Mind Mapping is an effective tool for taking information from your brain and putting it on paper for a variety of reasons or for scribing new data coming into your brain. Brainstorming, organizing, requirements gathering, decision making, and planning are just a few of the many applications for Mind Mapping. The purpose of this paper is to introduce to you a revolutionary way of accessing the creative genius of your team, encourage original thoughts and contributions from team members, and to organize your own thoughts, and those of your team, efficiently and effectively. You will also discover methods for presenting ideas in a comprehensive fashion that enable the viewer to see the entire scope and idea of your project on one page, with a creative flare that sets you apart from the rest!
In this presentation, we will walk through the discovery and refinement of this brilliant method of using your brain and find out how and why it works. We will discover a few simple rules and look at different applications and uses. And, finally, we will present an introduction to the more modern system that has revolutionized project management: Mind Mapping software!
As project managers we are responsible for the planning, execution, monitoring, control, and closure of entire projects. There are so many facets to each of these stages. Today, project managers need to be true team leaders, motivators, managers, organizers, and so much more. As team leaders, we will be more successful when we are able to access the creative ideas of all the members of our team. We find Mind Mapping to be an incredible asset in that regard. We need to be the ultimate organizer and keep all of the timelines, dependencies, and responsibilities on track. Mind Mapping will enable us to do this with ease and complete accuracy. We are also responsible for keeping our team members motivated, excited, responsible, and involved. Mind Mapping gives us the tools to keep the creative juices flowing, excite the individual and collective brains, and get everyone working as a team. Then, we reap the added benefit of Mind Mapping software by having the ability, with the click of a mouse, to make a presentation to team members, management, clients, or anyone in any format we choose.
For centuries, some forms of Mind Mapping have been identified in the notes of geniuses. Famous thinkers, such as DaVinci (Exhibit 1), Darwin, (Exhibit 2), Edison, and Einstein used methods of visual representation, key words instead of sentences, and associations or diagrams.
In this century, British psychologist, author, and educator, Tony Buzan, called this visual method of note taking, Mind Mapping, and popularized it. While in college, Buzan became very frustrated when he began to realize that, the more he studied and the more notes he made, the less he learned. In desperation, and as his examinations were approaching, Buzan took his notes and began to underline key words, box ideas, add color to important parts, and draw lines between associated words. While doing this, he noticed that only 10% of the linear notes were actually the important key ideas and, as he went through this process of enhancing his memory, Mind Mapping was born.
As Buzan researched note taking and learning more, he studied the notes of geniuses and discovered that, over time, there were commonalities among the notes of these geniuses. He discovered that the great thinkers in history did not use sentences and linear styles in their notes, but rather doodled, drew pictures, jotted down words, and diagrammed associations.
Evolution of Mind Mapping (Buzan, 1996, pp 29y, 304)
Tony Buzan created a structure for Mind Mapping, created some simple rules, and gave it a name (Exhibit 3).
Rules of Mind Mapping
- Always use a central image and images throughout
- Put one main topic on each “branch”
- Put sub-topics on their own “sub-branches”
- Use three or more colors
- Use on key word per line
- Print all words clearly
- Leave space for unexpected topics or new thoughts
- Let your mind wander!
Disadvantages of Linear Note Taking
Learning and Retention
The brain becomes quite easily bored by linear notes, which is why we don’t learn as well as we could or remember as much when we use them. Studies show that students who use color and images learn more and remember longer. Do you ever read a page in a book and stop to wonder what you just read? This is because your brain goes into a semi-hypnotic state because it is bored.
When we attempt to brainstorm with linear notes we are inhibited and restricted. Chunks of our ability to think, focus, and concentrate are used up on our attention to grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and other unnecessary embellishments. We miss information that others contribute, because our focus is on our note taking instead of the incoming information. Again, our brains are bored, so our creativity is repressed. We are asked to focus on one topic at a time; therefore, all other brilliant ideas are pushed aside to hopefully be remembered later but that are often not.
Time is spent worrying about grammar, spelling, and all the other add-ons not needed to gather our requirements, compile our project, welcome contributions, and organize. We spend copious amounts of time writing notes, typing, e-mailing, and meeting when we don’t need to. Time is wasted finding and making associations after the fact, assigning responsibilities, adjusting timelines, and other natural links that could have been more easily made during the brainstorming process. Then, when we have to read and reread, turn pages, mark up notes to remember associations, and more time is wasted. Our presentation can also be a time gobbler, because we have to keep the listeners’ attention through monotonous notes, superfluous speaking and page turning, and then draw their attention to associations, over and over, as we move through the presentation. This is much more easily accomplished with a visual representation—using eye contact as we speak, instead of reading, and presenting one page for them to look at while we present our plan.
Benefits of Mind Mapping
Learning and Retention
Mind Mapping increases learning and retention by up to 95% over conventional note-taking. The structure of Mind Mapping is fashioned after the way the human brain actually thinks, which is radiantly. The color, structure, and pictures in a Mind Map excite the brain and keep it interested so that it is more receptive to the information. Because emotions are dealt with in the same part of the brain as memories, we tend to remember things that have emotion attached to them. So, when we are having fun learning and we are happy, we remember the information much longer.
