Mind Maps – Use Software or Draw Them By Hand?

A very popular question that I am asked when I share Mind Mapping with people is “Should I use software or should I draw Mind Maps by hand?”

The most recent example happened in an exclusive suite in a top London hotel. I had been asked to talk to an invited group of movers and shakers, people who are responsible for running multi-million pound companies. My task was to educate them on how they could use even more of their already powerful brains.

In the past I used to be quite intimidated by groups like this because there are some very switched on people out there, especially those that run multi-million pound businesses. You don’t get to the top of the corporate tree without being extremely sharp and I used to think that there was very little I could offer these people.

Hand Drawn Mind Maps, Or Mind Mapping Software?

However I discovered that most of the ones I met did benefit from what I could share with them because although these people were very effective at what they did, often they were using ineffective and inefficient thinking strategies, but using them extremely well to get a good result. I have found that a few shifts in the way they think by applying some very simple (yet little known) strategies allow them to not only continue achieving great things but raise their performance even higher, often reducing the effort to do so.

Of course using Mind Mapping is just one of those hidden gems that anyone can use to harness even more of their brain.

Only six people had been allowed to attend this particular meeting, such was the exclusivity of it, and at the end of my session a very well dressed businessman called Duncan asked me the million pound question:

“Should Mind Maps be drawn by hand or can you get away with doing them using software”

He went on to say that in his organisation he had a very bright guy who used Mind Mapping Software extensively and although he knew how to use the tool on his PC, there seemed to be something missing from his work.

I asked about the nature of his business and the particular role that this guy performed and it seemed that he was in a creative role in a marketing department. Despite being extremely creative with the Mind Map Software, his output didn’t seem to be of the standard required of his position -hence the “missing” bit.

So let’s look at the question again:

“Should you use Mind Mapping Software or should you draw them by hand”

The answer is frustratingly simple – it depends.

I myself use both hand drawn Mind Maps AND Mind Mapping Software but I use them for very different purposes and at very different times.

For convenience sake it is very easy to whip out my four-coloured Mind Mapping pen and a sheet of plain paper and begin to lay down a Mind Map there and then. So I tend to do most of my Mind Maps by hand.

The benefits of drawing Mind Maps by hand are:

  • You have more of a physical involvement which stimulates the kinaesthetic part of our brain encouraging greater creativity and enhanced learning and recall

  • It is more personal than a software generated Mind Map

  • A hand drawn Mind Map is far easier to make unique than software which may have a limited number of styles, images and fonts

You can hand draw a Mind Map anywhere, all you need is paper and a pen

I use the software primarily for sorting and organising ideas and for the generation of documents that need to be output in the “conventional” written form. The software that I use has a great brainstorm mode that allows me to very rapidly dump a large number of ideas, sort them into the required categories (i.e. main branches) and then organised them accordingly.

The benefits of using Mind Map Software are:

  • You have a permanent record of your Mind Map that can be reprinted anytime you like

  • You can sort and organise much more information and far quicker.

  • It is easier to redraw and re-organised a software Mind Map

  • You can interface the software with other PC applications (such as word processors, spread sheets etc)

  • You can share your software generated Mind Maps with other people electronically

So you see the answer really is “it depends”. And it depends on what you are trying to achieve, which is the most convenient and effective method to do that and what your personal preferences are.

I suppose the point I am trying to make is that you can benefit from using both providing you use the one most appropriate for your outcome and only experience will really tell you that for sure.

Try them both out and let me know how they work for you.

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