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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