The right brain is ignited through the process of Mind Mapping, and so our creativity and imagination are activated and our brain is more alert and receptive, which works both alone and with a team. When we are trying to access the creative ideas of our team, the Mind Mapping process will ensure that all brains are awake and active. The activity will also encourage those who do not normally participate to jump in and have fun. The fact that we are not restricted to one topic at a time means that people do not have to put a thought on “the back burner” or in the “parking lot”; rather, they can contribute and jump around from one topic to another at will, which also means that we can cover more material in a shorter amount of time. Because we are able to keep all topics and subtopics open on our page and in our brains at all times, we don’t need to schedule more meetings to revisit topics or items that we missed.
In Mind Mapping, we save up to 95% in time in many different ways. We save time by writing only the relevant, key words instead of taking painstaking notes and worrying about grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. When reading our notes later, we save time again by reading only the relevant words. More time is saved by having fewer meetings because we accomplish substantially more in less time. We no longer need to type e-mails, letters, or memorandums to communicate the progress of a project, because it is all shared via the Mind Mapping process. We also save time in the presentation of the project, because the information is synthesized onto one page for easy and complete comprehension.
Because we are able to draw links between categories and ideas as we brainstorm, organize, and progress with the project, associations are clear along the way, and responsibilities and timelines are also plain and evident to all. Because this is presented in a visual way, it is easier for all to grasp and remember.
Just a few of the many applications for Mind Mapping are:
- Project management
- Analysis and problem solving
- Decision making
Some of these applications are well served by hand drawn Mind Maps more so than others. When it comes to the specific purpose of Project Management, some drawbacks can be identified. Reorganization can be identified as an issue. While brainstorming with your team on a huge blank paper on the wall or on a white board is fun and exciting and gets the creative juices flowing, someone will still be responsible to scribe the information in order to share it with everyone and present it later. Some items may be put in a less than ideal spot and need to be moved later. If a responsibility or time line is changed it will need to be adjusted manually and communicated to others. Most importantly, as we all know, Projects can take on epic proportions and a hand drawn Mind Map may not be the best way to manage and organize the project after the initial brainstorming is done.
Mind Mapping Software
The creation of Mind Mapping software took the entire process to a whole new level. With the addition of software, we are able to record everything electronically and easily edit, update, reorganize, and share the Mind Map with our team, manager, client, or anyone else we would like to communicate progress to. Branches can be added, moved, and edited with the click of a mouse. Ideas can be captured visually, including electronic drawings or icons, and the ability to minimize branches gives us room to synthesize huge amounts of information into one Mind Map.
As if the addition of software wasn’t enough, there is even some software that is specifically designed for project managers. As you can imagine, this type of software considers many of your specific needs and requirements and has indeed revolutionized the field of project management. Exhibit 4 illustrates a Mind Map example of a process map.
Image compliments of Matchware. http://www.matchware.com/en/default.htm
With Mind Mapping for project managers software, brainstorming is still highly creative, time saving and brain optimizing, but it is also more efficient and flexible. Items or entire branches are created with a simple click of the mouse and can just as easily be moved, changed, or they can take on lives of their own. We can assign dependencies and priorities within the Mind Map itself. We can determine what resources are needed and assign responsibility for individual and group tasks and the overall project. All of these things can be changed easily, and those changes will be reflected instantly, along with any related changes that are automatically updated as well.
Incredibly, all of the brainstorming, organizing, and prioritizing can be done in the electronic Mind Map and then, with a simple click of the mouse, can be viewed as a Gantt chart (Exhibit 5) or a timeline, which eliminates the need to recreate or transfer information from one program or system into another. Within your Mind Mapping software you can manage dependencies, priorities, critical paths, constraints, completion values, duration, lead/lag times, resources, and milestones.
Image compliments of Matchware http://www.matchware.com/en/default.htm
Your project can be exported easily into Microsoft Office Suite programs, including MS Project, Outlook, Excel, and even Word. You can also import from MS Office programs, which is useful in bringing existing task lists and timelines from Outlook. Once you have linked the two, updates to either program are reflected in both. What an incredible tool! Now, you can export the entire project to PowerPoint for presentation purposes and to Word to create a cohesive booklet, complete with an automatically generated table of contents.
With all these functions available in one program and the tools to motivate your team, access individual and group creativity, awaken your brains, remember more, and have your project presentation ready at a moment’s notice, your job has suddenly become more effective, efficient, time saving, and fun!
Mind Mapping Summarized
The feedback from project managers with whom I have shared the revolutionary tool of Mind Mapping is unanimous: it makes their jobs easier, more effective, and fun!
Mind Mapping saves time, eliminates the need for duplication of efforts, accesses the creative genius of individuals and teams, makes assigning priorities and timelines fluid and easy, and makes your presentations stand apart from the rest.
Buzan, T. (2006) Satrio Nareswara Wrihatnolo’s Website Retrieved from http://satrionareswara.blogspot.com/2009/06/tony-buzan-is-mind-map.html
Buzan, Tony, (1996, March) The Mind Map Book. New York, NY, USA: PLUME; A division of Penguin Books.
Matchware(n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.matchware.com/en/default.htm
© 2010, Cathy Byrnes
Originally published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Washington D.C.