Create great Mind Maps by removing Misunderstandings

Create great Mind Maps by removing Misunderstandings

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Teaching Mind Mapping, I sometimes encounter people who are self taught or have learned to Mind Map from a book. Whist they may be competent, misunderstandings can arise. In this article I will discuss five potential problems.

1) Mind Mapping to generate ideas, “I’ll do my Mind Map in pencil and then colour it in later”

The purpose of colour in a Mind Map is not just to make it look pretty. It has a far deeper significance. Colour promotes creativity. It also helps in the cohesion of related ideas, linking together the words or images on each branch. If you create your Mind Map in pencil you are massively limiting its power to help you generate new ideas. It is far better to have a messy mind map with good thinking than a beautifully neat one with only limited ideas. If you are insistent on creating an elegant work of art, first do an ‘idea generation’ Mind Map in colour an then refine it with a second Mind Map. Think of it like a painter making preparatory sketches before completing their masterpiece.

2) “I’ll list my ideas first so that I can make sure I make a Mind Map with the best structure.”

Lists restrict thinking. The big problem with a list is that it has sequential structure. Each idea follows the previous one in a narrow step-by-step fashion. Even if you start off with a series of sub-headings you still get a limited set of ideas. A list also precludes the possibility of inserting extra items later. The Radiant nature of a Mind Map encourages a wide explosion of ideas that can never be duplicated using lists. Don’t worry about getting the best structure. If you use a Mind Map correctly the structure will evolve naturally. Even if you end up with a messy Mind Map you can make anther refined one. IMindMap software lets you can move branches to make better use of space.

3) “I can’t draw so I’ll just use words!”

Everyone can draw, even if just stick figures. You don’t have to be a great artist to use images on a Mind Map. If, as in most cases, the Mind Map is for your own personal use then you don’t have to show your artistic attempts to others. As long as an image represents something to you, it doesn’t have to look perfect. Images promote the creative generation of ideas and improve your memory of a Mind Map. Take up drawing or cartooning classes to improve your artistic skills or use Mind Mapping software with built-in clip art and the ability to drag and drop from Google Images.

4) Mind Mapping for revision, “I need to know this study book so well that everything is a key word. I can’t afford to miss anything.”

Mind Maps are not supposed to be a verbatim reproduction of textbook. The words on a Mind Map act as triggers to stimulate your recollection of ideas, facts and concepts. Even with a vital text it is very rare that you need to reproduce it word for word, it is more important to understand and apply the information. Don’t worry about missing important points. One or two words will suffice to summarise a paragraph. Trust your memory. If you absolutely need to quote a part of the text you can use a box branch but use these sparingly. Use too many and you will destroy the structure of your Mind Map. In cases where word for word memorisation is important like the script of a play, a legal contract or performance of a ritual, it is better to use a memory technique than a Mind Map.

5) “Why do Mind Maps have rules? Creativity is all about being free from constraints.”

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding creativity. It is undeservedly given a mystique, often proffered by those who claim to be ‘creatives’ and thus have a vested interest. Mind Maps provide a structure that captures ideas, allows related ideas to be attached to these and, by using a single page, allows you to see relationships between desperate concepts. Creativity is simply the ability to find these out-of-the-ordinary associations. Mind Maps do not constrain creativity. They give it a framework within which it can flourish. It is like giving a plant a trellis that will support it as it grows.

  1. Dear Phil,

    Thank you very much for this great article that helps to clarify some misunderstandings I had about mind maps.

    One question remains in my mind though. I would love to have your insight.

    I know a keyword is supposed to contain all the information I need to memorize. However, my mind sometimes goes blank when I am trying to extract the information out of a keyword. In other instances, I can get some information out of the keyword, but not a lot.
    This situation is frustrating since everything I read in a textbook can be crystal clear, but I just can’t recall or clearly explain what I learned.

    I noticed that this problem often arises when I try to read my mind maps. Though all the information on the mind map is clear, I can’t recall much else but what’s written on it. Consequently, I tend to fall into the trap of almost reproducing verbatim what’s in the textbook.
    This problem especially happens when studying abstract concepts where the keywords do not always evoke an image.

    Therefore, could you please explain if there is a technique to use in addition to writing the keyword and adding an image to each branch of a mind map so that we can accurately explain the theme evoked by a keyword?

    I was wondering if we could use this method: creating a visual story about a paragraph using the SEAHORSE principles that we then attach to each keyword. What do you think about this idea?

    Thank you very much for your help,

    All the best,

    Etienne

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