[NOTE - Make sure you watch the video below if you are learning ANYTHING and want a powerful way of improving your study abilities before you leave this page....especially the bit at 3:56]

Today I was out on the road again and this time I had been invited to a large university to give an hour long speech to about 150 new students on a variety of topics that broadly speaking come under the general heading of Study Skills.

These topics include:

  • How to read faster and remember more
  • Goal setting
  • The Power of belief
  • Mind Mapping
  • The brain
  • General memory improvement

I had a really great time with these students and they were a great audience.

Below you will see a short video that I shot before, during and after the session and in it I give the top 5 uses for Mind Mapping by students and share with you how to get the most out of using the Mind Map if you are in a learning situation.

It is just under 5 minutes long but if you watch all the way to 3:56, you will see exactly what 150 students thought about Mind Mapping when I turned the camera on them at the end of the session.

It was just like that famous scene out of the Life of Brian…..

So go ahead and watch the video now.

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no_mind_map.jpgTop ten lists seem all the rage at the moment and indeed I think I might have even used the strategy myself a couple of times.

So in a moment of madness and high frivolity at the end of a productive day I thought I would add to the ever increasing mass of useless information accumulating online and create one of those little 2 minute filler articles the sub-editors in magazines use when an advertiser drops out at the last minute.

And so here we go, ten things you can’t use Mind Mapping or Mind Maps for:

1.  Mind Mapping is no good for calming down prisoners in an isolation wing of a high security Alabama prison – try sedatives or the trusty strait jacket instead – they will thank you for it in the end.

2.  Mind Maps are a poor choice for load bearing cross beams in deep valley spanning railway bridges – despite their versitility the insistence on using them in landscape format seriously undermines their tensile strength.

3.  Mind Mapping as a form of nutrition is a poor dietry choice unless you involve eggs, cheese and chopped ham and then you have an omelette and not a Mind Map.

4.  Mind Maps can not and should not be used to document the sequence of directional changes a large male red ant makes when running away from the focused sunlight passing though a magnifying glass guided by two mis-guided kindergarten kids – the expanse of paper is at risk of putting the insect in shadow rendering the experiment useless.

5.  Mind Mapping as a martial art is a non-starter – anyone who has played Rock-Paper-Scissors knows that.

6.  Mind Maps as a form of currency. Are you mad!  Our banking system would collapse – let’s leave economics to the bankers who seem to know what they are doing.

7.  Mind Mapping as a form of courting a member of the opposite sex – on the surface this seems a good idea, but you make an inadvertent smudge with your crayola coloured pens and then see just how attractive you look!

8.  “Mind Maps” as the title of a Chekov play (because I know he never read any of Tony Buzan’s books and he wouldn’t want to constrain his stream of consciousness by placing it on ANY branch).

9.   Mind Mapping as an international “sport” with a World Championships – I mean surely anyone producing a brightly coloured psychedelic diagram under the pressure of time in the interests of competition is just asking to be dope tested.

10.  Mind Maps as a thinking tool – what?  Don’t be silly!  With all that creativity, increased concentration, greater understanding and comprehension, improved recall and better memory, higher order levels of thinking, vastly superior information handling and problem solving abilities, better decision making skills, improved communication and the ability to neatly, swiftly and easily switch from tatical detail to strategic overview in an instant…From a simple colourful diagram with a handful of keywords and pictures organised to mirror the associative mechanism of the brain – Nah!! No one would believe you.

So there is my list of ten and if you have any ideas about things that Mind Mapping can’t be used for then let me know.


In my previous post on Bubble Diagrams and Mind Mapping I mentioned the confusion between these thinking tools.

Well another common confusion I often encounter is that Mind Mapping is described as “brainstorming”.

Now whilst it can be used for brainstorming, Mind Mapping has so many other applications as well so defining it in such a restrictive way is rather limiting.

How To Use Mind Maps for Brainstorming

So what I want to do in this post is give you some idea how you can use Mind Mapping for Brainstorming, creativity and the generation of ideas.

