So when I learned that my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick figured out a simple way to use the wildly popular AI writing tool ChatGPT to enhance his mind maps, I was all ears.
He told me that he built a mind map to outline a recent project. He decided to ask ChatGPT for some additional inspiration. It’s not possible to query ChatGPT within a mind mapping tool (yet), so he devised a simple but effective solution:
He copied and pasted the contents of his mind map into ChatGPT and asked the mysteriously powerful tool if it could suggest any additional ideas. It came up with some very good ones, which he pasted back into his mind map. He considered this little experiment to be a success.
Strengths and weaknesses of ChatGPT
ChatGPT is fairly good at writing short or long content based on minimal input. However, it tends to do so with an extremely factual tone, like a Wikipedia listing. But its output can often be used as a starting point for human writing. More often than not, it suggests ideas and angles you may not have considered.
Another early strength of this AI engine, which is still under development, is feeding it what I call “what else?” questions. In other words, can you provide ChatGPT with some background information that you have already compiled, and then ask it for additional suggestions – like my friend Marshall did.
My experiment with ChatGPT and a mind map
Inspired by his success, I decided to conduct my own experiment so I could share my learnings with you. Here’s how I conducted it:
First, I did a search of this blog to compile a list of benefits of mind mapping software. I arranged them into a mind map like the one below (click the image to view a larger version):
The next step is to extract these ideas into a format that I could share with ChatGPT. This required a bit of experimentation. I first tried exporting it as an OPML outline file. But when I tried opening it in Windows notepad, it contains a lot of extraneous formatting. Instead, I switched to outline view in MindManager, and copied and pasted its contents into Windows Notepad. I took this intermediate step to ensure that the text I pasted into ChatGPT would be free of any extra characters.
I then pasted this cleaned-up outline into ChatGPT and submitted it. Unfortunately, this confused the AI engine in a major way. It simply parroted back the information I provided it with. Not what I was looking for. My gut feeling was the the large number of carriage returns in this text (one per line) made it hard for ChatGPT to understand what I was asking for.
The next step in my experiment was to convert this outline into a single paragraph of text. This required some formatting clean up as well as converting the verbs to active tense. At the end of this process, which only took a few minutes, I had a one-paragraph list of benefits, separated by commas, and preceded by a simple question:
These are some of the benefits of mind mapping software. What other benefits would you add to this list?
This modified query worked really well. ChatGPT returned a bulleted list of benefits that I hadn’t previously considered. You can see my original question and ChatGPT’s answer below:
I copied ChatGPT’s output and pasted it into a new branch in my mind map, which I entitled “ChatGPT suggestions” and formatted in red to make it easier to see (click image for larger version).
The final step in my process was to distribute these new ideas into the existing structure of my mind map, with AI-generated topics still formatted in red. You can see the final result below.
There are already at least two visual mapping tools that have AI capabilities, Ayoa and ContextMinds. But they are somewhat limited in the number of ideas you can add at a time. ChatGPT is more flexible and powerful – so much so that I believe it’s only a matter of time before one of the mind mapping tool developers integrates it into their platform.
Meanwhile, this simple workaround can help you enhance your thinking and can reveal new directions and perspectives for your human brain to explore!
For now, ChatGPT is free. You can play around with it it here. Just keep in mind: This tool is still in early testing, but is improving quickly. You may need to experiment with phrasing the same question in several different ways to get useful output, as I discovered.
Have fun experimenting with this powerful new tool!
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