Mind mapping is a technique for examining problems and developing strategies in a nonlinear way. Mind-map creation uses felt tip pens on flip-chart paper, markers on whiteboards or computer mind-mapping software. Completed mind maps have phrases, connecting lines, arrows and sometimes drawings. Mind maps types include problem solving, project and knowledge.
A mind map is a useful tool to use during team brainstorming sessions when the goal is to generate ideas rapidly, without immediate logical review. Displaying the mind map continuously during the session allows team members to see the ideas generated, which stimulates more ideas. This process creates positive momentum for problem solving.
A problem-solving brainstorming session starts with the guide or leader recording the problem in a phrase or small picture at the center of what will become the mind map. As team members participate with comments, the recorder draws colored spokes radiating from the core issue. Each spoke represents a different aspect of the issue and is labeled with a phrase or picture. As the session continues, the comments of team members result in the addition of smaller lines flowing from the spokes and of arrows illustrating connections between items on different spokes.
Problem-solving mind maps are often used during just the single brainstorming session. Team members shout out their ideas, structure the map, set priorities and create action items. After the mind map facilitates this process, it is no longer needed. The life spans of problem-solving mind maps are often only few hours.
Planning an event, planning a product launch, developing the strategy to close a large sale, and other activities can produce project mind maps. Updated periodically to reflect changes in project status, they live only until project completion. The life spans of project mind maps are normally just a few days or weeks.
Knowledge mind maps contain information recorded once and kept for later use, sometimes replacing existing documents. Some are fine tuned and updated over time, while others are never updated. Mind maps describing company processes, sometimes including checklists, are examples of knowledge mind maps. Used multiple times over a long period, knowledge mind maps are important in preserving corporate history, the never-recorded knowledge existing only inside the heads of employees. Knowledge mind maps can be particularly helpful for new employees in discovering past processes for conducting recurring activities. The life spans of knowledge mind maps can be years.
Based in Washington, DC, award-winning editor Barbara Conn has been writing about science, technology, small business, and general interest topics since 1984. Her articles have appeared in the Capital PC User Group “Monitor.” She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University.