I am not going to get into pure definitions of creativity (and the closely linked issue of innovation) but suffice it to say that in the context I shall be using the term, we will focus on it being the generation of new ideas.

Brainstorming Mind Mapping Creativity generating ideasNow ideas do not simply appear out of thin air.

In general terms an existing idea will trigger off a new idea.

Creativity is about taking these ideas and organising them in a new and unique way.

Now the brain generates ideas all the time based on the stimulus it has and the associations it makes.

In principle the brain organises its ideas through association and it does that in one of two ways.

First of all if I give you an idea to think about, it will be the trigger for these two processes.

I will break them down individually but left to its own devices the brain will do both simultaneously.

In a deliberate creative processes you can force the brain to do either but naturally it will take whichever course it chooses.

So what are those two processes?

One Thing Leads To Another…

This first mechanism is where one idea triggers another, which in turn triggers another and that one then triggers a third idea and so on.

Now whilst the first idea and the second idea will be related by whatever association they have between them (and that can be absolutely anything), the first idea and the third idea will only be related by their common link to the second idea and then when you get to the fourth idea it will have absolutely no association with the first idea in terms of the context of this information flow.

Boy that sounds complicated.

Let’s see if a picture works here.

mind mapping and brainstorming how the brain thinks in chains

So in this example with a starting point of “Water” this triggers the idea “Tap” and that in turn stimulates the idea “Plumber” which triggers “Van” and so on.

Now I must stress these are my associations and whilst you might see the connections between each adjacent word, it does not matter if you don’t because this is a reflections of the associations that take place in my mind.

And again this association chain is not fixed because on a different day with the same starting word, it is likely I will come up with a different set of associations.

So the principle is that one idea triggers another and is the mechanism that is responsible for you saying things like “Oooh that reminds me” (please delete the  “Oooh” and replace it with your exclamation of choice).

So what is the other way the brain the processes and generates association?

We Are All Related…

If we start with an idea then as before we will come up with a second idea.

But instead of letting this second idea trigger a third idea we go back to idea #1 and see what other ideas it triggers and we keep repeating that process.

Mmmm, time for another diagram…


So now the idea water triggers off a bunch of other ideas but all related back to water.

This is the other way that the brain processes association.

Now I have described these two processes in isolation but in reality the mind will crackle and sizzle and can and will make hundreds of not thousands of different associations across a combination of these two mechanisms from a particular starting point.

Now if we combine these two together, we end up with a structure of this form:


You know that looks remarkably like a Mind Map!

So when someone says to you “Mind Mapping is great because it represents on paper how the mind thinks” – this is exactly what they mean (though chances are they won’t know that).

How to Use Mind Mapping For Brainstorming

As you can see from above, Mind Mapping is a graphical representation of the way we generate and organise our ideas in our brain.

So it is a great choice to use when we want to generate more ideas and here is how to use for that:

Step 1 – Take a piece of blank paper, turn it landscape (ideally) and write your starting idea in the centre of the page

Step 2 – when your first idea comes to mind, add it as a main branch to your fledgling mind map.

Step 3 – when your second and subsequent ideas come to mind either add them to an existing branch (if they are related) or start a new branch if there is no logical place to put your new idea.

Step 4 – keep repeating the above process until you have got more ideas than you think you will ever need.

You can add to this process by overlaying other creativity strategies to stimulate more ideas but you still capture them using Mind Mapping.

Doing this with hand drawn mapping works very well and if you use mind mapping software you have the added advantage of being able to quickly and easily sort and re-organise your ideas.

Try brainstorming, Mind Mapping your ever growing number of ideas as you do so and let me know how you get on.


Is A Bubble Diagram A Mind Map?

After writing my post on Spidergrams the other day I decided to have a look around the web for some examples of Bubble Diagrams.

These are another form of visual thought organisation that are often confused with Mind Maps.

bubbl_us2.jpgAfter digging around a bit, I discovered a cute little site called bubbl.us.

