The most recent ConceptDraw e-newsletter contains an article in which Dr. Jane Karowski, adjunct professor at the University of Las Vegas, draws an interesting analogy to compare mind mapping and conventional linear note taking:
“A mind map is like a CD. You can jump right to the information you’re interested in. Linear notes are like audio tapes. You waste time wading line by line through the content in hopes of getting to what you want.”
Fond memories of audio tapes – not!
For those of you too young to have had much experience with audio tapes, they were the ultimate linear medium in the 1960s and 70s. With a music cassette, it was impossible to fast forward to the beginning of a specific song. You were guessing, at best. And you usually got it wrong. The whole concept of moving to a specific spot on the tape was foriegn in those pre-CD days. Often, it was more efficient just to listen all the way through the audio tape until you got to the part you really wanted to hear. It was a pain in the ass, honestly!
(Just to clarify: A linear medium is any form of information that forces us to move through it in a straight-line progression. We can’t jump to the pieces we want. We must follow a single path from beginning to end.)
Think about how much a succession of paragraphs is like the audio tape – an endless procession of sentences and paragraphs, with little to differentiate them. The context of a paragraph is hidden in its words and sentences.You have no choice but to start wading through all of those words to find the one key idea that matters to you, especially if you’re looking at words on paper (where keyword searches aren’t possible).
Linear information 0, mind maps 1
Mind maps make finding the information you need much easier and faster, obviously, because it’s easy to see the key piece of information you want in context. You can easily drill down to it, and view its parent and child topics as well as adjoining branches to see what else is related to it. That often spurs new ideas.
I think this is an awesome analogy because it really does a great job of comparing something that may be unfamiliar to some people (a mind map) with something that is familiar (an audio tape).
Do you have any analogies that you use to explain mind mapping to others? Please share them in the comments below.