Mind mapping sounds like something diabolical scientists do… but in actuality, it’s a simple tool to process the scope of work and direction for any project or idea. Like your average brainstorm, it usually starts with a circle in the center of a blank page, and expands with arrows out from the center connecting other free floating ideas, eventually leading to a page full of words, doodles, and color…
Once the concept has been thoroughly mapped however, people usually don’t understand that a mind map can and should be simple, easy to read, and easy to understand.
How do we do that?
- Start with a firecracker
- Consider how you frame the context of your map and you’ll find that a good starting point can lead to all kinds of interesting connections and discoveries. For example, if you put the words “Users ignore our product” in the center of your mind map, you’re going to have a much different outcome than if you put “Users are buying from the competition!”
- Speed map
- A wise man once told me to read every book twice – once for feeling, once for meaning. Sadly, I don’t have time to read most books once, but most of us have time to draw two mind maps, so try not to get bogged down in the details during the mind mapping process the first time. First time around, just write what you feel!
- Keep it brief
- As you speed map, try to limit yourself to 3 connections per node (the bubble or box containing the concept). Beyond 3 and you might be reaching for connections that don’t exist. Less than 3 and you’re just not thinking. By limiting yourself to 3 connections the first time around, you’ll find that you spend less time thinking, and more time mapping.
- Value the connections
- Simple lines and arrows suffice for most mind maps, but mind mapping possibilities are endless if you consider the value of the connection. Label your connections, use colors, and draw unique symbols to represent connections. Your connections are as valuable as your nodes. As an example, the words “Fruit” and “Dried Cranberries” might connect well together, but “Fruit” and “Salad” might not connect well without an arrow labeled “Dried Cranberries”.
- Mind mapping should move at the speed of authenticity
- I know I just told you to speed map, but if this is your second time around slow it down! By the time you get your first (and most pressing) concepts on the page, try only adding and taking away from the map when you can justify the action. Because it’s an iterative process, don’t expect it to be finished in just a few minutes. Return to it after a day or a week if time will allow and you might see a new node or connection you hadn’t before.
In the end, mind mapping is a tool best exercised with patience. I’ve been promoting mind mapping for a while now, and I’ve found that most people’s reservations about it stem from thinking it’s a waste of time. However, if you ever learned to make an outline before writing a paper, consider it the parallel process for project development. Take it one step at a time, and maybe your map will be as beautiful as the one above. For some good mind mapping tools try using Mind42 or CmapTools!