By their own description the site is “a simple and free web application that allows people to brainstorm online”

However interestingly enough they then go on to describe the output they create as being Mind Maps, specifically:

  • “Create colorful mind maps online
  • Share and work with friends
  • Embed your mind map in your blog or website
  • Email and print your mind map
  • Save your mind map as an image”

Now this is a typical example of the confusion where a a structure that is similar to Mind Mapping is given that label.

I am never quite sure what my motive is for pointing out the difference between the two forms.

Maybe in the past it was loyalty to the brand but I think now it is more about defending the principles of the technique against pale imitations.

You see in its purest form Mind Mapping is extremely powerful.

The guiding principles I have written about in the past are there for a reason and if all are implemented, you really have a strong and sophisticated thinking device.

When you start taking bits out and create something that sort of looks like Mind Mapping, whatever results is a watered down version of the original.

Now I don’t suppose for a minute that anyone deliberately starts out to do that, I just think that imitators don’t appreciate the true value of the Mind Map and so miss out on the finer detail that makes a difference.

So if we look at the creation of something from Bubbl.us we might get something like this:


On the surface, to the uninitiated at least, these could be described as a Mind Map.

However without boring you on the detail, it isn’t.

Why is that important for me to feel I have to state that?

Well I know Mind Mapping to be a really powerful tool because of the impact it has had on my thinking, and on the thousands of people I have taught it to.

If someone takes what they think is Mind Mapping (but isn’t) and experience the diluted impact it will have they may come to the conclusion that “Mind Maps don’t work”.

Now I think that is a shame, not for me or for the Mind Map but for the person concerned who is missing out on what could, if used properly, give them the boost to their thinking prowess they were looking for.

It would be like going to see a really bad Dire Straits tribute band but thinking they were the real deal.

Now it does not mean that using diagrams like this is not going to help you because this tool is very useful.

As a brainstorming device it does work very wel (try it out for yourself).

However it is not a Mind Map, never has been a Mind Map and it will never be a Mind Map.

Just like there is only one Mark Knopfler, there is really only one Mind Map.


Mind Mapping For Martial Arts


I practice Aikido and have done for nearly 5 years now.

I have always been interested in Martial Arts briefly dabbling with Karate in my teens then taking it a bit more seriously when I was at University.

I also started studying Tai Chi in my thirties and have been regularly practicing the 24 step routine ever since.

In the last few years I found myself being drawn to Aikido after having a long standing appreciation of the art from things I have read about it.

My love of this art has taken me all over the UK, to Austria and to Ukraine and now I am in the throes of preparing for my black belt grading.

One of the things I love to do is teach others what has benefitted me (hence my professional calling since changing careers 10 years ago) and so last year I enrolled on an Aikido Coaching course and am now qualified to teach.

On Friday at my Aikido Club, my sensei was out of town and so asked me to take the class.

This is both an honour and a huge responsibility and one that I cherish.

The secret to running an effective lesson (aside from being able to practice and demonstrate the art) is preparation and so Friday afternoon as I pondered on what to cover, I sat down an drew up a Mind Map of the lesson plan.

It only took me five minutes and very quickly I had identified my theme for the lesson, the different demonstrations and exercises I was going to take the class through within the framework of our style’s teaching format and how I was going to involve the different grades in the same exercises.

Now a big challenge when you put together a lesson plan for Aikido is that you have no idea who is going to turn up and what grades will be there so you have to be ready to be flexible and change things at the last moment.

Of course the beauty of putting together a lesson plan using Mind Mapping is that you have the flexibility to change things very easily.

So the benefits of using Mind Mapping for any sort of lesson plane (regardless of topic) are:

  • It is very easy to put together a lesson plan
  • It takes a fraction of the time than using "normal" paper and pen
  • You create a structure that allows you to be flexible in the case of changing circumstances.

There are other benefits relating to the generation of ideas and the plotting of themes through a lesson structure but for now just understand that it is a quick and flexible process.

Here is the Mind Map I put together for the lesson (which went very well by the way).

 Mind Mapping Examples - Aikido Lesson Plan



In my recent post called "Tony Buzan Did Not Invent Mind Mapping" I showed you an example of a "radial diagram" from Evelyn Wood and compared it to the Mind Map.

