What's the Deal with Mind Mapping? - Memes & Memos
Memes & Memos
In the past month, I've encountered several people using an old technique that has become a new trend: mind mapping.

What I couldn't figure out is why. Hello, welcome to fourth grade brainstorming. Write a word in a bubble in the middle of your page and draw branches coming off of it with other concepts, words and phrases. Nothing new to see here, folks. This visual way of taking notes has been around for a long time.

So I tried it today using an online tool called MindMeister. Other popular online mind mapping tools include Mindomo and Bubbl.us, but MindMeister seems to be able to create most visually appealing map of these three options. As it turns out, there are dozens of other mapping tools available, either free or for sale.

Was I blown away? No, not really. It's exactly what I thought it would be. In fact, I found it annoying that you could only see portions, not the whole map, at any given time. But here are some pluses about online mind mapping tools that I did identify:
  • You can drag and drop words and phrases to reorganize your map, which you can't do the old-fashioned way.
  • You can add images and icons to your map, making things more visually interesting.
  • If you have an iPad or iPhone you can make maps with the MindMeister application. I'm thinking this is one of the main reasons why this technique is trending.
  • Perhaps the coolest feature and what makes mind mapping relevant again: You can work on collaborative mind maps with other people and track the changes. You can also check out other people's public mind maps and see what people are working on.
Do I foresee a need to ever collaborate on an online group mind map? Not really. But you never know. That's what's great about being aware of new emerging media tools and trying them out. They could come in handy for a project down the road.

There are also some really beautiful mind maps out there that make lovely infographics, such as those I came across by Paul Foreman on Mind Map Inspiration. Paul's site says that he offers mind maps for inspiration, mindmapping and drawing tips, as well as techniques for enhancing creativity and idea generation. These mind maps are little works of art!
9/12/2010 07:53:14

There are Mind or Concept mapping tools, that have a full map view, e.g. MindGenius. Allows you to focus on branches or see the full picture. Besides of business, mind mapping is a great tool for students and people with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, to get their toughts on to the screen and visualise their ideas, even build whole essays from a map.
These programs contain features that allow you to assign tasks to resources and send them to your or someone elses Outlook. Great for organisation and planning. Recently, the main competitors in this area have started to integrate Gantt view into their applications for easy project planning.
I work for a company that provides assistive tech, esp. to people with disabilities specialising in Dyslexia. I am using mind mapping for my work pretty much every day. I find creating PowerPoint presentations starting with a map much quicker and easier than if I start out with an empty PowerPoint slide.

9/12/2010 09:32:39

Great observations...the appeal of mind mapping for me is quite simply that I am a visual thinker. So even a very simplistic map can be quite useful to very quickly trigger my memory of what was discussed, and very quickly summarize it for those who were not in attendance. With the amount of information we all process in a day, anything I can do to simplify it is helpful. Some people are not visual learners, and may get more out of a page of prose. Different strokes for different folks.

9/12/2010 09:51:19

Thanks for the feedback. I'm a visual learner too, so I think the tool can be helpful for certain things. I'm apt to use it for personal organization (goals, etc.)

Sabine - That's really interesting. I can see how mind mapping would be a useful approach.

I guess the moral of the story is that there are many ways to learn and organize! I know lots of folks who use post-its or index cards to generate and organize ideas too, but I could never do it... Still, I may try it and learn that I love it! Thanks for the insights.

9/12/2010 11:04:52

That's so funny! I was thinking the exact same thing about mind mapping... I'm pretty sure I learned the same concept in 5th grade :)

9/12/2010 13:10:45

I have been using mind maps, concept maps and other map forms as a business consultant for well over 30 years. The idea that these are grade-school techniques that we leave behind when we move into the real world is not uncommon.

It's a shame, as they can yield great benefits in planning, forming ideas, process modelling, data modelling and organizing information in an increasingly complex world.

There are hundreds of mapping applications out there, so some people must be recognizing their potential and using them ( if you doubt the 'hundreds', check this list: http://www.mind-mapping.org/ ).

Roy Grubb

9/12/2010 14:33:01

Thank you for posting so many mind mapping resources. Several were new to me and I know they'll be helpful to others.

As you know, Julia, I've been using this technique for a while and am a fan.

Also, I know you're aware of this, but for those who aren't: I'm co-host of a Milwaukee meetup featuring some pretty smart people talking about interesting things. It's all fueled by some good, strong coffee, which is available for a donation (this is the only "cost" of these monthly events).

This Friday's will be on ... mind mapping! Here are the details: <a href="http://mkelikemind.posterous.com/sept-17-panel-discussion-mind-mapping-why-the">Milwaukee Likemind's Sept. 17 meeting announcement</a>. Everyone is welcome to join in on the discussion / demo.


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