Mind Mapping

As part of my preparation for a workshop I’m running next week, I’ve been studying the art and science of Mind Mapping, and the idea of Radiant Thinking which mind maps express.

I have to admit, scribbling with felt tip pens on big bits of paper taps straight into my inner child. I’ve been practicing mind mapping exercises, exploring concepts like “Why it would be fun to buy a Gnu” (the wildebeest, not the software), or “Why I should learn to drive”. I have the strongest feeling that at some point in the near future, my brain will go “Click! Ah! The non-linearity! The colours!” and never look back.

There are only a couple of problems, as far as I can see, with the use of mind mapping as the external form of radiant thinking:

  1. it takes ages
  2. you can’t do it on a bus.

I suspect the first of these things will be solved by practice, and a better appreciation for the benefits of having a finished map.

To solve the second problem, I have another mechanism for externalising the images in my head. It’s been practiced for centuries, and was invented by a bunch of guys whose language is mostly made up of pretty pictures anyway. Admittedly, it can only deal with very small subsets of a map at a time, but I particularly like it as it helps connect words – those things you use to explain your ideas to other people on a bus – to images – the things at the base of thoughts, whether concious or otherwise. In this context, images include all other captured sensory moments – smell, touch, sound, taste, awareness of the passing of time, etc. – in fact, all the things which the Buzans’ book encourages the reader to include in their Radiant Thinking representations. That this mechanism uses words instead of pictures directly is a necessary compromise, given time and speed bumps, but at least it cuts down the words to the smallest number that could possibly give expression to the thoughts.

Haiku. Pico mind maps for the busy commuter.

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4 Responses to Mind Mapping

  1. anonymous says:

    Although software won’t help mind-mapping on a bus – it might stop the taking ages part, i’ve found freemind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net/) is pretty good (and free!).

  2. sirenian says:

    Thanks. I prefer the screen shots I’ve seen of MindManager, which seems a little more like a real mind map; but I don’t think any computer is ready to personalise the maps to the extent that I’d like. And MindManager is nearly £300 more than the lovely free tools, both the one you suggest and the pack of felt tip pens.

  3. anonymous says:

    I’ve been creating mindmaps on buses, trains, planes, boats, etc for years using a small notebook I carry everywhere. Once you get used to it you’ll find that most of the mindmapping software is far too limiting.

    You should probably also take a look at: http://bookshelved.org/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?TheLogicOfFailure which discusses the ways in which mind-maps can skew our perception of a system because of the tendency to focus on a central point from which everything else radiates.


  4. sirenian says:

    Thanks, Ade. I trust your judgement on books (Amazon should give you commission, really) and have added both The Logic of Failure and Waltzing with Bears to my basket.

    Tools have appropriate uses; I think the mind maps will help me in most situations where I’d normally be working linearly from a starting point anyway. I can always take any of the concepts on a mind map and start a new one on another sheet. And hey – felt tip pens! Shiny colours! How can that be wrong?

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