How Mind Maps Can Aid Creative Thinking

Imagine the following scenario…

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. You have a project to start. Let us say you are renovating your residence. Perhaps you are replacing your sink or even redesigning your entire kitchen.

You decide to make a trip to the local home improvement store. As you enter the store, your mind is flooded with ideas. Your keen senses take in the musty smell of sawdust, the sharp fumes of paint, and the vibrant colors around you.

A picture starts to emerge of what you would like your finished product to look like. Enthused by your imagination, you decide to return home to plan the project.

If you are like most people, you will probably create a spreadsheet or a list. You will sequentially map each step of the process. You will use this list to return to the store and make your purchases.

But, once you return home and start setting up shop in your garage, you begin to feel a disconnect. You might sense that something was lost between the ideas that filled your mind earlier and your current plan.

What happened to your imaginative idea? In the process of translating your idea from your mind to your plan, the details have been stripped. The sensory input, the associations, the memories have been lost. Your plan now only represents a fraction of the detail that your mind perceived when it envisioned the project and the outcome.

This is where a Mind map comes in. A Mind map is the single most powerful tool for extracting ideas from your brain. The mind mapping process is a logical yet creative way of charting your ideas. It taps into your brain’s capability for lateral thinking.

The Power Of Mind Maps

The term “mind map” was originally coined by Tony Buzan who explored the associated concepts his groundbreaking “The Mind Map Book.

Mind maps are unique way of representing ideas using a blend of words, images, and symbols. They can be used for both concrete ideas (such as product development or in our case a project plan) and insubstantial ideas (such as concepts or services).

Mind maps are incredibly powerful because they mimic the way our brain naturally perceives the world.

Typical thinking involves approaching an idea vertically (working out the solution one step at a time) or horizontally (listing all ideas in a brainstorming fashion without checking for viability). Neither one of these two approaches summarizes an idea in the same way as a Mind map.

What happened when you entered the home improvement store with an idea in your mind? Your brain automatically made simple and complex associations. It scanned the knowledge it had accumulated from the past, perhaps from a show you watched or a design you saw at friend’s house. Simultaneously it absorbed the sensory input and data from the surroundings.

Based on this information, it created a vision of the desired outcome. This process is known as radiant thinking where your brain radiates numerous thoughts based on a principal idea.

A mind map can be compared to a geographical map. A cartographer constructs a map of a region by translating physical characteristics on to a two-dimensional medium. Similarly mind maps provide the means to represent the complex landscape of your idea.

Components Of A Mind Map

A Mind Map translates a wealth of complex information into a rich, memorable and orderly graphic that succinctly portrays your brain’s natural way of deconstructing the central idea.

A typical mind map displays these five essential attributes:

  • A main or predominant idea that is the focus
  • Topics associated with the focus radiate outward as branches
  • Branches are further broken down into “twigs” or more discrete ideas
  • Keywords, images, even sounds represent key associations
  • Color is used to group similar ideas

Renovate Kitchen Project Plan Mind Map

Benefits Of A Mind Map

There are many benefits to using mind maps. I have reaped these significant benefits from using them.

1. Eliminate mental clutter

It is said that human beings can only hold about 7 to 9 thoughts in our mind at once. While, an average person has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day.

This makes a compelling case for us to beware of our thoughts and to avoid mental clutter that can weigh us down. Mind maps offer a way to prevent overwhelm, by capturing ideas as they emerge, for later grouping.

The next time an idea or a thought occurs to you, capture it in a mind map instead of a sticky note or even an electronic note.

2. Integrate logic and creativity

Mind map is a lateral thinking technique. Lateral thinking techniques are used in a variety of fields; I use them both in consulting and in coaching.

Lateral thinking is the method of solving problems through an indirect and creative approach. This is not to be confused with creative activities such as art or drama, although exposure to those pursuits can enhance the capability for lateral thinking.

Your right brain is said to be the seat of creativity and lateral thinking. Your left brain is the logical and detail oriented half. The beauty of lateral thinking is in harnessing the power of the right brain to generate ideas while allowing the left brain to verify their legitimacy.

Mind mapping through its inherent organizational structure incorporates integrated brain thinking. By capturing ideas as they develop, you are unleashing your creative thinking. By imposing a structure around the process, you are allowing your brain to deconstruct the ideas and inspect them for validity.

 3. Apply your individual learning style

Everyone learns using different methods. Your learning style is how you internalize experiences. It is the way you retain and recall information.

