Mind maps seem to be one of the latest ‘buzz words’ to demonstrate a client centred approach. But is there more to them than a brain storm or a spider diagram?

In my experience the majority of people miss the point, and in many cases lack the understanding to generate a beneficial mind map. Personally I’m not a huge fan, but they have their place for many and can provide huge insight.

The process of mind mapping and the ‘science’ behind it was pioneered by Tony Buzan. His company has produced one of the leading iPad apps, iMindMap, but I will come back to my views on a digital approach to this tool later.

What is a Mind Map?

A mind map is an exploratory diagram that allows free thought and expression around a subject. Normally starting with a central point and flowing outwards and interconnecting they aim to discover lateral thoughts on the subject.

Too often ADIs try to use them as a way to explore a subject – for example MSPSL, when they are far more about exploring a thought process. I am often shown Mind Maps that are more accurately flow diagrams.

One of my favoured statements about ‘Good coaching questions’ is that they are “the ones you do not know the answer to”. In the same way, if you know where the Mind Map is supposed to go or end up, it is most likely not a mind map.

What’s the point?

They are about freedom of expression, accessing the ‘right brain’ (the artistic, emotive and creative part). By using a free flowing approach it allows the creative or emotional connections between subjects to form. They work far more like our brain does, compared to a linear approach. This opens up a new realm of possibilities.

The ‘Rules’

  • It should be done on plain paper (no lines or grids). You should avoid the use of straight lines
  • Illustrate with diagrams – It’s claimed that a combination of words and pictures is SIX times more effective for memory
  • Use colours and shapes
  • ‘Follow the thoughts’
  • Use ‘keywords’ not sentences

The man himself, Tony Buzan’s 7 top tips are:

  1. Start in the CENTRE of a blank page turned sideways. Why? Because starting in the centre gives your Brain freedom to spread out in all directions and to express itself more freely and naturally.
  2. Use an IMAGE or PICTURE for your central idea. Why? Because an image is worth a thousand words and helps you use your Imagination. A central image is more interesting, keeps you focussed, helps you concentrate, and gives your Brain more of a buzz!
  1. Use COLOURS throughout. Why? Because colours are as exciting to your Brain as are images. Colour adds extra vibrancy and life to your Mind Map, adds tremendous energy to your Creative Thinking, and is fun!
  1. CONNECT your MAIN BRANCHES to the central image and connect your second- and third-level branches to the first and second levels, etc. Why? Because your Brain works by association. It likes to link two (or three, or four) things together. If you connect the branches, you will understand and remember a lot more easily.
  1. Make your branches CURVED rather than straight-lined. Why? Because having nothing but straight lines is boring to your Brain.
  1. Use ONE KEY WORD PER LINE. Why Because single key words give your Mind Map more power and flexibility.
  1. Use IMAGES throughout. Why Because each image, like the central image, is also worth a thousand words. So if you have only 10 images in your Mind Map, it’s already the equal of 10,000 words of notes!”

The Think Buzan website has loads of examples that you can draw on for inspiration, but the best way to start is to have a go!

In summary, with increasing numbers of pupils being familiar with Mind Maps is schools it is a natural tool for them to be using to explore their futures on the roads. I find they give me insight into the pupils mindset to explore and a great source of ‘homework’ to set. Mind maps are a strong tool for the famous ADI toolbox and can really benefit the process of understanding.

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