Mind Mapping: Melding Color, Images, Words to Find Answers

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By Nancy Keny

What if I told you that I had a magic formula that would make you and your organization instantly more productive? What if this formula could stop procrastination on projects, create astounding strategic planning sessions and deal with any organizational issue you may have?

The formula is the art of mind mapping.

Mind mapping originated in the late 1960’s by Tony Buzan, who wanted to find a more creative and fun approach to thinking, planning and problem solving.

Buzan’s work continues today through Michael J. Gelb whose publications include “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” and the audio “Mind Mapping: How to Liberate Your Natural Genius”.

What exactly is mind mapping?

According to Gelb, mind mapping is a creative and visual way to generate ideas and organize your thoughts in order to create a plan.

It allows you to break down goals and issues into smaller, less overwhelming doable action steps.

Unlike the traditional hierarchical outline format in which people try to logically organize their ideas before they generate them, mind mapping taps into the brain’s natural way of operating which is dynamic and nonlinear.

When you think of something, your brain uses free association, images and impressions. You experience “brain bursts” which are not linear but random. A mind map is a tool that helps to connect these associations.

A traditional outline creates frustration, procrastination, not to mention boredom, because you only use your left brain which is trying to figure out a linear path of what comes first, second…etc.

By allowing your right brain to express these “brain bursts” through color, images and words, you wake up and utilize your whole brain.

Through my work as a Professional & Personal Coach, in which I help individuals and organizations achieve both their personal and professional goals, mind mapping is the most integral part of my coaching process.

The applications of mind mapping are endless. From solving problems, creating strategic plans and mission statements to mapping out daily activities and priorities, mind mapping has proven to be the most successful planning and execution tool.

Here’s how to create a mind map.

1. Begin mind map by drawing a square in the center of a page with four lines radiating from the corners. Use a symbol to represent your goal or issue and draw it inside the square.

Gelb uses pictures or symbols instead of words because they jumpstart your creativity. You can use words to represent your goal but make sure it is stated precisely.

2. Create word associations. Let’s say your goal is to develop a marketing plan. When you think about a marketing plan, what associations do you make?

Allow your brain to experience “brain blasts” without censorship.

In a word association exercise there are no wrong answers.

On the separate radiating lines, write down each association or idea using key words. One line may have the word “direct mail”. The next one may be “website” and so on. Create as many radiating lines as you have ideas.

3. Create mind maps around these new word associations by drawing a square around each key word with four lines radiating from the corners.

4. Repeat step 2. Create key word associations around these new mind maps. Key word associations for the direct mail mind map may include Format (what type of direct mail piece), Frequency (how often piece will be sent out), Content (what information will be included in the piece). These are now new keywords appearing on the direct mail radiating lines.

5. Repeat step 3. Create mind maps around these new key word associations.

6. Repeat step 2. Create key word associations around these new mind maps. Key words for Format could be Brochure and Postcard. Key words for Content could be Product Lines and Prices.

7. Keep creating mind maps of key words until you have all of the ideas and specific action steps necessary to execute your goal, which in this case is a direct mail campaign.

8. Draw symbols, pictures and colors to create emphasis. Be as creative as you like. This graphically shows the importance of connections and relationships between words.

9. Once a task on the mind map is completed it can be highlighted with a marker making tracking of projects and goals quick and easy.

A finished mind map is creative, expressive and colorful. The branching, nonlinear style with its Key words and images, allows you and others to see the whole picture of your goal clearly and easily.

Mind maps allow you to tap into your unlimited, creative powers thus making planning sessions and meetings more fun and productive.