Created by Tony Buzan, and based on how our brains actually work, this method uses colors, and having a page in landscape orientation, not portrait. Use a whiteboard if you can. This method works well with groups and is good for explaining as well as creating. On a computer, you can hide subsections of the mindmap if it gets too complex.
- One of my favorite tools when I've got a complicated problem to solve is a mind map. There's something about them that just feels natural and it helps me to think. They work much better than a list. So here's what a mind map looks like. They were invented by Tony Buzan in 1974. And the good thing about them, is that they really do reflect how we think. They make a problem visual, they use both your creative side, and your structured thinking side.
They're quick to draw, and you can add extra items in any order just as you think of them. Also, because it starts in the middle, as you spread out, there is always space for more subsections. These are his and my top tips for making them work extra well. Firstly, use paper in landscape mode rather than portrait. I don't know how Tony Buzan decided this, but I'm pretty sure he's right, it does just feel better somehow. Next, use color, and ideally pictures and cartoons as well to bring your mind map to life.
Then, consider using a whiteboard if you're at work, they have loads of space, rubbing out is easy, and a whole group can contribute to mapping out the problem and the possible solutions. Then you can photograph it with your phone once it's finished. Next, perhaps surprisingly, iPads or tablets are great for drawing mind maps. Because you can move the branches around with your fingers if one area gets a bit crowded, in fact, with some versions the branches automatically space themselves out as you add more.
Also, on the iPad you can zoom out to see the whole thing and then zoom in to look at parts of it. And you can hide sections if you want to have loads of detail but not get confused by seeing it all in one go. You could even use your phone to draw mind maps. There are free apps, although I find the screen a bit small. You do need some decent space for drawing out a proper mind map I think. A couple of other uses for mind maps while I'm on the subject are number one, note-taking.
It's been shown that retention of a subject is greater if you draw out a mind map, rather than just writing notes. And number two, explaining something to other people. A mind map can be better than bullet points. And all you need is a sheet of paper with a mind map sketched on it or a graphic on the screen to point to. So if you do quite a bit of presenting then software like Prezi is worth considering instead of PowerPoint. Though you can draw a mind map with PowerPoint laboriously, or import a mind map into PowerPoint as a graphic.
You can also get mind map templates for PowerPoint to help you draw them from within PowerPoint, and you can Google for those. The one limitation of mind maps, is that if you have multiple causes and multiple solutions, say solution A will help with causes one and two, the mind map isn't great for showing how they all link up. You would ideally need a table for this, and I'll come to that later. But overall I would strongly recommend a mind map for approaching any problem.
Either when you're on your own thinking through it, or working with a group who all need to see it. If you've never used a mind map then you should definitely give them a try. Maybe after this video you could try drawing one out for a problem that you have in mind.
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- Identifying the real problem
- Generating possible solutions
- Boosting your creativity
- Using your intuition and logic
- Selecting the best solution
- Considering implementation