Linda Dessau, writing in her blog, recently posted an interesting post on 10 ways that mind mapping can help creative minds. She is speaking specifically about its benefits for writers, but there are lessons here for the mind mapper in all of us (with my comments added):
Connection: Mind mapping provides a visual guide to the connections between ideas; you can see all your many ideas laid out in the same place. [It’s a gestalt experience, seeing all of your ideas visually laid out in relation to one another. This format makes it much easier to see connections between related ideas than if they were displayed in a linear fashion, say in a document.]
Creativity: Opens the floodgates and calls on your senses, not just your thinking mind; mind mapping is a visual and tactile process, gets you away from the computer and back to using paper and pen. [In this blog, we’re focused on mind mapping software – which is still a highly visual process.]
Awakening: Lights numerous sparks, evokes new ideas and challenges you to be open to them. [Indeed – it’s a great exploratory tool. And moving an element from one branch to another – which some people call "refactoring" allows you to consider an idea in a whole new context, a powerful experience that can lead to additional ideas!]
Confidence: Shows you the breadth of your work and ideas, immediate visual feedback of your efforts. [This is especially valuable if you use mind mapping software to collect and display the results of a group brainstorming session. The group tends to get energized when they see their collective contributions displayed visually on screen.]
Practical: Gets you into action and moving forward; "dump" now, organize later. [This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of mind mapping software: You can do a mental core dump onto the screen, and then reorganize your thoughts to an almost unlimited degree later. This can give you an amazing amount of creative momentum.]
Forgiving: Non-intimidating and non-judgmental; there’s no wrong way and no wrong answers on a mind map; bypasses the inner critic. [If you can reorganize a visual map as much as you want, there is no need for your mind to be critical of what you’ve placed in a map. I’ve often found that when I’m stuck on a project, mapping it helps me to get my brain going on it. It’s tremendously liberating!]
Structure: (Michael) Gelb (in his book, How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci) provides basic "rules" and these rules are explained, not just decreed; mind mapping provides a form for your formless ideas.
Passport: Provides access for you and your ideas into the left-brain world; helps you to help left-brainers understand your ideas.
Safe House: A place for your ideas to live while you’re contemplating them; nothing gets lost; no fear of forgetting; you don’t have to know what you’re going to do with them yet. [I like this point – you can easily create a "pending" topic and place within it those ideas you haven’t decided what to do with – and then reconsider them later.]
Infinite: You can stop your mind map and start again; you can re-do it so it’s a closer interpretation of your current thought process; you can add to it or scribble things out and write over them. [Indeed, mind maps are an infinitely flexible medium for recording, editing, rethinking and organizing your ideas. You can walk away from a "work in progress" map and return to it a few days later, and continue to work on it with fresh thinking. You can also utilize them to track the progress of a project from conception to completion.]
I came away from Linda’s post re-energized about all of the things that mind mapping makes possible, and how fully it employs both sides of our brains. As she points out: "There’s no reason we have to settle for scattered thoughts just because we’re creative. And there’s no reason to settle for a mediocre trickle of ideas because we desire a structured finished product. We can enlist both parts of our brain to work together and watch our creativity pour forth AND take shape."