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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Rediscovering Mind Mapping Methods

Hopefully you've found the previous blogs interesting, albeit more theoretical. I thought I'd share with you my mind mapping technique that I use on a fairly regular basis. Something a little more practical. :)

I had started mind mapping in university but gave it up as I found I was needing to re-create them digitally from hand scribblings. Very time consuming! I've re-discovered them however and with the numerous tools out there for mind mapping, I can't see myself not using them.

When to mind map?
I use mind maps when trying to deal with a complex scenario. One that I am just trying to grasp and understand holistically. The beauty of mind maps is that it's not bound by time. Just concepts. This means, I don't need to know where to start, i just start. Through mind maps, I can in a single page (a very very big page sometimes) explain why we should be doing something and how it all fits together conceptually.

Step by Step on How I mind map.
Please don't take this blog as the definitive guide to mind mapping. Everybody has there own technique, and I suggest you create your own technique tailored to your mind. I vary the technique myself depending on the situation, sometimes just letting just my subconscious by my guide in making connections. However, I'll review the most common technique I use which is to help understand a concept and conceptualize about how to address the concept.

1. In the centre of your page, draw a circle and label it with the core of what you want to understand. If you are not sure guess. You can change it later.
2. Ask yourself the question "Why does this matter?"
3. Connect these concepts to your main idea. Circle it and draw a line that connects it to the core.
4. For each of these new nodes ask yourself the question "Why does this matter?" and do the same thing. Keep repeating this until you've exhausted each branch.
5. Start back at the core and ask yourself the question "What's stopping me from achieving this?"
6. Draw the answer in a circle and connect it to the core, and keep asking yourself the question of what is stopping me? Use a different colour
7. Do step 6 for every node until you've exhausted it.
8. The last circle should be what you need to do. Circle this in a different colour

Personal suggestions on effective mind mapping.
1. Don't use the mind map as a plan. Doing this will force you to think in a very step-by-step procedural way. It limits your creativity. You can create a plan after you do a mind map (which I often do). Usually by taking the outer limits of your map and creating actions from them.

2. A mind map is personal. Don't assume that if you have 2 people independently doing mind maps that they will have the exact same map at the end. That's not the point. It's a reflection of how you see things (or how a group sees things if done in a team setting). With this in mind, take the time to explain the map. I try to close off all branches in a map when explaining and going down one branch at a time. They can be intimidating to others if you don't do this.

3. USE software! I used to believe that whiteboards & wall talkers were the best way to do this because of the speed. But now I am finding the software out there is beautiful. It organized it, allows you to collapse branches on demand to focus on what you need and very helpful is the ability to drag and drop entire branches (or copy them) in different areas. I highly recommend FreeMind. It's freeware & open source!

4. If you are developing a plan, I suggest grouping common sets of activities first (usually I number them on the Mind Map). This is helpful in being practical about your planning.

5. Mind maps can be done personally or in group brainstorming sessions. Both approaches are helpful depending on the situation. Try experimenting.

6. Come up with your own use of colours and icons which make sense to you.

Let me know if you found this helpful or if you have additional ideas or suggestions as I am always looking for new ways to do mind maps.

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