Tackling a new task, taking on challenging job, learning a new language, or simply trying to work through day to day problems can quickly begin to tax your mental capacities and leave you feeling drained and frustrated. But what if there was a way you could visualize your problem to critically think and apply new ways of solving them? Well, there is, and it mimics the way your brain recognizes connections to create more meaningful pathways to find solutions.
This approach is called mind mapping, and it allows you to create a series of images and words in a meaningful way that allows you to physically see the connections between them. Read on to explore how to use mind mapping to unleash your brain’s creativity.
What is Mind Mapping?
Mind mapping is a way to graphically illustrate and represent concepts and ideas. It is a visual interpretation of structured information to allow you to better remember details, and allow for analyzation, comprehension, synthesization, recall, and a way to generate new ideas. This is a personal creation that you design structured around a main idea or subject and can be used for any type of thinking or learning subject or task.
This type of mapping is both creative and logical, and is structured in such a way to mimic the way our brain works, allow us to expound upon a subject. This visual representation of our thought process helps us better draw conclusion, ask questions, and dig deeper into our own understanding of the idea at hand.
Mind maps are highly personal, but all have a similar organization structure that comes naturally through the use of lines, colors, images, symbols, and words. There are five essential characteristics of this process that work together to create our own map of an idea:
1. A central image represents the main idea, focus, problem, etc…
2. Main themes ‘branch’ from this image
3. The branches each have a representative image, word, or questions associated with them
4. Lesser topics, solutions, images, ideas, etc…all seperate off these main branches
5. The whole forms an interconnected structure
The Theory and Science Behind It All
Dr. Roger Sperry was the mind behind the workings of the right and left hemispheres of our brains. He discovered that working together, they are able to perform a range of intellectual tasks called cortical skills. These skills include the recognition of logic, lines, colors, lists, rhythm, numbers, imagination, and words, to name a few.
His researched confirmed how integral it is to use these tasks in conjunction with one another in order to maximize brain hemispheric cooperation. Mind mapping integrates clarity, structure, and organization of the left hemisphere with the imagination, association, and location of the right hemisphere to create an ultimate thinking tool.
Radiant Thinking Patterns
When we smell, taste, touch, hear, see, and remember we are tapping into a complex pattern of associations that interact with one another in a very complicated dance of recognition and memory. Each individual experience may have an endless array of branching associations rooted in our brains that allow us to recall and critically think and problem solve. A mind map begins to mimic our own branching associations when these thinking patterns processes occur as neurons are firing and working in our brains.
The Power of Image Recognition
Image recognition is deeply rooted in the workings of our brain’s radiant thinking patterns. Studies have shown that humans regularly recognize images with accuracy up to 95% of the time, and use a massive amount of cortical skills to make meaningful associations with these images. The use of symbolic images in our own mind mapping practices give our brain a workout, and creates even more meaningful connections.
Why is it More Effective than Other Methods?
Mind maps can be effectively used for for just about any thinking or learning task. Everything from simple problem solving to learning a new language can utilize this process. The connections it makes is much more effective than linear note-taking and other brainstorming techniques.
- Combining words and pictures is six times more efficient than using words alone to remember information.
- Links are created using natural associations which generates a deeper understanding of a subject and helps present a wider array of ideas.
- You are able to visualize a larger overview of a subject all in one area.
- It is a natural, and intuitive way to organize your thoughts since our brains are constantly associating with various parts of recognition- similar to what a mind map does.
- Ideas are more quickly recognized and explored through this process.
Advantages of This Practice
Using mind mapping either as an individual, or as a group effort in a classroom, boardroom, or meeting space with a skilled facilitator can be highly advantageous for a variety of reasons. To first begin exploring what benefits this practice can have for you, practice a bit on your own with topics that interest to you in order to become familiar and comfortable with the process. Then begin to apply it to larger, more complicated subjects.
Mind mapping is very efficient, both in a single problem settings, and in group settings. It is easy for everyone to see, provides the ability to easily add new ideas and thoughts, and allows for quick connections between ideas for faster solutions.
Putting everything down in an interconnected image allows for an accurate recording of all ideas, which is very important when more than one person is involved. It provides transparency, and furthers discussion of ideas.
The concept is fully engaging to incorporate various forms of thought processes. Individuals move easily from one part of the map to the next to get ideas and creativity flowing. In a group setting this allows for individuals to move amongst and comprehend various ideas, images, and connections all while sharing their own. This Is perfect for differentiation as well to involve everyone involved.
The practice is also highly focused and can move quickly. Since connections are tied together in various ways, no idea or concept is wasted.
Easy to Adapt
It is also seriously easy to adapt to new ideas as they arise, and allows you to provide tangents without having to lose your original sting of thought.
All of the above concepts tie together to create an increase in production when this is a concern. The involvement of a variety of ideas, efficient practices, and focused thinking allows you to reach solutions quickly for faster applications.
Full Brain Engagement
Using a map provides full brain engagement for all who is involved and strengths areas of creativity and problem solving- and makes connections that continue to grow when the practice is regularly used.
Learning is Enhanced
These concepts are also highly useful in a classroom to help differentiate various learning abilities. It works for brainstorming techniques, whole class engagement, and deep, critical thinking abilities.
How to Get Started
Mapping can be practiced both digitally and on paper. Software even exists to help you plan out your own online map for easy Smartboard and media sharing. To get started with your own map you need an idea of what questions you need an answer for, or present a problem that needs a solution of some sort.
Step 1: Start in the Middle of a Blank Page
Try to start with a visual of some sort that represents your topic. If you feel you need a more focused thought, feel free to write it across the top. The great thing about mind mapping is that it is personal and is developed to mimic the way you think- therefore, anything goes.
Step 2: Develop Related Sub-Topics or Questions as Main ‘Branches’
What questions or problems arise due to your main topic? You want these to surrounding the middle so their relevance can be seen clearly. Ask them as questions, represent them as pictures, or use them as a solution- whatever steps come naturally to mind to help get to the solution you are seeking should be made note of.
Step 3: Generate Lower Level Sub-Topics
Under your subtopics start to continue to your thought process. Perhaps these are pros and cons of the solution, or illustrate further ideas. The bottom line is- continue this pathway until you have exhausted each branch and then turn to the next idea and so on and so forth.
Free Online Mapping Solutions
If you like the idea of a digital map for easy transportation to add to whenever you have a brainstorm, or want something that is easy to use for group brainstorming, these sites provide free solutions. They do ask that you create a login in order to access your material for saving purposes, these all offer free resources. Some include optional upgrades and services for minimal costs, but these are not free trial only sites that require a credit card to get started.
If you are looking for ways to get a problem solved and want to tap into how your own brain processes information, then look no further. Mind mapping is an effective problem solving practice for both individuals and groups, and can make short work of your troubleshooting sessions.
Let us know below your success with mind mapping experiences, and, as usual, please share!