8 myths about mind mapping software – and the remarkable truth about its capabilities

8 myths about mind mapping softwareMind mapping software is surrounded by myths that make it hard for business people to fully understand its power and potential. It’s time to cast aside these inaccurate beliefs and view a clear picture of what it can do for you.

Here are 8 myths that you may have heard about mind mapping software and the real story on each:

MYTH #1. It’s too hard to learn.

Many people can’t be bothered with mind mapping software because they perceive that it’s just too hard to learn. Do you remember when you first learned Microsoft Word? You didn’t need an extensive course to teach you how to use it. Chances are, you were able to open a document and just start typing.

Mind mapping software is very similar: you can open a new file and start adding topics without any training at all. Of course, it takes a little more work to understand what the advanced features of the software are, and how to use them. But the basics are very simple and intuitive, because mind mapping works the way your brain does.

The typical mind mapping user is much like you: overwhelmed by how much he or she has to get done and no longer convinced that the traditional business productivity software (e.g., Microsoft Office) is up to the task. They took the time to start using my mind mapping software, and now would not be without it!

MYTH #2. It can only be used for brainstorming.

This perception comes from the practice of hand-drawn mind mapping, which was invented by Tony Buzan in the 1960s. At the time, he envisioned them being used for capturing ideas in a highly individualized, visual format and for memorization of facts and information.

When mind mapping software debuted in the form of Inspiration and Mind Man (which would later become MindManager), the developers simply took Buzan’s radial thinking model and digitized it. In this form, it served the needs of brainstormers very well. Soon, however, developers and users of the software realized that so much more was possible with mind mapping software:

  • Icons and symbols gave users the ability to visually classify information
  • Topic images made mind maps more colorful and individualized, just as Buzan envisioned
  • Topic notes enabled users to capture extended text descriptions without cluttering up the structure of the mind map
  • Files could be attached to topics, which provided added meaning and context to them.
  • Hypertext links could be added to map topics, enabling users to capture references to online information.
  • The ability to add task information to topics transformed mind mapping software from a thinking and planning tool to a lightweight project management tool. The addition of GANTT views further enhanced its functionality in this important area.
  • The capability to export mind map content to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Project further transformed mind mapping software into a powerful “front end” thinking and organizing tool. In other words, you could use it to visually outline the content of a report or presentation, tweaking its content and structure until your were happy with it. Then, with one mouse click, you could convert your mind map to a linear information format. where you could finish working on it.

These and other advancements have enabled mind mapping software to be used for much more than simple brainstorming. Today, it has literally dozens of business uses. Click here to read a list of 45 of them.

MYTH #3. It’s not a serious business tool. It’s frivolous and not worth my valuable time to learn about it.

If you learn how to use mind mapping software, your time will become even more valuable!

This myth is partly due to mind mapping’s roots as a self-improvement tool. If you recall, earlier in this blog post we talked about it being invented by Tony Buzan as a brainstorming and memorization tool. As a result, a mythology has grown up around it that tends to make business people dismiss its capabilities and advantages.

With all of the capabilities I outlined in the previous myth, it’s easy to see that mind mapping software is definitely a serious business tool. In my user surveys, the readers of this blog say that it gives them a 20-30% boost in productivity – the equivalent of gaining another day per week of productive work time. In addition, two of the top benefits of mind mapping software, according to survey results, is the ability to reach clarity quickly on complex topics and the ability to synthesize information – two key tasks of today’s knowledge workers.

MYTH #4. It doesn’t match the way I think. I’m just not visual.

You’re actually more visual than you think. If you have jotted notes and diagrams on a whiteboard, you’re visual. If you’ve scribbled simple diagrams and flow charts in your meeting notes, you’re visual.

One of the main hurdles to the adoption of mind mapping software in business is that there are two types of people: creative, visually-oriented individuals who are comfortable with the non-linear format of mind maps, and linear thinkers, who prefer information neatly formetted in documents, slide decks and love the neat rows and columns of spreadsheets. Linear thinkers, for the most part, don’t “get” mind mapping software. Creative people fully embrace it.

The only way to find out if you can benefit from mind mapping software in your work is to try it out on several projects. Fortunately, there are some excellent free mind mapping tools like XMind and MindMaple that you can download and experiment with.

MYTH #5. Mind mapping is only for creative types. I’m not creative.

While creative types may have been early adopters of mind mapping software, that’s no longer the case. Business people of all stripes are profiting from the powerful, flexible capabilities of today’s mind mapping software.

MYTH #6. Mind maps are hard to share with others who don’t understand them.

According to this myth, mind maps are in a  proprietary format that only afficionados of them can understand. Others must struggle to figure out what a mind map means.

This method assumes that mind maps can only be shared in their radial, non-linear form;  nothing could be farther from the truth. Most programs enable you to output the contents of your mind maps in multiple formats, including:

  • Images
  • Clickable image maps
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Word documents
  • Project files
  • XML
  • Plain text
  • PDF files

Of course, when you share mind maps with others, you must keep in mind who your target audience is and their preferred way of receiving information. Then plan accordingly.

MYTH #7. All mind mapping software is expensive

Not all my mapping software is costly. There’s actually a whole range of price points and feature sets for every need and budget. If you’re just starting out and want to determine if mind mapping software fits into your workflow, I recommend the free versions of XMind and MindMaple. You can also download a free or inexpensive mind mapping app to your mobile device and play around with it to see how you like working in this visual format. iThoughts is one of my favorites. In addition, web-based mind mapping apps like MindMeister and Mindomo enable you to experiment for free or a low monthly subscription fee.

If you need to do project management, presentations or integration with SharePoint, Excel and other corporate data sources, then there are high-end programs that will do this for you – with a corresponding price.

MYTH #8. Collaboration with mind mapping software isn’t possible unless every member of my team has a licensed program on their computer

This myth WAS true for many years, but that’s no longer the case.

Several software developers have created “ecosystems” that enable desktop and web-based versions of their programs to interchange data. That means some members of your team can use a  more expensive desktop software program while others can collaborate using inexpensive, subscription-based web versions.

In addition, at least one program (MindManager) not only integrates with SharePoint for managing team tasks, but also a proprietary social task management application that enables all team members to view and contribute task updates – whether they have mind mapping software or not.

Now it’s your turn

What myths have you heard about mind mapping software? Please tell us in the comments below. Thanks!

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