Created over 35 years ago, Mind Maps are visual representations of thought processes, a tool that instantly became popular for planning, organizing, creating, presenting, problem solving, communicating and many such purposes. An expert on thinking visually, Tony Buzan, the inventor of Mind Mapping, has trained government officials, business leaders, executives, celebrities, Olympic athletes, professors, students and parents. “Our goal is to have 1,000 TLIs (ThinkBuzan Licensed Instructors) certified within the next three years,” says Buzan. In 2006, he created the iMindMap software, and since then his online venture, Buzan Online, has gained popularity, with more and more organizations taking it up. In October 2009, iMindMap was nominated for the Best New Product Developed in the UK by The Chartered Institute for IT, one of the greatest honours in British IT development.
While Buzan has authored many books on the subjects of brain power, memory, speed reading, intelligence and genius quotient (GQ), he is best known for his book Use your Head. “I plan to keep my publishers very busy. There are more books in the pipeline on positive thinking, mastering the curves of learning and memory; a book on animal behaviour and another one on what makes a genius,” says Buzan. He talks about Mind Maps and why they are known as the “Swiss Army Knife” for the brain. Edited excerpts from an email interview:
Unlocked: Tony Buzan.
What is a Mind Map?
Mind Mapping is to the 21st century as linear note-taking was to the industrial age. Linear note- taking primarily uses words, numbers, letters, lines and lists. These necessary and important elements of learning are dominantly left-brain skills. Right-brain skills include colour, image, spatial arrangement and visual rhythm.
Mind Maps combine these left and right skills, producing a synergetic effect that multiplies the brain’s learning and thinking power. The Mind Map is thus a whole-brain thinking tool, rather than a “half-wit” thinking tool.
Research shows our brains fundamentally think with multi-sensory images and associations. Therefore, the Mind Map starts with a central image from which radiate organic branches, which hold the main ideas. From these branches radiate second-level branches and so on, potentially to infinity.
The Mind Map, by its very nature, demonstrates the infinite thinking capability of every human brain. That is why it has been called the “Swiss Army Knife” for the brain.
How does it help organizations and teams enhance their collective effort?
Organizations are increasingly encouraging employees to use Mind Maps for the simple reason that they increase efficiency and productivity and, therefore, produce more profit. The Mind Map has become the intellectual capital thinking tool.
Mapping the earth: An example of a Mind Map that visually describes the ways in which human population is affecting ecology.
There are many stories of significantly increased productivity attributed to the use of Mind Maps. One of the most famous instances is that of Dr Michael Stanley, chief aeronautical engineer in Boeing, who used a giant Mind Map to guide his team of 100 aeronautical engineers through the process of constructing a new aeroplane. Boeing calculated that Dr Stanley’s Mind Map had saved them over $12 million (around Rs54 crore) in nine months alone. Out of over 60,000 employees, he was awarded the Employer of the Year Award for what he and his Mind Map had done.
Are there any myths related to Mind Mapping, or how the brain functions, that we should steer clear of?
Whether they know it or not, people are changing their minds every second of their lives. The brain is not like a computer that is a fixed structure with fixed databases. We have recently discovered that each brain is astonishingly flexible. Each of your million, million bio-computer chips (your brain cells) is like a mini octopus that can grow new tentacles and new branches throughout life. If you use it well, your brain becomes more powerful and sophisticated as you grow older.
Every thought you have causes a little “memory trace” like a track through the woods or snow. Each and every one of these thoughts creates a change in the probability that you will think it again. The more you repeat the thought, the more likely you are to think that thought again.
You change your mind by thinking. All you have to do to change your mind for the better is to think in a positive, proactive and constructive way.
Is Mind Mapping a technique that works better in just creative workplaces or in more organized sectors? Or both?
Mind Maps definitely works for both. Companies have been using PPTs (PowerPoints) and flow charts for a long time. However, they lack variety and have hardly evolved since their existence. In a lot of ways, PPTs and flow charts are like linear notes. They comprise several words, straight lines, and lack colour. Mind Maps were initially created to break out of these aspects and give the human brain a dash of colour and excitement so as to retain better and learn faster. Thus, in most cases due to these stark differences, a Mind Map would work better than the traditional PPTs and flow charts.
The iMindMap 5 software, which is the latest offering, allows one to make business presentations in a way better than the PPT. It gives 3D views, charts, etc., and is very exciting.
As per the advantages for businesses, the Mind Map is tremendously used as a business application world over. One can use a Mind Map to plan his day, plan a call, plan a meeting, minute a meeting, strategize projects of all sizes, and much more.
Creatively, I have had people who have etched Mind Maps to write books, judge their passions, channelize their thoughts, and much more.
There are no limitations tousing Mind Maps for businesses as well as personal or creative inhibitions. Moreover, they are highly productive and less time-consuming.
Is it true that some people are inherently more intelligent and some mediocre? Does maximizing brain power imply you could bridge that gap?
A seminal story of how Mind Maps help students in study concerns a young boy named Edward Hughes. Edward was an average student, who suddenly decided he wanted to go to Cambridge. For this, both teaching staff and his fellow pupils mocked him. He and his father asked me to help him get to Cambridge, which I promised to do. Edward learnt Mind Mapping, memory techniques and speed reading, and not only got straight “A”s in his final exams, he was top of his school, and in one exam, top in England. Cambridge begged him to come.
At Cambridge he excelled, using Mind Maps and thinking techniques to complete his studies in less than one quarter of the time it took others at Cambridge to do so.
This left him time to engage in many social and sporting activities, and to graduate with an excellent degree.