Mind mapping is a form of visual outlining. It may seem really superficial, but once you master it, it really becomes a useful tool. It’s an easy way to deal with the information overload and hyperbolic multitasking we get confronted with every day.
Most people will have heard of mind maps, but most people don’t use them. Mind maps look like sprawling network diagrams that diverge from a central point. The central bubble contains a label with the topic of the mind map. Lines diverge out of that bubble to bubbles representing related topics. More bubbles may or may not radiate from these bubbles. And so on and on, you get the general concept.
After people are shown mind maps, some people respond with minimum enthusiasm. For just a single project mind maps are optional, but when we have several tasks or projects at hand.
Here is the reason why mind mapping is useful and easy to work with. A team at Evolved Technologist created 19 books. They started out using wikis, and one of their first innovations was using a content design, a heavily noted outline. These content designs can stretch to 50 or 60 pages. When they are written in a wiki or a document the problems are the same. When you want to add a note, you’ll have to scroll up and down looking for the right spot. This becomes frustrating and exhausting.
A second problem is that traditional outlines are linear. When we are working on multiple projects, the multitasking requires us to work on a project for a while, capture it in notes or an outline and then move on. The problem happens when we return to the project. You are going to slog through all the pages of material to refresh what the project was about. Often you get the idea you are missing something, that the context you captured isn’t complete.
The final problem is when we work with several others on a Google doc or a Wiki, it becomes hard to collaborate. On Wikis only one person can change the text at a time. With Google docs you can edit with multiple people at a time, this helps a bit, but you still have to search the people who are working with you on the project to discuss how to progress.
Mind maps solve all these problems. It is easier to capture an idea from an interview or design for a website in a mind map. You won’t feel fatigued or frustrated. Going from a linear to a two-dimensional workspace allows moving around quickly and capturing your ideas in the right place fast. Because all of this is quite easy, you’ll be able to capture more ideas and restructure them faster. The mind map better reflects your understanding.
When you return to a mind map, the context of your latest thinking is quickly restored. Nothing is missing or lost. You won’t get that feeling of dread. Mind maps can be large and complex but to control the depth, you expand or contract branches. Mind maps can also be used to analyze information stored elsewhere.
The reason mind maps works so well is that they engage your visual intelligence and provide a way to navigate a much larger space of ideas in a smaller visual field. It is possible the visual aid of the mind map engages another part of your brain.