Mind Mapping is a formal method for documenting, capturing, presenting ideas and even note taking of complex discussions. It enables a visual representation of streams of thought to be captured into a coherent single page summary.
Example of a simple Mind Map.(Click on image to enlarge, back button to return).
The formalised verssion was invented and subsequently marketed by Tony Buzan in the late 1960’s /early 70’s (quote from thinkbuzan.com website). The company continues to market the concept to this day, offering training courses, software and seminars on mind mapping and related techniques.
It is a very visual technique, putting the central theme/idea / question into the centre of the diagram and then grouping related ideas along branches and sub branches radiating from the centre.
It is deliberately visual as, evidenced by extensive research around the world, the human brain can associate images much more effectively than words alone, giving truth to the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Interestingly, although this phrase is popularly considered to be of relatively modern origin. the sentiment has been expressed by earlier writers. For example the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote (in Fathers and Sons in 1862), “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound.”
In the Buzan method of mind mapping the use of colour and graphical representation of the relative importance of elements in the map are also considered important so that related ideas can be grouped together, branches should be thicker nearer the centre to show they are more important than the sub branches. Straight lines are not encouraged for the branches as this is considered too rigid and mind mapping is meant to able to capture free flowing and often disparate thought patterns although linking to a common theme – often for example being different sides of an argument or problem to be solved.
As a tool it is very effective for breaking down complex subjects into rational areas, it is also excellent as a means to capture and organise your thoughts on a given topic, problem or issue.
Whilst software is available it actually has a great attraction of only requiring paper and pen to operate. If it is something that requires presentation to a wider audience then it may be worthwhile to refine the idea and then document the final version with software for a professional result.
Some examples of professionally documented mind maps below.
This is a very common and easy to use tool as it is a very logical method of working. Put down the central theme and then note the ideas down. In practice several drafts maybe required to get the correct grouping of items. Some exponents, as per the examples above, go to great lengths to provide a very polished final version. This is clearly the result of much work to finalise the information to be presented and additionally the production of the final map is a significant task in itself.
Software is available and for very complex maps may be valuable to help group ideas and sort them logically as the mind map develops but for most purposes / simple projects the effort and cost of using software would seem to be outweighed by the ease and simplicity of pen and paper. A further disadvantage of software is that it removes an element of personal creativity style from the finished result.
- Ease of use
- No special tools or facilities required
- Simple way to capture related thoughts
- Several drafts probably required
- Effort to produce polished mind map may be greater than problem at hand!