Mind Mapping



What can you do with a Mind Map?

Note taking
Creative Writing & Report Writing
Studying the easy way
Studying as a group (or family)
Meetings & Think Tanks
Giving a Talk

Mind Mapping Software
Selected Bibliography


The human brain is very different from a computer. Whereas a computer works in a linear fashion, the brain works associatively as well as linearly–comparing, integrating and synthesizing as it goes. Association plays a dominant role in nearly every mental function, and words themselves are no exception. Every single word and idea has numerous links attaching it to other ideas and concepts. Mind Maps, developed by Tony Buzan are an effective method of note-taking and useful for the generation of ideas by associations. To make a mind map, one starts in the center of the page with the main idea, and works outward in all directions, producing a growing and organized structure composed of key words and key images. Key features are:

  • Organization
  • Key Words
  • Association
  • Clustering
  • Visual Memory – Print the key words, use color, symbols, icons, 3D-effects,arrows and outlining groups of words

Mind Mapping is a powerful technique allowing you to make the best use of your brain power. Mind mapping techniques makes you more productive by harnessing the full range of your cortical and creative skills. It helps you convert any random thoughts generated while you are the most creative into the linear thoughts needed most when communicating.

A mind map consists of a central word or concept, around the central word you draw the 5 to 10 main ideas that relate to that word. You then take each of those child words and again draw the 5 to 10 main ideas that relate to each of those words. In this way a large number of related ideas can quickly be produced with virtually no mental effort. The concept of ‘writers block’ is hard to understand once you have grasped the use of this simple technique!

If seeing is believing, mind mapping can help you and your business imagine a universe of ideas. Mind mapping is a graphics-based method of taking notes, brainstorming, and organizing thoughts using color, images, and sounds to bring mere words to life. Mind mapping helps you relate and arrange random ideas into memorable tree-like diagrams. Unlike the outlining methods you learned in high school, mind mapping doesn’t constrain your creative inclinations by requiring you to think sequentially. A Mind Map uses words, lines, logic, colors, images, and even sounds to stimulate your brain. It has Four important characteristics:

  1. The subject is represented by a central image.
  2. The main themes of the subject radiate from the central image as main branches.
  3. Minor themes are linked to the main themes.
  4. All the branches are connected forming a nodal structure.

Is Mind Mapping applicable in working life? Mind Maps are used around the world. It is used for a variety of purposes from simple tasks like developing school projects, or organizing parties to complex tasks like project management, book writing, organizational communication and so on. Boeing Aircraft uses a 25-foot long Mind Map to enable a team of aeronautical engineers to learn in a few weeks what would have taken a few years. An estimated saving of $10 million was realized. In training, British Petroleum and Digital Equipment use the techniques extensively in their staff training programs. If you are looking for a short-cut to improving your performance at work, try mind mapping today.

Many instructors at universities around the world have used mind mapping with the idea of organizing class room study in a structured format. Students use mind mapping techniques for classroom study, term papers, tutoring other students, organizing topics, ideas, and more.The following figure shows a Mind Map illustrating time management concepts:

What can you do with a Mind Map?

A mind map can be used for a variety of purposes. Given below are some of them related to learning and studying.

Note Taking

As a means of note taking Mind Maps have several advantages over other systems:

  • You can place each new idea in the right place, regardless of the order of presentation.
  • It encourages the reduction of each concept to a single word.
  • The resultant mind map can be ‘seen’ by the eye and memorized by your visual memory which has been shown to be almost perfect.

Creative Writing & Report Writing

A mind map lets you rapidly produce an almost infinite number of ideas, and at the same time organize them by placing each idea next to what it is related to. This makes a very powerful tool for creative writing or report writing, where it is very important to get down all your ideas first. It is then a trivial matter to read the mind map and write a sentence or paragraph on each ‘key word’.

Studying the easy way

Instead of simply reading a book on some topic, next time try using a mind map while you read. Just draw your central word and then begin reading, every time you read some idea that strikes you as important or interesting, just add it onto your mind map in the appropriate place.

When you have finished reading the book you will have a one page Mind Map which summarizes everything of interest in that book. You will probably also have added several things which you thought up yourself during your reading. The act of creating the mind map will have greatly increased how much you absorbed from the book, and if you ever want to review the topic all you need to do is to look at the mind map. If you want to learn the information very solidly then try to redraw the Mind Map from memory a few times. You will find it very easy.

Studying as a group (or family)

A group of people can work together to produce a single mind map by following these steps:

  • Individually draw mind maps on what you already know about the subject.
  • Draw a group mind map combining what you already know.
  • Decide what you need to learn based on this group Mind Map.
  • Individually study the material, all covering the same areas for depth of knowledge or all covering different areas for speed as appropriate. Each person completing the mind map by his/her self.
  • Again combine as a group and create a final master group mind map.

