Mind the Gap: The Power of Mind Mapping

large_412 Last summer, I watched Kami Huyse prepare for her talk at Blog Potomac 2008. She was not writing out her main topic notes, but diagramming them! Kami was mind mapping. Intrigued and inspired, I set-off to learn more about this process. By nature, I am no David Armano, but a linear person. I did not think the visual form of mind mapping could assist me. Well, I was wrong.

The ‘Laws of Mind Mapping’ and phrase ‘Mind Mapping’ were originally devised by Tony Buzan, though the process has existed and taken many forms over the centuries. Now the process is made even easier with mapping software, but the principles remain the same. In The Mind Map Book, Buzan claims that the mind map is a vastly superior note taking method because it does not lead to a “semi-hypnotic trance” state induced by other note forms. Buzan also argues that the mind map utilizes the full range of left and right human cortical skills, balances the brain, taps into the alleged 99% of your unused mental potential, as well as intuition (which he calls “superlogic”).

Usually I reserve the instruction of mind mapping to my Speech students, but last night, I introduced the concept to my International Marketing students. Why? Not for individual note taking, but to ease cross-cultural communications! (Hat tip to Cindy King for leading me to this article.) This article made me think about sharing my mind maps and easing communications across social media tools.

I use mind mapping to plot my blog posts, story and speech outlines. Rarely do I use mind mapping for meeting notes. Nor do I share my mind mapping notes or process with anyone. My scrawling stays safe in my notebook. I use my blogs, email and twitter to crowdsource thoughts and occasionally use a hashtag to track feedback. Unless the feedback is summarized in a blog post, the original intent for solicitation is not generally shared.

Too often we see only through a narrow lens. What if I used mind maps to track the rabbit holes my mind takes and share with the world? Questions would be raised and answered by the people with additional experiences. Gaps would be filled in; pieces of the puzzle fit properly and the overall picture visible to all.

A common complaint about coverage of SxSWi and other conferences is that those tweeting or live blogging the event do not pause for reflection. The content is simply regurgitated.

Reflection is built into the mind mapping process.

This weekend, I will be attending Govt 2.0 Camp and will try mind mapping the unconference. I will post my maps on this blog. Wish I would have thought of this sooner…all notes of SxSWi are written long-hand.

How do you use mind maps? Pros and Cons? Favorite software tool?

Additional Resources:

(Mind Map image courtesy Buzan World.)

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/weinreich Nedra Weinreich

    I also am a very linear thinker, but when I need to get creative, mindmapping works to help me break out of the left-brain thinking. I teach the process to my students also. I haven’t tried using mind-mapping for note-taking and am not sure it would work for me. But for letting my mind wander in different directions, it’s very effective. Great resources in the post. Thanks!

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Nedra, Your welcome! Never to late to learn new tricks. I am excited about trying the process with note-taking.

  • http://www.twitter.com/lstigerts Lauren Hall-Stigerts

    Hi Lauren–Thanks for the great post on mind mapping. I’m a ‘perfectionist’ that tries to pen the final draft of marketing copy on my first try, and I often get frustrated trying to accomplish this. Since I’ve taken on a position at my company that requires me to primarily write marketing documents, I dusted off the cobwebs in the back of my head and remembered the mind mapping technique that I learned in 2nd grade. I figured I would give it a shot to help me write case studies, external announcements, datasheets, etc., and it makes it a lot less frustrating to write the first draft. It just feels so good to spill all of my ideas onto a fluid document before I commit my ideas to Word.
    However, I’ve never tried taking notes using a mind map. Sounds much more engaging than the linear note-taking method.

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Lauren,
    I like the spilling of ideas outside of the final document…gives me the illusion that I am more organized!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0111690ea6b1970c Rotkapchen

    Most of us who came through the ranks of Information or Data Architecture have had to deal with 1-2 word descriptors and ‘discovered’ mind-mapping over a decade ago. The beauty now is combining it with Visual Thinking (especially as illustrated via the Structured Visual Thinking techniques http://johncaswell.com/blog/?page_id=348 See foldouts in the roll-overs).

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0111690ea6b1970c Rotkapchen

    The true beauty of mind-mapping is as a ‘placeholder’ for continuous thought. It turns out that “philosophy” actually has a grand contribution that most of us miss: defining a section of thought by elemental, unique thoughts. Too often we don’t pursue the ‘philosophy’ of our practices. One example of the ‘start’ of such, was in a recent exercise at a conference, which I described: http://twurl.nl/id22gp
    Taking the combined works of all of the tables at this event and putting into an online tool that identifies the ‘updates’ of individuals (i.e. is designed for ‘social’ mindmapping) provides a wonderful way to continue an ongoing conversation and create meaningful ‘placeholders’ for organizations and their work.