A mind map, as Wikipedia defines it, is a diagram used to visually outline information. The concept is simple: reduce the topic of discussion, idea, problem, write-up or concept to one word and branch out from there. It’s a Tree (similar to the CS Tree data structure). The high level overview of a mind map depicts spider webbing. The number of nodes is unlimited whereby each node can also branch into further sub-topics and sub-nodes creating an indefinite depth. What I love most about mind maps is depth, and I’ll discuss why shortly.
During the research I’ve done for this blog post, I wasn’t able to clearly pinpoint a single originator of the technique (allow me to call it technique). Multiple sources declared Tony Buzanas the inventor of mind mapping however multiple other sources argue otherwise. It is claimed that the earliest examples of a mind map were developed by Porphyry of Tyros (Go Lebanon!). In the quest of discovering the true origins of mind mapping I posted a question on Quora, maybe someone with factual information can shed some light on the bright mind behind this prolific technique.
Why use it?!
Mind mapping is very intuitive!
When I first picked up the fundamental rules of this technique I was very comfortable in immediately applying them to depict my line of thought. And follow it. It was like second nature to me, simply because when I usually take notes they take the shape of general wording scrambled around the main topic and associated via connection threads.
It’s very fast
Once you adapt to the almost standardized shortcuts of mind mapping software tools, your line of thought will be seamlessly depicted and outlined. Minimal rules or actually no rules apply in the creation of a mind map. There’s only one relation to respect: Hierarchy.
Oh how much I love to analyze a topic in depth. It’s very necessary sometimes to detail a concept up to its minutest detail and jump right away to higher levels. Mind mapping allows you to do that with ease. Follow the branches and jump swiftly from one node to the other without the overhead of looking for the relationship. While analyzing a diagram, going back and forth is essential. The faster this shift happens the less likely you are to lose your line of thought.
When to use it?
The general use cases of mind mapping are diverse. Let’s not limit the power of this technique to what others have used it before and invent your own needs for it. Trust me, there are plenty.
What tools should I use?
There is an arsenal of tools developed with which you can create your mind maps. However, from my personal experience, my two favorites are the following:
MindManager – MindJet
Since I’m currently using a PC with Windows as an OS, MindManager was my choice. It’s a bit expensive to buy, but it’s worth it. It’s the only tool I found that:
– Is user-friendly. The interface is similar to multiple MS Office tools.
– Has a good arsenal of micro tools to create complex mind maps.
– Is extendable.
– Allows you to export your mind maps in multiple formats, even interactive ones which allow the receiving party to walkthrough your mind map.
Curio is by far the best tool that was ever created for designing mind maps. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Macs with no support whatsoever for other platforms. It’s the most beautiful, most user-friendly, and most diversified in terms of micro tools.
Mind mapping is one of the best, intuitive techniques that help you map your thoughts into a clear and relational visual pattern. Use it, breathe it, live it. Harness the true power of mind maps and mapping your thoughts and ideas will become fun again!