Tony Buzan Did Not Invent Mind Mapping!

I was talking to a potential business partner just recently about the possibility of him promoting the advice that I give on applying Mind Mapping.

This man is a well respected businessman and publisher with a large business in educational publishing.

He was looking at creating a link between his site and my Mind Mapping website and had asked me for a 50 word summary of who I was and what I did in the context of helping people understand how to use the Mind Map.

Here was my reply:

"Michael Tipper is a Mind Mapping specialist who has not only worked with Tony Buzan the originator of the Mind Map, but has also personally taught nearly 100,000 people the technique and has designed student training programs delivered to over half a million young people"

I thought it was well crafted in that it not only demonstrated I was a Mind Mapping specialist but also a prolific and experienced one who has been closely aligned to the source of the technique.

I was amazed at the response I got…..he wanted me to remove the reference to Tony Buzan being the originator of Mind Mapping.

Here is what he said:

"We are not claiming anyone, other than Da Vinci to be the originator, with great purpose – and if you go further, Evelyn Wood taught that technique in 1952 which is now called mind mapping, or rather which evolved to mind mapping.  I cannot verify anywhere that any person after 1952 is the developer"

In the correspondence we had on this matter he shared that in the past when referring to Tony Buzan as the originator of Mind Mapping, history professors had challenged him on it by bringing in some Da Vinci drawings.

Apparantly "you can’t argue with history".

Now I thought that was quite interesting so here was my reply:

" I think it really depends on your stance in terms of how you define "Mind Mapping".  Sure using  a nodal type structure to organise ideas is nothing new (bubble diagrams and brainstorming) and the long known quality of notes with sketches and key words cannot be denied, (the da Vinci note books etc).

However the modification and combination of those processes within the structure that Buzan calls Mind Mapping, refined by the formalised guidelines that take advantage of brain functionality (organisation of association, the power of keywords and the radiant structure) is unique to Buzan and so I would think "originator of Mind Mapping" is a reasonably accurate term. 

As far as I am aware, Buzan gives total acknowledgement to Da Vinci and in fact was inspired by the genius in his own exploration of what he has called "Radiant Thinking".

I am not sure about Evelyn Wood though – I think I have seen Buzan reference Evelyn in his speed reading book but not elsewhere in relation to Mind Mapping." 

 If you have a look at some of the evidence, what you see below is an example of the radial structure recommended by Evelyn Wood together with a sample of just one of Da Vinci’s drawings:

Evelyn Wood Radial Diagram It's like Mind Mapping but isn'tDa Vinci Drawing Like mind mapping but isn't









Now let’s compare these two diagrams with a classic example of what a Tony Buzan Mind Map might look like:

Mind Mapping Example - Grouping Materials

Clearly there is a difference between the first two diagrams and the Mind Map below them but likewise there are some similarities.

The Mind Map example draws on the radial structure of the Evelyn Wood example.

However if you look at the strucuture of a brain cell which Buzan claims the Mind Map imitates, there are also striking similarities and the brain cell pre-dates Wood, Buzan and even da Vinci.

In da Vinci’s drawing there is a combination of words and images – he illustrated his notes to make them more memorable and give greater understanding and meaning.

In classic Mind Mapping you also combine words and pictures.

So there are similarities.

But what about the differences?

Well to be honest, the Evelyn Wood diagram is not a brilliant example of its use – it is merely a suggested template – so it would not be fair to make a like for like comparison.

However having seen some completed examples (that I did not have permission to replicate here) the most striking difference is that there are few if any pictures, little or no colour and longer sentences rather than just key words.

I think the Radial diagram is a rather loose framework within which to organise your thoughts and you can be flexible with the use of colour, whether or not you use images and if you choose keywords or sentences.

This is similar with other forms of visual note taking like bubble diagrams, fishbone diagrams etc which have a fairly loose framework to work within.

And here is probably where Buzan has a rightful claim to being the originator of Mind Mapping because what he has done is formalise a process to create a unique diagram called the Mind Map.

Now this is not for some dogmatic reason to lay claim to a trade mark or intellectual property and so differentiate himself from others (such as Wood).

No, the reason for the guiding principles as defined in The Mind Map Book is that to properly integrate your intellectual process with the way you naturally think in order to maximise your abilities, you need to do certain things in certain ways and these are defined by Buzan’s Mind Mapping Rules.

Interestingly enough Buzan calls them "guiding principles" inferring that you do have an option but it is important to understand these are not arbitrary, but developed through years of trial and error with hundreds of thousands of people.

However the further you deviate from these principles, the less effective this powerful technique is going to be.

And all of this is encompassed in the technique called Mind Mapping….the one invented by Tony Buzan.

So I think that Mr Buzan certainly deserves to be credited with ownership of that title.

Now in the grand scheme of things, it does not really matter whether you use Mind Mapping (though it is highly recommended), take a leaf out of the Evelyn Wood book or try and emulate da Vinci himself.

What matters is that you shift from the conventional linear way of taking notes as taught in schools to one more in tune with the way your brain naturally functions and one that will give you much better intellectual and creative reward.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lee July 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Great Post!

    “What matters is that you shift from the conventional linear way of taking notes as taught in schools to one more in tune with the way your brain naturally functions and one that will give you much better intellectual and creative reward.”

    Hear, hear!

    I made the shift about a year and half ago and it has made all the difference in my productivity, ability to capture (and recapture) information, and in my peace of mind. I am more relaxed and able to be “in the moment” wherever I am.

    As a result of this new state, I’ve also had the ability for more capacity in my life: I am training for a marathon, I have more free time with my wife, and I was asked to head up a major project initiative at work.

    Mindmapping has been a major contributor to a better way of life for me.

    Thanks for sharing this history.

  • Michael Tipper August 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your contribution and I am delighted you have seen a productivity increase because you are using Mind Mapping.

    It is amazing how the benefits go far beyond what we expect the first time we get out those coloured pens and start venturing into this amazing technique.

    Good luck with the Marathon – my partner Patricia is a keen runner and has done a few marathons so I know the dedication it takes.