Creative Thinking With...

Mind Mapping: Visual Creative Thinking

Mind Mapping can unleash your creativity and creative thinking ability

Mind mapping is a term coined by Tony Buzan to describe a creative thinking process that he has made world-famous. Tony Buzan is a brilliant teacher and author of many books on creativity, learning and memory, and mind mapping is his finest contribution to the world. It is a brilliant method of putting your thoughts into a visual format that encourages and fosters the process of thinking creatively -- and it is a great study aid too. Mind mapping has it's origins in history. Leonardo da Vinci used visual mapping thinking techniques and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson invented a creative thinking process called Nuclear Shorthand which was a forerunner to mind mapping. Tony Buzan though has refined and maximised the effectivness of the technique and given us the mind map -- an invaluable and primary tool for every creative thinker to use regularly.

How to do Mind Mapping For Creative Insights
You'll need some large sheets of paper and some colored pens (or you could use one of the new highly functional mind-mapping software programs). In the centre of your paper, you note down your starting thought, key idea or creative challenge. Now, you have a choice you can either systematically explore sub-ideas or you can just let your mind freeflow and use your mindmap to keep track of the ideas as they pop into your head. I recommend you do both at different times.

The systematic approach to mind mapping involves creating branches out from your central idea, labelled with sub-ideas that relate to the central idea. So if you were mindmapping on the subject of, say, videoblogs... your central circle would say Videoblogs, then you would create branches off with sub-ideas such as Blogging Software, Video Equipment, RSS, Program Ideas, etc. This systematic approach can often end up being simply a way of creating a map of your knowledge of a subject -- but just seeing it in this format frees your mind to think creatively, laterally, dynamically on the subject.

The free flowing approach to mind mapping is almost like the classic scene of the psychologist giving his subject a free association exercise. You start with your central idea on the mind map and you see what comes to mind next and you add that to the map with a branch line from the central idea to the new idea with a circle around the new idea. If that idea sparks other thoughts, you add lines and circles from the new idea to note down the other thoughts too. If you reach a dead end, you may go back to the central idea or to any other sub-idea that has occurred to you. This is easier to practice than to describe!

While Tony Buzan encourages the use of colored pens and little drawings as well as words on the mindmap, you'll find what approach works best for you. Mind mapping is an extremely adaptable and useful too for creative thinking. You can use it on the fly or you can sit down and have a more formal session perhaps using mindmapping software. I find that with a pen and a piece of paper, I can rapidly fill a sheet of paper with dozens of ideas around a particular subject area. This is great for all kinds of uses but I find it useful for coming up with ideas for articles, books or business ventures. What will YOU use mind mapping for?

Further Resources:

iMindMap -- Tony Buzan's official site: includes downloadable software, free videos on how to Mind Map, and soon a Mind Mapping forum and Tony Buzan blog.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP: mind map software