Photo by: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay
I’ll never forget the day I was introduced to mind mapping. It was in a train-the-trainer session I attended about 10 years ago. The guest trainer did a session on mind mapping, starting with the concept of the “memory rule of seven,” then leading into what mind mapping is and how to do it. It was absolutely life changing for me. For years I struggled to get through writer’s block because I thought the only way to write an outline was, well, the traditional way—linear. Opening, point one, point two, etc. I don’t think like that. I am a right-brained, creative thinker and I typically think in random order. Why didn’t they teach mind mapping in high school? So much wasted time staring at a blank piece of paper trying to force my mind to come up with linear steps or points. Mind mapping opened my eyes to so many possibilities!
I first used mind mapping for my leaders notes when conducting a new course. Long were the days of sifting through note cards or scribbles and sometimes getting lost in the mess. Now, I could look at a sheet of paper with key words, graphics, symbols, and colors to help guide me through my workshops. Then, I began using mind mapping to design workshops. I would sit in front of a huge white board and “brainstorm” my way through the course content. I even use mind mapping in my personal life for my to-do lists!
So, what exactly is mind mapping?
Mind mapping is also known as a thinking tree. It is a technique based on the premise that we often think in a random, non-linear fashion so our notes should match the way our brain is working. It is a visual note taking method that uses key words, graphics, symbols, and colors. Mind maps have a long history and can be dated back to the third century!
Since it is a free form way of thinking, it benefits the user by helping speed up their thought process. Thus, aiding in their generation of ideas, decision making, or problem-solving. It can be used to help trainers or public speakers lay out the content of a presentation, instructional designers to draft a task analysis, lesson plan, or project plan, and learners to take notes during a presentation or training.
How to mind map:
- Use a full piece of blank paper.
- Write the topic at the top or in the middle of the page.
- Begin your individual brainstorming session by writing down all the key points as they occur to you. They should be written all over the page rather than in sequential outline form, and in various angles rather than straight across.
- Use a single line, with only one or two words, for each point (no phrases).
- Draw symbols or graphics instead of words as an alternative and to create some visual variety.
- Focus on random thoughts rather than logical patterns. Patterns will be found easily when the entire map is finished.
- Expand or elaborate on previous points when needed. As this occurs, the new idea is written as a “branch” from the previous point.
- Continue writing and building branches in this way until you run out of ideas.
- Number all the key points in the sequence in which you plan to present them.
- Produce a traditional outline by reproducing your mind map in a linear fashion.
For your next design project, public speaking event, or even your personal to-do list, if you find yourself struggling with writer’s block and feel challenged by thinking in a linear order, give mind mapping a try. You may find a new life changing skill like I did!
For more on mind mapping and other presentation methods, have a look at our Certified Instructional Designer/Developer program or our Advanced Instructional Design workshop. Both will provide you with the core skills to accurately diagnose training needs and to create relevant courses that truly improve employee job performance.