Well it seems a number of questions have come in about how similar that radial diagram was to Spidergrams or Spider Diagrams so I thought I would just offer my thoughts on them too in relation to Mind Mapping.

Here is an example of a Spidergram (or spider diagram depending on how you like to describe them):

Spidergram or Spider Diagram showing why it is not a Mind Map

Typically a Spidergram has:

  • A central image (like a Mind Map)
  • A hierarchichal struture (as does Mind Mapping)
  • Nodes coming off each hierarchical line (Mind Maps have main branches and sub-branches)
  • Have lots of phrases and sentences (Mind Mapping in its purest form will focus on single keywords)

Are Spidergrams useful?


If you move from the usual structure of hand written notes and start organising your thoughts using spidergrams, then you are going to make a big step forward in improving the quality of your thinking.

The biggest advantage of using this structure is that you have to think about where you are going to position your ideas in relation to the central topic and the other ideas you are considering.

That process alone moves you much further up the thinking food chain.

So why are Spidergrams a bit like Mind Maps?

Well Tony Buzan developed Mind Mapping by modeling the way successful students organised their notes.

On the assumption that a successful student is likely to be good at taking notes, Buzan gathered all of the best practice he could find and combined them into what he later called the Mind Map.

As I mentioned above, the Spidergram approach to organising your ideas makes for better quality thinking AND better quality note taking and it is highly likely that this was one of the features Buzan identified as being crucial to good note taking.

So it is inevitable that a like for like comparison will be made between the structure of a Spidergram and the organising nature of the Mind Map.

However what a Spidergram does not have that Tony Buzan added to the Mind Mapping mix was:

  • Colour
  • The use of images
  • The selection of keywords
  • A consistent structure to the hierarchy of the ideas

It is these factors that differentiate the Mind Map from Spidergrams.

So using either tool will improve the quality of your thinking and your thought organisation but if you want to accelerate beyond the benefits offered by Spidergrams, then Mind Mapping is the next logical step.

If you use either Mind Maps or Spidergrams (Spider Diagrams) to great effect, be sure to let me know in the comments below.




Let’s just think about Mind Mapping and Creativity for a moment.

Do you have these questions about creativity?

  • Is it true that some people are creative whilst others aren’t?
  • Can you teach creativity?
  • How do you use Mind Maps to solve problems?

Mind Mapping and Creativity Phil ChambersWell if you do, then worry not because the answers are available in video form from Phil Chambers the reigning Mind Mapping World Champion and International Grandmaster of Mind Mapping.

Yes there is a World Mind Mapping Championships (don’t ask a) what? or b) why?).

And yes there is such a thing as an International Grandmaster of Mind Mapping (again don’t ask a) who? or b) how?).

Now I know Phil Chambers quite well and forgetting the above titles and accolades that I personally think are a little ludicrous  and somewhat irrelevant (despite being awarded the title of “Grandmaster of Memory” myself), he is a nice guy, incredibly bright and undoubtedly someone who you would definitely call an “expert” on Mind Mapping.

More recently he seems to be Tony Buzan’s right hand man when it comes to delivering Mind Mapping training here in the UK and so in theory that endorsement by the main man himself should tell you something about Phil’s knowledge of the subject and his standing within the Buzan community.

So it seems that Phil has been down to the head office of Buzan Online, flirting with the secretaries, letting the girls in the office play with his coloured pens and generally strutting his Mind Map stuff in front of the camera.

He has created a series of 6 short videos on the BuzanOnline Website that answer the creativity questions I posed you at the start of this post.

Mind Mapping Software For Creativity?

Yes there is a bit of a plug for the iMindMap software (which I think is great by the way despite being a hardcore Mind Manager user) but I think it is worth watching these videos to get an insight into how you can develop your creativity.

So if you want to see the quality of one of Tony Buzan’s best instructors at the top of his game, then you need to go and watch these short videos now – it will take you less than 5 minutes.

Let me know what you think.