - $20,0000
    • Type of car: Small
    • Transmission: Manual
     And, just for fun, let's use bCisive Online to show why these are important to me:

    bCisive Online map of my basic criteria (click to enlarge)

    Expert tip: Since there is no "Criterion" box in bCisive Online, I simply edited the heading of the "Requirement" box to get the required effect.

    Next: Step 2 - Basic research

    Tutorial: Major Purchase Overview (Buying a Car)

    Back: Introduction & Contents

    For the purposes of this tutorial, we are going to dive into a major purchase example, buying a car.

    Please note that many of the steps that we go through will be applicable to other purchases, and to other kinds of decisions.

    The first thing that we need to do is set an objective.  Here's mine:
    Choose the best car for me, and get a good price.
    Next, we need a process (or steps) to achieve our objective.  Here's my process for buying a car:
    1. Start with basic criteria, however vague.
    2. Do some basic research: look online, and shortlist 5 or 6 cars that match my basic criteria.
    3. Detailed research: Choose 3 cars that particularly appeal to me, and test-drive them; this helps me to expand my criteria and shortlist the leading cars.
    4. Analysis: Brainstorm all of the criteria that come to mind in light of my detailed research and use bCisive Online to easily arrange and categorize them. 
    5. Evaluation: Perform a detailed comparison of the leading cars by ranking them in each criterion and category, possibly with the assistance of an expert.* 
    6. Use my now detailed knowledge of the best cars, to drive a hard bargain for my preferred car.
    *Note: if all leading candidates are ruled out during step 4, I will need to revisit (and loosen) my criteria.

    For me this process has the advantage of addressing what seemed like the major obstacles in achieving my objective:
    1. Paralysis by choice: there are so many cars to choose from
    2. Feeling of ignorance: I am not a car buff, and I needed to learn more about the differences between the various cars, and which differences I cared about
    3. Fear of paying too much: I want to be well-equipped to haggle with the car dealers, once I have made my choice
    Naturally, your preferred process may well be different depending on personal style and the details of the situation.  Fortunately bCisive Online is flexible; it does not mandate any particular process, so you can go with whatever works best for you.  Please feel free to use my process as a starting point.

    Next: Step 1 - Basic criteria

    bCisive Online Tutorial: Introduction

    bCisive Online is a great tool for cutting through the detail of difficult decisions, especially those involving:
    1. Significant ramifications (i.e. important)
    2. Many factors (sizeable)
    3. A lack of clarity at the outset over what is important, and what can be reasonably compromised on (complex)
    General examples include:
    1. A major purchase
    2. Negotiating a deal
    3. Formulating a strategy
    4. Outlining a pitch or case
    For the purposes of this tutorial we will walk through examples of each, introducing process, techniques and tips along the way.

    This tutorial assumes that you:
    1. Have created your own bCisive Online site
    2. And are comfortable with the mechanics of making and editing maps in the bCisive Online workspace.
    Before proceeding you may wish to review the basic map editing video, and have a bit of a play in a workspace.

    Let's start with an example of a major purchase with a personal flavor, buying a car.

    Next: Major purchase Overview (Buying a Car)

    May 2, 2010

    Attention bloggers: Embed bCisive Online maps in your blog posts

    You can now publish a bCisive Online map, making it available to the whole world to view, or just to members of your site.  It's basically a YouTube for your maps.

    For example, here's a map based on this editorial in the New York Times:

    Unlike a screenshot, you can pan, zoom, and hide and show sub-branches of the map.

    So give it a try to:
    • make complex discussions easier to follow
    • add visual interest to your blog
    Note: You can also embed maps on other html web pages (not just blogs), or instead of embedding link directly to a web-page that hosts the map.

    Mar 22, 2010

    And ... we're released!

    You can now upgrade from your free bCisive Online account to a paid plan.

    Introductory pricing is here.

    Next up: Support for bloggers to publish their workspaces to the web, and embed them in their blogs.

    Mar 11, 2010

    Click-to-Skype is here

    bCisive Online now has simple (and easy to use) Skype integration for two-way voice, video and chat.  Having a voice channel such as Skype is ideal for getting the most out of real-time collaboration with bCisive Online.

    The click to Skype button also appears next to Skype-enabled occupants within a space.

    How to tell bCisive Online that you are on Skype
    By adding your Skype name to your profile, you can allow other users to see when you're available to Skype, and call you with a single click.  Simply click on your name in the People section (above) and add your skype name to your profile:

    • If Skype isn't running on your computer when you click-to-Skype that's ok: it will launch automatically
    • You can use your Skype settings to control whether people can see that you are online.
    • If you try to initiate a conference by clicking on a second person's Skype button, you don't get a three-way conference call (yet) -- perhaps Skype will help us out with this!

    Feb 11, 2010

    Real-time collaboration overview

    bCisive Online offers orderly real-time collaboration.  Multiple site members can access a Space simultaneously, but only one will be in control at any one time.

    However, the other occupants will be able to see that person adding and moving boxes around in real-time, and everyone gets a remote pointer to gesture with while they talk over an audio link (e.g. try our click-to-Skype integration):

    Learn more about the details of bCisive Online's features for real-time collaboration here.

    What you can do when you're not in control

    In a real-time collaboration session you may be in control, hence able to edit the workspace and everything else besides.  When you're not in control there are still several useful things that you can do:
    1. Explore the workspace by panning and zooming
    2. Use remote pointing and audio tools to contribute to the discussion
    3. Request control

    Using remote pointing

    When you're in a Space, but you are not in Control you can still point with your mouse, and other occupants of the space will see what you are referring to:

    This feature is mainly intended to be used in conjunction with an audio link.  Here Dan Prager is gesturing from a remote computer, and making a verbal point about the Question over an audio link.


