Sunday, November 6, 2011

Using Tinderbox to Explore Frameworks

Eastgate describes Tinderbox as a personal content assistant that helps you visualize, analyze, and share your notes, plans and ideas. It's an interesting application to use. One of the key benefits I've obtained from using Tinderbox is the exploration and use of frameworks.

The benefit of using Tinderbox to explore and use a framework is twofold. First, you gain insight into the framework by developing a Tinderbox document describing it. Second, use the Tinderbox document describing the framework to explore a problem using the framework. It is this second benefit where Tinderbox really shines.

Exploring a framework often requires mapping out the components, understanding the purpose of each component and the relationships between them. Tinderbox serves all three requirements very well—by writing notes that describe these components you fully capture the framework. By using links to capture relationships between components and using borders and badges for notes you can create a visually appealing document that describes the framework.

A good example of using Tinderbox in this way is the document developed to explore framework provided by Edward de Bono's "Teach Yourself to Think". The entire Tinderbox document developed to describe Edward's framework is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

In this framework, Edward introduces five stages of thinking and ties them together in a way that helps formulate new insights into problems. Figure 2 provides a closer look at one of these stages.

Figure 2

The most important part of Figure 2 is the note within the PO stage (called "PO Test"). This note was collected by an agent defined in the Tinderbox document. Agents are a powerful way to collect and organize information in a document. By using an agent to collect notes for each stage in the framework you can get a good picture of all of the information available in this stage. The arrows pointing into the stage highlight the key points needed for developing ideas in this stage.

These arrows are just Tinderbox notes. The advantage of these notes is that in addition to the title you can add additional information in them to remind yourself of what it means to say, "Search for Routine Approach".

The advantage of combining Tinderbox with a framework is that the end result is a living document that can self organize itself. Since Tinderbox supports multiple views of the data you have it provides the additional advantage of reviewing the information in the document through different perspectives. Since a Tinderbox is written in XML there is the additional advantage that you can share the document with other people (who may not have Tinderbox).

Of course, you can't apply Edward's framework to every problem you encounter. Applying the framework in a Tinderbox document is helpful for solving hard problems where no easy solution is readily apparent. I use it for the big problems that need to be thought through and analyzed.

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