Business Productivity: Is Mind Mapping All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Radiant Thinking reflects your internal structure and processes. The Mind Map is your external mirror of your own Radiant Thinking, and allows you access into this vast thinking powerhouse. — Tony and Barry Buzan, The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential

If you’re like me, every once in a while you get stuck on a problem and just can’t seem to go any farther with it—no matter how many ideas you bounce off the wall, or how many angles of approach you try. Call it writer’s block, creative dysfunction, or what you will, it can be like pulling teeth to tease those ideas out of the far wrinkles of your brain.

Sometimes all you need is a little rest or relaxation to shake things loose; then you can come back strong enough to smash through whatever’s holding you back. But if you still find yourself bouncing off that conceptual barrier like a Superball off a brick wall, then maybe what you need is a mind map.

Calling Buck Rogers!
Despite the mental images the term inspires, mind mapping doesn’t involve donning a wire-festooned helmet to delineate the geography of your brain. It’s much easier to fish out the information by using a pen or pencil. In productivity parlance, a mind map is a visual representation of a brainstorming session that allows you to generate and structure various concepts in a way that, ideally, helps you solve problems and make decisions.

It all starts with a drawing of a central idea, with associated ideas spun off in various directions and tertiary clusters of ideas spun off the secondary ideas, with lesser concept groups branching out in a fractal pattern for as far as space allows. You orient the various elements of a mind map according to your intuitive understanding of the concepts, forming groupings that radiate from a common center in a non-linear manner. You can harness a mind map for presenting information graphically, for summarizing information, for working through complex concepts or problems, or for pulling together information from a variety of sources.

So What’s the Dealio?
Some people dismiss mind mapping as a silly New Age business trend, and certainly some of the literature expounded by its biggest supporters is rich with the same concepts used by those who tout “the Secret,” universal abundance, and the Law of Attraction. And really, all that’s fine—but only if it’s coupled with a willingness to do the work necessary to achieve the abundance these approaches teach. As you probably know by now, sitting and wanting something very, very hard without putting in the effort to achieve it is about as effective as believing in the Tooth Fairy. So while it’s true that mind mapping can increase your productivity (up to 20%, according to some experts), it won’t unless you combine it with other productivity methods and implement them.

That said, mind mapping does have a substantial following, largely because it offers an effective way for brainstorming to be diagrammed, especially in a group setting. This is especially useful for those of us who are visually oriented, and in any case, it’s a relatively simple process.

Constructing a Mind Map
Here are the basic concepts by which you construct a mind map. Keep in mind that these are guidelines only, not stringent rules. The idea is to create something loose and freewheeling, not to try to fit your ideas into a straight-laced format.
• Begin with a central image, drawn in at least three colors.
• Brainstorm out from the center, starting with thick central lines that become thinner the farther you branch from the core.
• Label basic ideas with printed keywords. The more important concepts should be larger than lesser ones.
• Emphasize those important concepts with multiple colors and images, to engage the eye and mind.
• Every word or image should have its own line.
• Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order, or outlines to embrace your branches.
While mind maps are traditionally constructed using colored pencils and pens, there are several brands of mind mapping software available for computer use. The programs can make constructing appropriate images much easier, since clip art can be used, but they’re not strictly necessary.

That’s all there is to it, really. And since a picture is worth a thousand words,
click here to see a generalized mind map that creatively displays the basics.

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