    • The Pointer of the person in control appears in red, everyone else's pointer appears in purple
    • You can't see your own pointer: you just see your regular mouse pointer

    Using audio and video tools with bCisive Online

    Real-time collaboration with bCisive Online works best with an audio link (video is nice too).  You can use whatever service you and your colleagues prefer.  The simplest choice right now is Skype, which is now integrated with bCisive Online to allow one click calls.

    With an audio hook-up to other participants your remote pointer becomes a real aid to discussion.   It allows you to point at a box on the workspace with your remote pointer, and everyone can see what you're referring to, whether you are in control, or not.

    Also,  the power to edit the space can be passed around in an orderly fashion.

    Passing around control

    When multiple people are inside a Space, only one person at a time can edit.  That user is in control.   It's a lot like the idea of a talking stick, where only the stick-holder can talk; here only the person in control can edit.

    Members and owners of the space can be "given control", and "request control", while viewers and guests cannot.

    Any changes made by whoever is in control of the space can be seen in real-time, by everyone:
    • boxes fly around and reconnect
    • the position of the controller's mouse cursor is visible in red as an arrow (see below);  other participants remote pointers  may also be visible in the workspace (not shown)
    Here's the view of someone not in control:

    The grey background is an additional cue to tell you that you cannot edit, unless you gain control.

    Who's in the Space?

    From the Spaces area in the Home page of your site, you can expand the information about a Space by clicking on its black triangle:

    Among other things, this tells you who is in the space -- the current occupants.  If you now enter the space you should be able to engage in real-time interaction with them.

    From inside the Space, click on the Occupants drop-down to get a listing:

    Feb 9, 2010

    Edging towards commercial launch

    Starting tomorrow -- with the new look for bCisive Online -- we will be rolling out updates culminating in commercial launch.

    For posterity, here is a comparison of the old public page,

     and its replacement:

    To follow later this month, before we remove the "beta" insignia:
    • Free sites will continue to be available, but we will be restricting the number of Spaces per site, probably to 3.
    • Pricing: Expect a base rate of around $25 per user per month / $250 per user per year
    • Lots of tweaks and improvements

    Jan 7, 2010

    Making a PowerPoint presentation

    While bCisive Online is great for capturing a group discussion or problem-solving session, the resulting map can be large and difficult to present to others in a way that's compelling and encourages buy-in.

    Using parts of your map to tell a linear story in the form of a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation can be much more powerful. And it's easy: no copy-and-pasting required. Here's how bCisive Online's built-in export-to-PowerPoint feature works.

    1. Take your slide snapshots
    Hover over a box and click the small camera icon in the bottom right corner to take a slide.

    A slide will be created containing your selected box and anything below it: its entire branch (excluding currently hidden boxes).

    Tip: Use hide and show to arrange the map as you want it to appear on your PowerPoint slides, hiding unnecessary sections.

    After a few seconds, the slide counter in the menu bar above the workspace will update from 0 to 1. Continue taking slide snapshots of other parts of your map until you are happy.

    2. Export your slides to PowerPoint
    When you are ready, click the Export button on the toolbar, and the Slide Presentation panel will slide out:

    Clicking on the panel's Export button will download a PowerPoint presentation containing -- as separate slides -- the snapshots of the bCisive Online map that you have just taken.

    3. Edit your presentation in PowerPoint
    Add style templates, your company logo, headings, notes and so on around your map images to flesh out the presentation and tell your story. So much better than endless bullet points!

    Related posts

    Uploading and attaching documents

    Uploading and attaching supporting documents to your bCisive Online map is often a helpful way to keep information relating to an issue together.

    To attach a document, select a box, double-click to open the text edit window and click the Edit Hyperlink/Attachment button:

    Next, click the Link to uploaded file button, and either select a file from the list or click the + button to navigate and add one.

    Select a file from the list or click + to add one

    Click OK and the document will be uploaded, and a link to it will appear in the selected box. When clicked, the link will open the document.

    Clickable link to document appears in box

    The document also appears in the list of attached files in the header bar of the workspace.

    Jan 5, 2010

    Adding hyperlinks

    When you're working with bCisive Online, it is often helpful to include in your map hyperlinks to useful websites and online information.

    To insert a link into a box, double-click on the box to open the text edit window, and click the Edit Hyperlink/Attachment button:

    Next, enter the URL to which you'd like to link.

    Pro tip: You can also enter a text description if you want to. If you do, the text will appear as a link in your box; if you leave the Text field blank, the URL will appear as a link in your box.

    When you're ready, click Save and your link will be displayed at the bottom of the selected box. When you click on the link, the website will be opened in a new window in your browser.

    Clickable link appears in box

    Note: You can also insert links to documents.

    Jan 4, 2010

    Excising a box

    Deleting a box from your map without removing its children is called 'excising'. To do it, select the single box you'd like to remove and press Ctrl+Delete (for both Mac and Windows users).

    The selected box will be deleted and its child or children attached to its parent:

    After excising the Idea box

    If you make a mistake, it's easy to undo.

    Adding a box by double-clicking

    In bCisive Online, you can add a new box of your choice to the workspace by dragging it out from the left panel and dropping it onto the space.

    There is another easy way to create a new box: simply double-click on a clear area of the workspace and a plain box will appear.

    To enter text into your new box, simply start typing. When you are ready, you can connect it to your map by dragging it near an existing box and releasing, or change it into a different box type.