How mind mapping software helps you to work smarter

Tony Buzan, the inventor of mind mapping, has spent a large part of his life analyzing how the brain works, and how to visually transfer one’s ideas to paper or screen. Most people realize that mind maps are useful for brainstorming – for quickly capturing ideas as they occur. But few people truly understand the immense power of this technique as a creative problem-solving tool. Here are some insights into the benefits of creative thinking using mind maps, from Buzan’s landmark book on the subject, The Mind Mapping Book:

The gestalt effect: Mind maps allow you to view many elements at once, increasing the probability of creative association and integration

Rich idea hunting territory: They enable you to hunt and capture ideas that normally lie in obscurity at the periphery of your thinking (I love this concept  – it sounds like you’re a big game hunter, finding ideas hiding in the brush and coaxing them out into the open)

Connections and combinations breed creativity: They increase the probability of gaining new insights – because you can see how each idea and concept in your map relates to each other, your mind is more likely to make creative connections and combinations – a key to creative thinking.

Incubation welcome here: Mind maps naturally reinforce the incubation process, increasing the probability of generating new ideas. Incubation is when you walk away from your mind map for a few hours or a few days, and then return to it with fresh perspectives, insights and ideas.

Have fun mind mapping: They encourage playfulness and humor, which tends to lead to new ideas. Buzan encourages devotees of his visual thinking process to liberally add images and color to their maps, which engages the brain’s neural circuitry much more than linear writing does.

Separating the wheat from the chaff: Mind mapping helps you to think through situations and challenges more thoroughly. You can easily add multiple levels of detail to a mind map without destroying its structure. It also enables you to capture and organize a prodigious amount of detail, to separate important nuggets of information from background data and to identify gaps in your information. This incredible flexibility enables you to solve problems faster and more effectively.

Thinking about your thinking: Mind mapping  exposes your thinking to you so you can consider it with a greater amount of perspective. According to Buzan, it “allows the brain to observe its own thoughts in an externalized whole picture and thus learn more about itself. This new knowledge expands the brain’s perspective, encouraging it to have even more advanced thoughts about the topic.”

Bringing your challenges into sharp focus: Mind maps help you to bring clarity and focus to ambiguous situations and problems. They “allow your brain to assimilate immediately whole range of complex and interrelated items of information, bringing all of the issues into clear focus,” according to Buzan.

Decisions, decisions: They help you to explore trade-offs when you are making important decisions. Because mind maps enable you to collect and analyze complex data in an integrated form on a single page, they increase your chances of making a better informed and intelligent decision.

In short, mind mapping is clearly not just a tool for capturing and organizing ideas, but can also be a powerful creative problem-solving tool!

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  1. says

    Excellent post Chuck.

    The way that mind mapping software can empower users to do so much more than capture ideas and organise ideas. Mind mapping software hasn’t actually peaked yet, so it will be interesting to see what future versions of mind mapping software can give us to help us work smarter.

  2. says

    Excellent post, Chuck! I think the thought incubation process has been the most valuable part of mind mapping for me thus far – whenever I need to come up with material for a presentation / blog post / virtually any other report or document I start with a mind map by default. It helps me get my thoughts organized and ultimately helps me produce higher quality work and it helps me produce it faster.

    The other thing that I think is most helpful about mind mapping is the “separating wheat from the chaff” bit, which I do whenever I’m planning a project. Take a big, complex project and separate it down to the detail level using a mind map and then accurately prioritize and schedule the project from the bottom-up.

    Even though they are pretty simple in terms of the concept, mind maps have proven to be both useful and versatile.


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