Here’s a post on mind mapping. A few months ago, I pulled this undervalued tool from the bottom of my toolbox and it has proven it´s use.
Learning mind mapping
About five years ago, while I was still studying, I learned about mind mapping. A guy named Jan-Willem van den Brandhof, the owner of brainstudio and writer of this interesting book, gave a workshop on how to use your brain more effectively. I learned that mind mapping is a technique for capturing information. Originally invented by Tony Buzan. By stimulating both sides of your brain, mind mapping helps you to remember better.
During the workshop, these ‘rules’ of mind mapping were teached:
- Use large (A3) paper, landscape
- Put the main theme in center
- Use multiple colors (at least three per map)
- Draw icons
- Create fluent, organic lines
- Use one word per line
- The only limitation is your mind
In a mind map these rules might look like the following image:
One thing I could not find on the internet or in the book is the addition of the date and your authograph to your map. I liked this subtle twist, because it makes your map a personal piece of art.
During the workshop mindmapping fascinated me, but I concluded it was not of practical use to me and continued studying algorithms and data structures.
Resurrecting the tool
A few months ago I started mindmapping to create meeting minutes. Why? I can’t remember. What happend? I found out I could capture meetings better, while stil participating in the conversation. Second, I remembered more of what was said during the meeting. As it proved it’s worth, I started using mind maps for other purposes. Such as:
- Mapping the history of a closed project. I used this after the project closure, during a post-mortem meeting.
- Mapping the topics I would like to cover during an upcoming presentation.
- Mapping the tapas I was going to cook for my thirtiest birthday.
The maps helped me in capturing my thoughts during these brainstorms. I also found that mind maps help me ‘steer’ my thoughts. Going up or down a branch helps keeping focus or switching to a slightly different context.
Great! I also want to do this
For those of you who want to try mind mapping, you only need the following tools:
- A3 paper
- A set of stabilo point 88’s
- A lack of interest in what others think about your drawings
For those in search of software: xmind and mindmanager are two. I use xmind to capture some (non-readable) mindmaps for distribution and it works quite intuitive. But, I would not recommend using the computer while brainstorming, nothing beats ‘going analog’.
A retrospective of mind maps
While writing this post, I looked back at what I remembered about mind mapping and remarkably it was almost everything. I started using the technique right out of the box. At first I used one color, mainly out of convenience. But I am introducing multicolor now. There is one thing I do ‘wrong’. I am not putting words on the lines. Somehow I created a method where I draw roots ending up in words, which again spawn roots. This has worked for me and I concluded it is what makes those maps unique.
The future of my mind maps
My bag now has as set of stabilo´s and whenever a suitable moment occurs I start mindmapping. The next map, I will try the official way to get a feel of the difference. Another thing I would like to explore is using mind maps during team retrospectives. During the retrospective, different maps with specific topics are passed through to team members and people add their thoughts to eachother’s maps.