Families who have started regular weekend study days as a hobby have benefited tremendously. Children typically go from average or below average to second or third from the top in all subjects and the parents also find themselves excelling at work. One Swedish family was besieged by neighborhood children asking if they could join in the fun!

Meetings & Think Tanks

As soon as you write something up on a white board you have immediately lost the creativity which everyone has. So any creative meeting should always start by people spending a couple of minutes individually mind mapping. Then as a way of running a meeting a master mind map on a white board allows every idea or statement to be recorded and placed in an appropriate place so that it can then be discussed at a sensible time. Also no one feels ignored as all ideas are placed on the mind map.

Giving a Talk

When giving a talk a set of notes in the form of a single mind map has several advantages over other memory aids:

  • Brief: Only a single page is needed
  • Not reading: As ideas are reduced to single words you will not be ‘reading’ your speech
  • Flexibility: If someone asks a question you can move instantly to the place on your Mind Map which relates to that question and then return to where you were without loosing yourself in a pile of cards or papers.


In this new millennium of information explosion and ‘accelerated learning’ where the ability to earn is directly proportional to the ability to learn, one has to depend on revolutionary techniques like Mind mapping to collect, collate, assimilate, learn and retain huge amounts of information. This is also the computer era. We now use computers to perform most of our activities—writing letters, sending mails and faxes, conferencing, making telephone calls, managing our finances, and so on.

So it was quite natural that the Mind mapping enthusiasts wanted a software program so that they could do the mind mapping using their computers. Then came the mind mapping software programs –Mind man, MindManager, MindMapper, etc.

The mind mapping software programs are an excellent example of how the computer could be used to improve the productivity of human beings—a perfect synthesis of the human mind and the machine happens when one uses these programs to organize things, develop ideas, do presentations, communicate with others and so on. One of the drawbacks or limitations of the manual mind maps was that one had to use paper and pencil. For a mind map to be really effective, the maps have to be constructed neatly, using different colors, using different fonts and font sizes, incorporating pictures and so on. All this was possible but a little difficult in the paper and pencil era. Also one needed considerable practice to become an expert in mind mapping as it takes some time to get the maps ‘right at the first time.’

But with the computer software, once you have learned the basic concept of mind mapping, you are as good as an expert and you can produce real professional looking maps! When using the software one does not have the limitations that he/she has when drawing the maps on paper—one doesn’t have to worry about the spacing, the neatness, etc. of the map—the software automatically formats the maps so that it looks really professional. With these tools, one has the choice of myriad number of colors, fonts, font sizes, and so on. Also there is an impressive collection of graphics to choose from; and if you are not satisfied with the graphics that come with the software, you can create or import the pictures that you prefer from other sources.

According to Rose and Nicholl (Accelerated Learning in the 21st century, Dell Publishing, 1997), “maps allow you to record a great deal of information on one page and to show relationships among various concepts and ideas. This visual representation helps you to think about a subject in a global fashion and lends to the flexibility of your thinking. On a map you can literally see the structure of the subject in a way it isn’t possible with outlines. You not only can see separate themes but also the relationship between themes. Linear note-taking can’t keep up with our complexity of thought—note-making through mind maps can!”

Mind mapping tools are a very powerful organization tool. The tasks for which one can use them are limited only by one’s own imagination. It can be used to create and develop business ideas, it can help you in organizing the material for an article or a book that you are planning to write, it can be used as an excellent presentation tool, it is an excellent teaching and learning tool, it is a tool that can be used to communicate ideas, for brainstorming, for decision-making, for presentations, for project management—the list is endless. Another very important area where mind mapping can be used is for learning and retaining what you have learned. In today’s information age one cannot stop learning. One has to continue learning new skills, new technologies and new subjects to stay ahead of competition. This is true for individuals as well as for organizations. Mind mapping is a very effective learning tool. It helps in understanding complex topics and also helps in retaining (in your mind) what you have learned. If one is able to draw the map after studying a subject he/she not only must have understood the topic very well but also would have committed it to memory—the long-term memory.

Some of the popular mind mapping software programs are given below:

  1. MindMapper
  2. MindManager
  3. ConceptDraw
  4. MindGenius


  1. Buzan, T., and Buzan, B., The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential, Plume, 1996.
  2. Carter, R., Mapping the Mind, University of California Press, 1999.
  3. Marqulies, N., and Mall, N., Mapping Inner Space: Learning and Teaching Visual Mapping, Zephyr Press, 2001.
  4. Wycoff, J., Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving, Berkley Press, 1991.

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