Why use mind maps?

23Sep05

Why do mind maps work?‘ from George Johnson of Between Seeing (link via one of my favorite blogs, the innovation weblog) They work because the brain operates in circles. A simple way to think about this is to think of millions of bits of information in the brain flowing in circles. When two bits of information intersect an idea is formed. Mind maps facilitate the collection of those bits of information, where as creating linear lists forces the brain to work in a way that is not natural for it and consequently you don’t get all of the information available to you. Makes perfect sense to me – that is indeed the way everything – processes and tools – we use for thought and communication work – the internet (in its right name the world wide web) is a series of loops of one thought or idea (in the form of a link leading to another).

And that is what blog conversations are all about too – picking up one thread and building upon it elsewhere. This is what I feel about mind maps (and have said so in a comment on this post) – we have been conditioned to think linearly – in lists – whereas the natural way that thought flows is in circles.

We all make mind maps every day without realizing it… linear thinking makes ideas unidimensional and restricted whereas “circular thinking” (for want of a better term) opens up new ideas and possibilities. Yet people hesitate to adopt – or even acknowledge – such thought processes as natural and effective. As Johnson has said in his post, most of us are trained to think ‘straight’ and with our left brains. Anything veering dangerously towards the right brain is suppressed, and even suspect (until of course one is universally recognized as a creative – if eccentric – genius!)

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