Mind Mapping is a very powerful tool and I used it when I was doing some work with a bunch of high powered Chief Executives recently. These people run companies that vary from $1million to $500million turnover in a wide variety of industries and sectors.
My task was to show them how they could release an hour a day from their busy schedules by Handling information more effectively and far more efficiently. You see even these successful and extremely effective people who run large organisations can do much better when it comes to Handling information.
Unfortunately our education system has over the years churned out millions of eager (and some not quite so eager) students who have been woefully ill-prepared to deal with information. Years ago this shortcoming wasn’t really evident but now that the information age, knowledge economy (call it what you will) is upon us, the failings of the skills taught (or not taught to be precise) at school are completely evident.
With so much information coming our way from all sorts of sources, together with the tendency for people to be less discerning in what they send out and who they send it out to, people are bombarded with stuff and don’t know how to deal with it.
Effective Mind Mapping Methods
So my work with this group of CEOs was to give them more up to date skills and strategies to release some of their time for more productive things. It was time for them to stop using inefficient and relatively ineffective approaches (but which they were doing extremely well) and start harnessing their brains and natural Thinking processes and capabilities.
If you like to use a construction analogy, I was going to take the shovel that they had become extremely proficient with (albeit with much effort and energy) and teach them how to use a mechanical digger which once mastered would take far less effort to operate and be much more effective – devastatingly so in the right hands.
Now I use a variety of tools and strategies to do this and one of those is Mind Mapping. It has been a real boost to my Thinking and learning abilities and has stimulated in me a latent, previously undiscovered creativity that has enhanced my life no end.
A few years ago if I was running one of these sessions, the concept of Mind Mapping would still have been new to most of the group and the “Wow” factor of this remarkable tool was always a great boost to the effectiveness of the session.
These days Mind Mapping is no longer the best kept secret in the Thinking world because more and more people have heard about it. On the one hand that is a good thing because like Mr Buzan the creator of this approach, I’d like to see everyone use it because it is so powerful. However on the other hand, it has been so badly taught and so misunderstood that many people Think they know what Mind Mapping is when really they do not understand the power of it and have really been dealt a huge injustice by those that have (poorly) attempted to share what it can do. So when it comes to promoting the use of this tool I am often on my back foot having to defend it before we even get started.
Now back to the CEOs I was working with. My host, Peter, a successful entrepreneur and businessman is an intelligent and extremely capable man who turned up at the venue in his top of the range Porsche wearing a very expensive Italian suit, dark sun glasses and a (I spend a lot of time in the sun) tan – which means if you are in the UK you know he must travel abroad a lot.
We had a chat at the beginning of the day and I went through the main points and activities of the session ahead. He spotted that Mind Maps were on the agenda (not difficult really because I was using my Mind Map of the day to give him the brief) and he said the phrase that I keep hearing time and time again:
“Oh Mind Maps- Yeah I’ve tried them and they don’t work for meï¿½”
Mind Maps Key Tools
Now when you are about to run a session for someone’s organisation and a key tool you will be using is something that the group chairman doesn’t Think works for them, you have two options:
1. Back out there and then and admit to everything being a mistake (try feigning amnesia/psychosis and violent tendencies towards geraniums (red ones) at this moment)
2. Swiftly re-educate your host on the power of the Mind Map and get them to “understand” what the tool is really about.
I am sure you will not be surprised to know that I chose option 2 (after testing option 1 I realised that 3 months incarceration in one of Her Majesty’s “Institutions” wasn’t good for my career or reputation AND is was costing me a fortune in Geraniums!)
So how do you re-educate the masses that Mind Mapping does work and it is a powerful Thinking tool?
Well the answer is quite simple. Most people see the layout of a Mind Map – a map like diagram with a central image, key words and pictures radiating out on different coloured branches – and Think that is all there is too it. These days the old Right/Left Brain stuff is pretty much common knowledge and so the appreciation of the use of colour and pictures is there.
But the understanding of the Mind Mapping process generally stops there. You see it is not the pretty picture that is the power of the tool. Sure the use of graphics and colour will help make it more interesting but that is not the strength of the tool.
Here is the secret to Mind Mapping – And I shall give it to you for free because even at the very basic level if you just drew a Mind Map in black biro and only used key words with no pictures, you would still be Thinking far more effectively than conventional note taking/making methods.
Because it is the PROCESS of Mind Mapping that is the strength of the tool, not the pretty picture that you are left with at the end.
In order for you to use Mind Mapping to organise your thoughts, you have to THINK about what your main topic is. You have to THINK about what your main branches are, i.e. how is your topic structured. You have to THINK about what key words you are going to use to summarise your points. You have to THINK about what pictures or images you might use to illustrate your ideas. You have to THINK about how the branches relate to each other. In short, to use the Mind Map you have to THINK!
And this is so different from the “Copying” tactics of note taking/making we were indoctrinated to use at school. Most people these days when they take notes or organise their thoughts on paper are simply “copying”ï¿½ what they are hearing (either from a speaker or from their internal voice). It gets little beyond an information gathering exercise with very little interaction (and therefore little understanding/comprehension/memory) with what has been gathered.
With Mind Mapping, you have to “get inside” the information you are considering, and wriggle about in it, question it, challenge it, assess its organisation of it and how you are going to re-organise it to suit your needs. That requires that you THINK about it.
There are many benefits of doing it in this way but top of the list is that you are forced to THINK about it. It only took me a few minutes to share this with Peter and I could see him processing what I said as I said it. I must admit I was a little forceful in my argument ( I have discovered these CEO types just don’t like the cringingly fluffy approach historically used by the first generation of Mind Map Evangelists) but Peter got the message and confirmed it with a “Ahh now I understand”.
Now wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we just tool a little more time to THINK!….
[PS I am happy to inform you that ever since, Peter and his Mind Maps have been extremely happy.]