Key Learning Outcomes
- Recognise that this centuries-old tool is still widely used in business and education.
- Understand how mind maps are used to summarise notes, problem-solving, and for clarifying and brainstorming ideas.
- Practise using the tool, guided by our description of each step.
- Learn about how we use technology when we brainstorm with our team both in the office and on the phone.
Mind mapping is an excellent tool used extensively in business and education. Mind mapping dates back to the thirteenth century, but the concept was popularised and developed by business consultant and author Tony Buzan in the 1970s.
The beauty of mind maps is that they visually summarise thoughts and ideas on a topic on one page. The can be extremely useful for taking or summarising notes, for clarifying ideas and problem-solving ,and for brainstorming ideas.
Mind mapping can be in a handwritten form, performed on a whiteboard if you’re in a group session, or you can use one of the many software options now available. At Absolute Best we use an app called “mind node” that can be projected onto a screen and updated in real time when brainstorming with our team, or on our phones if we have an idea when we are out and about. We suggest you get comfortable with the concept of mind mapping first, and then perhaps find something that works well for you.[wlm_ismember]
Starting the process
All mind maps start with a central topic in the middle of the page. When mind mapping you want to keep to single words or very simple phrases. So let’s say you want to brainstorm ways to generate new business for your retail store. You could start by placing the word “GENERATION” in the centre of your page with a border around it – a circle or something that helps you visualise your idea (see below). Images can be a great addition to your mind map – remember that old saying, “a picture says a 1,000 words”. The important thing is to find out what works best for you.
From here you start to build on the mind map using colours to distinguish between each idea and thought stream. So in the example below, begin with the sources of extra business for your store and start to branch those off the central topic. As your mind map develops you are likely to come up with more and more ideas.
Building on your ideas
Once you have a few ideas you can start to expand on each branch of the mind map. So in this example what can be done to increase business from the source “current customers”? You may come up with several different ideas and then continue to drill down into each idea. As you get further and further from the central topic you will see the branches become finer.
By the time you have finished, you may have a page full of new ideas or you may have clarified your thinking. By sorting the ideas in this manner you can easily see where is the best place to start, what areas need some further thought and even which ideas, that while good in a brainstorming session, are unlikely to represent value for the time or money spent.
Tips for mind mapping
- Always start with a central topic and branch out from there.
- Use colours to help group thoughts together.
- Stick to short phrases or single words.
- Use images, symbols or numbers.
- Draw links from branch to branch if an idea pops up in more than one place.
- Most importantly find your style, whether it be drawing by hand or using computer software.
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