Mind-mapping – structuring ideas simply and clearly

When it comes to dealing with difficult or complex topics, you need a good overview. There are a number of methods that help to create this overview quickly. Mind-mapping is one of them. It’s very good for collecting knowledge, structuring it and visualizing it vividly. The mind map (German: Gedankenlandkarte) contributes to a better understanding of contexts. But mind mapping can do even more. The method is also suitable as a creativity technique. In this post I describe the mind mapping inkl. Instructions how to create a mindmap.

Mind-Mapping: Flexible and manifold applicable

The Englishman Tony Buzan (*1942) is considered to be the inventor of mind mapping, and he also made the method famous. With success: Today, mind mapping is probably one of the best-known creativity techniques, along with brainstorming. And that mindmaps are successful in many areas has even been proven in studies.

Mindmaps are used in school or studies among other things. On the one hand, because the method can loosen up the lessons, on the other hand, because the structuring, processing and retention of learning material are essential components of the training. In this context, mindmaps are also well suited for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)(More here.)

But the thought maps also serve well for planning projects, events or strategies. Resources, goals, stakeholders: Appropriate terms are quickly noted and organized. Used in research, mindmaps can be helpful when researching literature or when selecting methods.

And developing campaigns for more sustainability can also benefit from mind mapping. Just like coaching. In the work with clients, a mind map is a suitable tool to reflect on things of daily life.

flow of a mapping process

The steps described below are only meant to be a guide and a guideline. Variations and deviations are possible. The following applies: Everyone can be as creative as they like in mind-mapping. There are hardly any limits to the ideas.

A mind map can take many forms. A monochrome mind map without any pictures or symbols is also possible. But: pictures and color stimulate imagination and creativity. In addition, they should awaken associations. Theoretically, the freer and more colorful the better. But only who likes. To some people the colorful self-designed mind map seems unprofessional.

A hand-drawn mind map on the topic of sustainability

A hand-drawn mind map on the topic of sustainability (example). Further branches are conceivable.

However, if you want to look for ideas to decorate your mind maps, you can find many examples of mind maps by searching for images on the internet. If you search for "sketchnoting" and "sketchnotes", you will also get suggestions on how to design and use the small pictures and pictograms yourself. Over time, you will develop your own style.

Meanwhile, there are also a variety of online tools and apps for mind mapping. This will not be discussed further here. I don’t think paper and pens have had their day yet. Especially when it comes to letting your creativity run free. A sufficient supply of writing material is therefore always useful. But in the end, it all comes down to this: Analog or digital, is a question of personal preference and the area of application. I like paper.

Creating a mind map in a few steps

Step 1: Preparation

The first thing to do is to set the context for the mind-mapping: What is it about? What is the goal of the mind map? Do I want to structure my own or other people’s knowledge? Creating new ideas or breaking down approaches to solutions?

Step 2: The central theme, or. define the central idea.

Once these questions have been clarified, the real work begins. In the middle of the sheet of paper, write the central term or concept. the topic at hand. I got used to surround the term with a cloud, but an oval or similar is also possible.

Step 3: Note and develop branches

The cloud is now getting branches and forks. And for each term, which seems to fit to the respective main topic, one of its own. If you have found the generic terms "environment", "economy" and "society" for the topic "sustainability", paint three branches on the cloud and label them with it. Colors and pictures can already be used.

Each of the three concepts can now be "branched" further. Terms like "people", "politics" or "living together" might fit the generic term "society". No two mind maps are alike. Other or different terms are possible. If you come up with the term "people" first, you can also go in the other direction and think about which generic term could fit it.

The branching can go over several rounds. The branches become finer and finer as a result. Do not hesitate / also do not hesitate to change between the branches and twigs with the terms. When labeling, just make sure that there is enough space for the words.

Step 4: Reflection

Very few mind maps are 100 percent complete. Therefore, they only represent a certain part of reality. You can think about this now. And reflect. A short break can be useful for this. In this the thoughts can circle again. Sometimes really good ideas pop up.

Group mind mapping

Creating mindmaps can also work well in workshops and groups. Basically, the same guidelines apply as for individual mind mapping. Even if the method is carried out in the group, good preparation is necessary. The main topic should be given and should be known.

The entry into the actual group mind mapping can be done in different ways. On the one hand with the help of a brainstorming. The group collects as many terms as possible related to the main topic and then puts them into a structure with the help of a mind map. Quiet people may not be comfortable with this form of searching and sorting ideas. But there are alternatives.

To start the process, each group member can also create an individual mind map on their own, for example. This is then used in the group phase as a thought support and basis for discussion. The individual maps then become one large.

Conclusion: Mindmaps have many advantages, but not only.

Without question: Many topics are too complex to be immediately descriptive. There are many aspects and connections to consider. To structure these connections is a first step to get an overview. Graphical tools, like mind mapping, are good for this. Mind mapping is also characterized by the fact that it is suitable as a creativity tool. In addition, the method can be well combined with other techniques and tools, e.g. B. with brainstorming or with the scenario techniqueScenario technique during problem definition.

The biggest advantage of mind mapping in my opinion is: creating a mind map is based on only a few easy to use guidelines. Probably this has also contributed to the fact that they have become so popular.

A disadvantage of mind mapping is that directions of action and dynamics become insufficiently clear. Here, other methods, such as the concept map or various relation diagrams, have greater strengths. Another disadvantage is that a mindmap can easily look confused when dealing with complex topics. This often makes it difficult for outsiders to understand the content of a personal mind map.

What experiences do you have with mindmaps?? Who uses it? For what?

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