The Manager's Toolkit - Part 8: Mapping the Mind

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Mind Maps

Most people are faced at some stage with the need to prepare a report, lecture, letter or other pieces of writing. A common response is: "I don't know where to start". The idea of a Mind Map is to help you to start very easily and to plan what you are going to write in a simple way.

Most of our difficulties come because we have been taught to organise our thoughts in a list fashion. We write down the title, then the first idea, then the second and so on. This linear manner goes from A to B to C and then to D. When we try to plan what we are going to write we start at A and try to work through to D.

The trouble with this method is that our brain simply doesn't work this way. We think about D before we've finished writing about B. We remember something about A after we've started writing about B and there is no space to fit it in. Our minds leap about, we lose our way and the real difficulties begin.

Mind maps are designed to get over this problem and to accept the fact that our brains work on linked concepts rather than in a linear fashion.

Starting off

Creating a mind map is simple:

  1. Get a clean sheet of paper (preferably A3) and draw a shape in the centre.
  2. Write the central idea or topic in this shape (it may be useful if the shape is related to the central idea).
  3. Draw lines out from the central branch to represent the basic / main points.
  4. Label each main branch with one or two words to give the main point.
  5. Draw minor lines from the main lines to note other points. Label these lines.
  6. Connect related points, regroup the ideas and finalise the map.

Whilst creating the map it is best if you do not attempt to develop any idea completely. Simply note the key words or concepts as they occur and slot them into a relevant branch or create a new one. Do not hesitate over where they go, simply put them down where they come to you.

After you have completed the major lines and a lot of minor lines you will find that links develop. You can move ideas around once they are on paper but the difficult bit is to get them there first.

Example 1: A Sample Mind Map

Hints

Having created a mind map you will often want to then prepare your letter / report etc. This is the easiest part. All the information is already on your mind map and you have an instant global view. Go through the map marking off the sections (using colours) and numbering them in the order you want to consider them. You can then prepare your list-based outline if you want but this is rarely necessary.

Try using mind maps at meetings to record ideas - see how we wander from the central point.

Try using mind maps for brainstorming either by yourself or in a group.

The best books on this are: Use Your Head by Tony Buzan (ISBN 0-563-1-6552-9) and The Brain Book by Peter Russell (ISBN 0-415-03455-8)

"The Manager's Toolkit" Series.

"The Manager' Toolkit" series is designed to give Managers and other staff an insight into the use and application of a new set of thinking tools. The series is:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Pareto Principle
Part 3: Cause and Effect Charts
Part 4: Scatter Charts
Part 5: Flow Charts
Part 6: Histograms
Part 7: Capability Studies
Part 8: Mind Mapping (This Section)

 

Last edited: 11/03/10

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