Mind maps offer a unique way of portraying ideas based on your individual learning style, be it visual, auditory, kinesthetic or tactile.

This procedure is flexible enough to allow the use of any of these learning styles.

  • Visual learners can select images or symbols
  • Auditory learners can use key words or sounds. Most mind map software programs allow embedding of files.
  • Kinesthetic and tactile learners can describe their idea by drawing. They can also describe the tactile sensation through words or embed evocative textures into mind maps.

4. Create and maintain a living vision board

When you build a home, it is a lifelong process. It begins with laying the foundation and creating habitable rooms.

As time goes by, you begin to bring elements of your personality into your home. As your life changes, you may even renovate or redecorate around your growing family.

Mind maps are like a home. When you create a mind map, you are giving your ideas a place to reside. They are living vision boards.

They allow you to capture that focal idea and build upon it over time. As some branches are built and your vision comes to fruition you can move on to other branches, perhaps redecorate a room or two.

How To Create and Use Mind Maps

We have seen how mind maps can be beneficial in many ways. Here are a few suggestions on how you can start using mind maps today.

Many of the software programs mentioned below offer a free trial and a paid Pro version. You can download the software packages from their respective websites.

Each image below links to a file created using that particular software program. You can download the mind map for FREE and save for your personal use.

1. Incorporate them into your learning activities. If you are taking a class or learning a new skill, use mind maps to document that knowledge. Use your natural learning style to affix this knowledge and retain it permanently in your brain.

TheBrain – Learning Example

This unique program is the perfect software to document newly gained knowledge. It provides the capability to add hyperlinks and attachments.

TheBrain - Learning Example Mind Map

2. Use mind maps to track your goals. Instead of fragmented goal setting you can create a long term vision of your goals. As some goals are accomplished you can move on to other challenges.

FreeMind – Goals Example

This program provides many nifty features for creating detailed mind maps.

Freemind - Goals Mind Map Example

3. Whether you are an employee or entrepreneur, instead of using traditional Work Breakdown Structures, use a Mind Map create a project plan.

Microsoft Visio or Open Office Draw – Work Breakdown Structure Example

These programs provide Mind Map stencils for documenting your work breakdown structure.

Open Office - WBS Example Mind Map

4. Mind map is a perfect tool for career planning. You can use this powerful tool to capture the patterns in your career. Better yet, you can work with a Coach to connect the dots and build a better, more cohesive career roadmap. You can transform your career!

XMind – Career Planning Example

This program is by far my favorite. It includes all the essential features of a Mind map program, while providing addons that can take your Mind Map to an advanced level. 

XMind - SWOT Analysis Example Mind Map

Before you leave, be sure to download the 5 FREE mind maps that are linked to the images. You will need the corresponding programs to use these mind maps.

Have you ever used mind maps? Have you found them to be more beneficial than other tools? What is the one new thing you have learnt about mind maps from this article that you weren’t aware of before?

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Are you interested in learning more about Mind mapping? Are you ready to work with a coach who uses Mind maps and other creative techniques to help you connect the dots in your career?

Visit my ACT Creative Coaching program page to learn more about how I can help you gain clarity on your talents and tap into radiant thinking patterns to elevate your career.


4 Responses to How Mind Maps Can Aid Creative Thinking

  1. Karren Barlow July 16, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Great article! I agree that mind maps can help creativity! I have found some great Mind map examples and templates using Lucidchart and their site is very helpful and easy to use! Check it out!

    • Kay Fudala July 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      Karren, I did check out Lucidchart. Pretty nifty software, but its not free. The tools I have recommended in this post are all free. I always recommend starting out with free or trial versions especially when someone is not used to a specific type of tool and has used say Excel or Word for years. I will likely do a follow up on paid products and see how Lucidchart compares. Thanks!

  2. Suzann October 28, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Great article Kay – thanks for sharing and making templates available. MindMap is a wonderful tool for getting a plan visualized – applying it to so many other aspects of life (outside the corporate business world where I live) was a new idea for me that I’ll be sure to give a try! Thanks again!!

    • Kay Fudala October 28, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Welcome, I am so glad you found this post helpful! Mind maps have revolutionized the way I implement ideas and they can do the same for you. Btw, I really enjoyed your take on the various diet and fitness plans. WW has been my go to plan, but I will be sure to explore the others.
      Take care!

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