Mind Mapping Your Way to Creativity
I don't take notes anymore. Instead, I create one wildly colorful, creative and inspiring page whenever I need to make a decision, prepare a presentation, or plan an event. That whole two-column plus and minus approach? Gone. Bring on the Mind Maps!
I read Tony Buzan's first book on Mind Mapping back in the early eighties, but I was too caught up in the old-school world to see how it could be of use to me. I recently rediscovered Mind Mapping and it has become an integral part of the work I do with clients.
Tony Buzan created the Mind Map concept in the early seventies. Based on his brilliant observation that our brains do not process information in a linear way, Mind Mapping allows us to use words, images, and color in an effort to engage the right side of our brains in what is normally considered a left-brain task: organizing information.
We've already learned that one of the keys to maximizing our potential as humans is to forget that whole right-brain/left-brain divide. Instead of seeing ourselves as a logical person OR a creative person, we're both. We've simply chosen to put more energy into developing skills associated with the analytical left or the daydreaming right. We must recognize that there's a fine line separating analysis from daydreams and that in order to have a fully integrated brain, we need to do both.
We speak in a linear pattern. We can say only one word at a time, and we can hear only one word at a time. Similarly, we read in a linear pattern-words flow in lines across the page.
So when it came time to organize notes and teach the proper form for creating outlines, it's easy to see why we turned to the tried and true linear approach. You know the format: Roman numeral one (I) followed by A, B and C, followed by 1, 2 and 3. We look for things to slot into each line in order to make it fit properly.
In school, we spent hours preparing these outlines for book reports, speeches, and term papers. In our work as adults, we do the same thing with agendas, meeting minutes, and project plans. Orderly lines of information. Black ink on white pages. Empty spaces.
Boring, boring, boring--and not the best way to use our brains.
Along comes Buzan, who says that we would be much better off if we allowed our right brains to get in on the game. So, instead of creating typical linear outlines, Buzan insisted on becoming radiant. He developed the concept of putting your central idea right in the center of the page. Your main points then radiate outward from the center. Each one of these points sprouts its own branches and twigs. He referred to this star-like pattern of ideas as Radiant Thinking.
The beauty of this is that you can see everything on one page. No time wasted sorting through pages. No need to flip through your notes to see your next point or find your conclusion--it's all right there in front of you. No need for extra notes. No energy spent on rewrites.
He didn't stop there. Buzan understood that color is a strong factor in helping us remember, so he encourages us to use different colors for each of the radiant thoughts and sub-thoughts. Instead of using only words, incorporate little line drawings and images to make connections between thoughts.
This is the way our brains work naturally. We don't picture the word B-O-X when we picture a box. Instead, our brains conjure the image. We don't always go from thought A to thought B to thought C. We're just as likely to start with A, then head over to E, skip back to A and then saunter over to R. Our neural pathways look like webs, not straight lines. In fact, the more criss- crossed our connections, the more we're able to synthesize complex ideas and come up with new ways to use old information.
Mind Maps give us an excuse to play. They give us a reason to keep a whole set of colored pens right on our desk for everyone to see. Mind maps allow our thuggish left brains to make friends with our timid rights. For once, there's harmony on the playground!
Use a Mind Map for your next planning session, and watch the reaction. Raised eyebrows give way to smirks, which dissolve into delighted grins. Linear notes become circular masterpieces. Black and white becomes a rainbow. Words become pictures. Workers become creative. Work becomes the joyful collaborative experience it is meant to be.
Grab your markers and become radiant. Your brain is waiting to play!
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