What is a Mind Map?

“A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole.[1] It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those… Although the term “mind map” was first popularized by British popular psychology author and television personality Tony Buzan, the use of diagrams that visually “map” information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries.”

My Journey

Years back, I was working for a rather forward thinking corporation who offered mind mapping training to all employees. The course was Becoming an Everyday Genius written Tony Buzan. How long ago? Well, I was digging through some old files and just found the book from the course and it had additional material on – [cough] – cassette tape.

I mind mapped for years on paper, then added digital and collaborative mind mapping to my bag of tricks as time went on eventually becoming a Certified XMind Master. Now I use mind mapping all day everyday for business, my artistic projects, and for my personal life.

How to Mind Map

Sometimes when I’m using mind mapping as a tool in an planning or product development session, people ask me about the origin of the practice. This video offers a nice basic summary of what a mind map is by the creator of the technique – Tony Buzan himself.

In this video Buzan is offering the most pure form of mind mapping with one word per-line. Certainly during brain-storming and creative ideation that’s a solid idea. However, I consider what he’s saying as more of a guideline and use more than one word per branch when mind map in other contexts.

Recommended Digital Mind Mapping Apps

XMind for Desktop Mapping

Note that while this video illustrates mind mapping with his product called iMindMap, I recommend newcomers start with the free and open-source XMind desktop app. While there is a paid Pro version, the free version is quite capable and works on Windows, MAC, and Linux. One reason I love XMind is that if you decide to go for the Pro edition it’s only $99 bucks. Academic editions are available.

MeisterTask for Web, Collaborative, Mobile Mind Mapping

For those who want to mind map via a web browser or mobile device – or do collaborative mind mapping online –  my recommendation would be MindMeister. The free edition offers up to 3 mind maps with some limited features. The free edition does support sharing, collaborating, and importing. Other editions scale from there starting at $4.99 a month for the Personal Edition. Academic editions are available.

Recommended Reading

There are many books on the topic. Here is a good place to start – The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential
 by Tony Buzan.

More To Come…

I’ll offer some more thoughts in future posts on uses and techniques of mind mapping. If you’d like to be notified via email when new articles are posted you can subscribe here or with the form below.

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Mark Mosher
Sr. Systems Analyst | Synthesist

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