A series of ten articles transferred from Dr. Huhn’s earlier blog posts
Some Fundamentals of the Creative Process and the Transfers into Real Life Innovations
Phase II of the creative process (continued):
Method »Mind Mapping«
The second creativity method that has proved remarkably successful is called »Mind Mapping«, developed by Tony Buzan in the seventies.
Here, the ideas as they come are pictorially captured on branches and twigs that extend from a bird's eye view of a tree trunk in all directions. Although this method is now widely known, it is rarely used in practice. According to my observation, the reason for this is that it is almost always conveyed too superficially.
Start with very simple exercises, not with complex actual subjects.
You’ll find hundreds of videos about learning and practicing this method. Here is a link to a video with Tony Buzan who developed Mind Mapping:
Chaos and Structure
- Retain your overview with Mind Maps, while remaining creative
It was long believed that structured, logical thinking on the one hand and simultaneous associative, creative thinking on the other exclude each other. This new work method shows how relatively simple means may be used to overcome the apparent contradiction and how creative and systematic thinking can be synchronized. The result is a strong flow of ideas, which can still be recorded in a clear manner: by Mind Maps - a working tool that can be used both by groups and individuals and opens up entirely new possibilities.
Mind Mapping - as the Englishman Tony Buzan called this method of recording information - is a work method that uses the advantages of the various functions of both halves of the brain: the speech-like thinking by the left side and the processing of pictures by the right side of the cerebral cortex. One could refer to it as compiling idea images.
First of all, the method makes use of the ability of our brain to combine whole information chains, using keywords. Only keywords (nouns) are noted, not sentences. Mind Maps are thus nothing other but organized and methodically structured keywords.
As they are limited to the essentials, this saves time and promotes an overview. What is surprising, however, is that our memory can fill in all the additional details. Mind Maps illustrate how many factors affect one target; they show interrelations and the networking of a sphere, thus activating the right, picture-processing hemisphere. All thoughts can be easily extended through associative ideas. Mind Maps have their own dynamics. New idea branches almost automatically extend from each tree of thought.
This is how you start:
You need a large (if possible A3) sheet of unlined paper, a pencil, and an eraser. Later, of course, you could also work with a felt-tip or any other type of pen. Always PRINT.
Cursive is totally unsuitable, as it renders the Mind Map illegible.
Mind Maps start at the center of a sheet of paper and then extend over the entire area. Place the sheet of paper horizontally in front of you. The subject is written into a circle in the center. The main thoughts (complexes) then develop on branches that extend from the center in all directions (like a tree seen from the top). All additional ideas and details can be written onto the corresponding sub-branches and »twigs«.
Thus you will retain the mental relations between the ideas and terms in diagrammatic form - just like roads and railway lines on a map. The length of the branches depends on the complexity of the subject in each case. Estimating this correctly and thus developing the distances between the branches and the correct proportions requires a little practice. You may not be an expert straight away, but after your third or fourth Mind Map, you will be able to play around with it quite well. It is surprising how quickly this new method »grows on you«. It may well be possible that this method comes far closer to the way our brain works than writing down whole sentences line by line.
It is entirely up to you which structure or order you give to your Mind Map. In the case of creative tasks, too much regulation may actually impede your progress. In this case, you should, first of all, write down your ideas spontaneously as they occur to you. If, however, you want to learn something new, work out a certain subject in a structured manner or gain an overview (eg. of a new project), allow yourself to be guided by the following principles.
This is how you create a structure:
Write or draw the main subject in the circle or oval in the center. Then think into which larger complexes you can divide the subject and write down a keyword for each complex onto one of the main branches you draw in all directions, starting from the center. Four to seven main branches are an optimal number, but there are no strict rules. In the beginning, you may only be able to think of two or three main branches. Simply start with those. The rest you can add at any time.
The internal structural principle of the Mind Map is thus as follows: from the general to the specialized, from the abstract to the concrete. You can then divide each of the main branches into sub-branches as you think of various components of each keyword you have written down. Sometimes various sub-branches will be linked in sequence to show direct association lines, while parallel thoughts will be kept separate. You merely have to take care that the subsequent term in the hierarchy is somewhat more specialized or concrete. The further you get away from the center, the more detailed the information should be.
The thoughts can be expanded effortlessly in all directions. The keywords can still be allocated to their respective complexes later under the general term to which they refer. Everything else is shown in the illustration.
Sometimes you will think of a specialized term first. You can then draw an empty main branch as a collector and place the keyword in question onto a sub-branch, filling in the rest as the Mind Map progresses.
You can adapt Mind Maps also for
Preparation for traveling
and above all
for problem solving
and idea creation
You will notice that the subject starts to develop its own dynamics. It activates the right side of your brain with its diagrammatic construction. New idea branches will grow out of your thought tree without any conscious effort on your part. As opposed to the usual vertical placement of the paper, the horizontal arrangement allows us more freedom. If the subject complex is exceptionally large, the Mind Map can be expanded in all directions by gluing on extra sheets of paper, using adhesive tape on the reverse side.
Two suggestions for initial exercises (duration: approx. 20 minutes for each)
1. Think of a pleasant event in the distant past (a birthday you had as a child, the day on which you received your first bicycle, the first holiday you spent without your parents, etc.). Develop a Mind Map in which you jot down all your memories in keyword form: the place, date, weather, people involved or present, clothing, events, feelings, experiences. Sort these complexes according to the secondary subjects you can think of. If you think of individual bits and pieces you cannot allocate straight away, use a "collector" branch. You will be surprised to see how many details you remember!
2. Take any incomplete project you have been working on for some time, but which you have not managed to finish off: a party to be arranged, building onto your house, finding a new apartment, getting additional qualifications, introducing a new work procedure, submitting a suggestion for improvement, etc. Now use a Mind Map to develop the first 5 - 7 concrete steps and everything you need to get the project started.
This may be the picture of a Mind Map after two or three weeks of experience working with Mind Maps. Don’t start with that!
In case you found more than one solution you have to make a decision which of the ideas should be realized.
Following the seven steps of the decision process may help you: