Thursday, August 7, 2008

bCisive for Decision Making

Many of you may not know this about me, but in my previous life, I was a practicing school psychologist and worked with many students to help them develop better social problem solving and decision making skills. I even went on to write two parenting books on emotional intelligence and have been interested in this area for the better part of my professional career. As a practitioner, I would carefully break down the skills that the students needed to learn and I would often help them see the consequences for their actions by using flow charts or doing it them in Inspiration, a really fantastic concept mapping application. Trying to make the handouts and materials very visual and showing the students I worked with the decision making process was in the long run going to help them make better decisions.

The idea of visualizing the outcomes is very powerful and if I had some of the tools that I now have I know my work would have been that much easier. Regardless if you are a student or a business person we are always confronted with having to make literally hundreds of decisions each and everyday. Some of the decisions we make are made effortlessly without much deliberation, however there are always those few decisions that gnaw at us and force us to sit down, ponder, and evaluate. It is for the former, that having visual tools like bCisive can come in really handy. Before I talk about bCisive, I do want to thank Katherine Brandenberger from Austhink Software for providing me with a copy of bCisive, to review. Austhink Software promotes bCisive as a simple software application for business decision making and diagramming that goes beyond mind mapping. bCisive runs on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 2000.

bCisive has a very clean and pleasing interface to navigate and provides the user with the now familiar Ribbon interface. The Left panel provides the user with all of the symbols that can be used to build your decision tree, while the right panel provides you with the Text Panel. The Text Panel allows you to do Internet searches right within the application using Google and Wikipedia as well as searching for images using Flickr and Google. You can also use the Text Panel as a Scratch pad for your ideas or use it to attach Notes to an idea in your decision tree. Within the Text Panel you can also view a Summary of your decision making as well as an outline- which are two really powerful features. The user can also export the outline into a word processor for further editing or revision.

I decided to do a test run of bCisive working through a decision to take traditional courses or on-line courses for a Supervisor's Certificate. I started out building my decision tree by using the Basic Map template provided and dragging it into the middle of the screen. This provided me with a number of specific icons that I could now enter text into. I was now able to type my question as well as my options and the pro's and con's of each option. This was very straight forward and having the visuals laid out on the screen does make you go through the process more systematically documenting your thoughts and ideas. Once I worked through the process I was able to select my decision and code it using the decision icon. The process was very quick and straight forward. If I needed to have supporting materials, I could have attached files and URL links to my decision tree.

bCisive really shines when you are ready to share your decision processes with others. You can always Export your Outline to a text file to email to others or output your decision tree as an Image file (png, jpeg, bmp, tiff, and emf, and gif). One of the really exciting output features is being able to export your bCisive decision tree as a bMap Bundle. The bMap Bundle creates a zip file with all of your attachments and URL's and creates an html file with all accompanying media so that you can upload it to the web (Click here to view the bCisive map on the web) or share it with anyone who has access to a browser. Once you open up the bMap Bundle you can interact with your decision tree and look at the steps and process you took in coming to your decision. bCisive is a very specialized tool for all types of open ended decision making. It provides a very engaging environment in which to think about and clarify the options as well as the pro's and con's of your decisions in a very systematic fashion. I particularly liked the fact that the program automatically generated a summary of your decision. While I know this program is geared for business people, this could be an extremely invaluable tool for those professionals who work with students to help them look more carefully at the decisions they make and the consequences of their actions. Providing individuals with a structured visual approach to making better decisions is such and important support when students are in the process of having to decide on what to do. So if you have the chance, take a look at bCisive- there is a 30 day trial version available.

 
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