Mind Mapping in 5 minutes

Mind Mapping is such a simple tool and it should really only take about 5 minutes to explain the basic concepts to you.

The tool is extremely powerful and when used in the right way and what I  want to do here is give you a very brief overview of the what, why and how.

What is a Mind Map?
A Mind Map is a thinking tool where the manifestational evidence of its existence is a graphically radiant diagram blending, linguistic instruments, iconography, hues and shades of the visible spectrum linked with a neural network-esque structure of branches organised in a hierarchical arrangement reminiscent of the dendritic structure of the inner workings of our cortex.
Ok that was the PhD definition, let’s look at a more practical one  - it is a pictorial tool thinking tool that uses words, pictures and colour in a structure similar to the way the brain organises itself. Yes it is really that simple. 
So what is all the fuss about Mind Mapping?

Without launching into a full blown Mind Mapping seminar, here is the key point about this amazing tool that most people miss. 

It is not the pretty diagram with lots of colour, pictures and keywords that is important, it is the thought process behind the creation of that diagram that is the power of the Mind Map.

For example if I asked someone to take notes whether that be at a meeting, in a lecture or just from some written material, the chances are that their approach would be a copying exercise because at infant school we were taught to write by copying letters. 

writing.jpgOver time we started copying words. 

These words got bigger and bigger and then there were more of them. 

As we got older we stopped copying everything and became a little more discerning about what we made notes on but in essence, we still copied, even if only the key points.

This note-taking process is little more than an information gathering process that is only one step higher up the thinking food-chain than photocopying the important bits. 

And more often than not it is done in a linear fashion, on lined paper in blue or black biro. 

This approach is one that we were taught in schools and has worked for hundreds of years and still continues to work for millions of people today. 

However there is a better way (I bet you didn’t see that coming).

Now if you ask someone to take notes using a Mind Map we suddenly take a huge leap up the thinking food-chain. 

Why is that? 

Well the Mind Mapping process requires you to structure, organise and summarise information in order for you to create a Mind Map. 

First of all you have to work out what the topic is about. 

Then you have to identify the main sections. …Within those sections you have to identify the main points….You then have to summarise them using key words or imagery and then finally organise their relationship in a graphical format. 

think.jpgThis requires a deeper level of thinking to do this. 

Not only have you carried out a detailed analysis of your topic, you have assessed the relative importance of the main points, explored the possible dependencies and hierarchy and expressed your findings using a methodology that stimulates more of the brain than conventional methods – ie writing! 

Also, your understanding and recall of the subject matter will be far superior, bordering on the remarkable.

The application of the tool has forced you into a higher order thinking process. 

Whilst the Mind Map itself is excellent evidence of the thinking that has been going on, my belief is that it is the process it encourages that is its power.

What can Mind Maps be used for?
The answer here is quite simple:- 

Anytime you organise your thoughts on paper, you would be better served by using a Mind Map. 

Now I have used the note taking example but you can use and successfully benefit from the Mind Map when you apply it to just about any thinking process – creativity, problem solving, analysis, presentations, planning, assessments etc etc.  

So where do Mind Maps Come From?
Mind Maps were invented by Tony Buzan in the early 1970s when this British Psychologist combined the essence of the best note-taking techniques he could find with his research into memory and thinking development blended with his own theories on what constituted “powerful” thinking.

How do you create a Mind Map?

Within the framework of the thinking process you are applying the Mind Map to, here is what you do:
1.       Start with a blank piece of plain paper turned in landscape orientation
2.       In the centre of the paper draw an image that represents your topic
3.       Capture your thoughts using key words and images
4.       Organise those keywords and images using main branches for the main points and smaller off-shoot branches for the lesser points or detail but with one word/image per line (no essays I’m afraid)
5.       Use at least 4 different colours with separate colours for each main branch and its derivatives.
6.       Enjoy the process.
You will find an example Mind Map that summarises this post that will echo these points at the bottom of the page.
Common questions
Q. Why is colour so important? 

A.   Using colour stimulates more of the brain, it makes the Mind Map more appealing to look at and allows a quick visual discrimination between adjacent topics. 

On a more detailed level it could also be used to classify areas eg in meeting minutes the AOB might be one colour, the Apologies another and so on.

Q.   Why should I just have one keyword or image on a line? 

A.   The Mind Map is a structure that organises single ideas and concepts just like the brain does. 

As soon as you start writing paragraphs you begin to lose the potential for associations and the focussed structure of the Mind Map (and hence of the thought process) begins to weaken

Q.   What if I can’t draw?

A.   You don’t have to be good at drawing to benefit from the power of the Mind Mapping process. 

Simple stick diagrams and blob arrangements will do (don’t worry, your creation will not go on show in the National Gallery!). 

The power of trying to use pictures wherever possible is that as we predominantly think in pictures a graphical Mind Map naturally lends itself to being a good representation of our thoughts. 

Also even if you just tried to draw a picture but gave up and used a word instead, the process of trying means you have thought about it deeper and hence been more “involved” with the content.

Q. What should I do now?

A. Have a look at my summary Mind Map  below and see how it relates to the text of the article and then try one (or more) out for yourself. 

Here are some suggestions:

1.       Do a Mind Map about yourself
2.       Review your current projects and organise your to do list on a Mind Map
3.       Take the next important phone call you have to make and plan what you are going to say using a Mind Map. Use the template you have created to record the outcome of the call.
4.       Repeat the above step for a meeting.

Where can I find more information?

Explore the rest of this site and download your free copy of "Get Started With Mind Mapping".


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Matthew Lang July 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    This is a great post Michael and one I’m going to definitely recommend on my monthly review of links across the mind mapping community.

    Do you get asked often by people what mind mapping is about?