In our case, mind maps were a gift from British educator, author and personality, Tony Buzan. And what a gift they were.
A mind map is a simple tool that helps with four vital tasks for any professional (or student):
- making notes
- sorting ideas
- creative thinking
- memory retention
It’s one of the crowning achievements of humanity to be able to assimilate vast amounts of information, to remember it, and to create patterns that organise it. But none of this is easy. As the amount of information grows, we start to struggle to organise our thoughts and our understanding. And the memory challenge grows too.
So, we need tools. And one such tool is visual thinking. We can represent ideas visually on a surface. By making that representation two-dimensional (as opposed to a 1-dimensional list) we get a boost in organising power. We can easily show relationships between ideas.
People have been doing this for centuries. We think of infographics as new, but not so. And different forms of information mapping go back into the enlightenment period and even earlier.
All of these arrange ideas onto a surface and connect them up. Mind mapping is one form of this. It is one in which secondary ideas connect to a central idea. And smaller ideas connect to each secondary idea. It is hierarchical in nature. So we use mind maps when we particularly want to explore, understand, or remember all of the ideas that link to one central concept.
What is a Mind Map?
So, a mind map is a diagram that shows how one idea can be broken down into subsidiary concepts and how each of these links to other areas of thought.
It is a great way to get information out of your head and onto a sheet of paper. It also works well as a way of collating information for note-taking. Because its map paradigm mirrors spatial relationships, it is easier to remember than a flat list or continuous text. and, because you can create it in a random, non-sequential way, it promotes creative exploration of ideas.
So, mind mapping is a way of organising information to highlight connections and relationships – especially of a hierarchical nature. It makes relative importance and subdivisions stand out.
How to Create a Mind Map
Mind mapping is simple – that’s one of its huge benefits. And yes, there are plenty of software tools (more than you can shake a stick at). But all you really need are pens and paper.
Mind Mapping Method
Here is your five-step method:
- Take a large blank sheet of paper – square or place it in landscape format – and a really nice pen. In fact, get a load of coloured pens
- Put the topic title or the subject in the middle and draw a shape around it. Better yet, draw a picture to represent the topic
- For each major idea or chunk of information that links to this, draw a thick line from the centre outwards. Label it with the idea and add a picture or some symbol
- For each major idea, fan out a load of smaller lines for the sub-topics. Label these too. Use pictures and colours to reinforce the ideas
- Keep going, using all your ideas
Here are five more tips to make your mind maps more memorable. This makes them useful if you need to memorise your notes for exams or presentations.
- Keep them simple, bold and clear
- Use lots of colour and different styles of writing
- Lots of pictures and symbols – develop your own conventions
- Cross-link ideas to show connections
- Group ideas with coloured boundaries
What is Your experience of Mind Mapping?
We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.
To learn more…
The Creative Manager’s Pocketbook contains a section on mind mapping, as well as a host of other creativity techniques.
If you want to improve your memory skills, try the Memory Pocketbook.