People learn, read, and communicate in many ways. Some people need or prefer more spatially effective communication with both words and images. In that case, consider a mind map.

A mind map is a visual outline. It has a central core or box at the highest level, uses topics as bullets below it, and can include sub-topics as a subtext for each bullet. A common use of a mind map is for a meeting where many ideas or possibilities are being generated. Call it a map or diagram—a mind map is more than a just a list of words.

Mind maps are effective because:

– they are easier to read than lists or plain text
– the images can go in any direction
– a mind map can stimulate out-of-box thinking
– spatial images are said to aid recall of existing memories
– brainstorming is more effective
– they display what people consider as options or paths

Similar to a mind map is a process map, which has a more hierarchical approach. Process maps display the relationship between concepts. For example, a decision tree is a form of a process map. In comparison, mind maps are more free form and less encumbered by rules.

Mind maps are more art than science—the goal is to communicate.

For more on mind mapping, what this YouTube video.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

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  1. Mind maps are almost entirely hierarchical, though radiating out from a central theme, as you say. They do permit non-hierarchical association lines from one topic to another, but are at root, tree structures.

    In my experience, process maps are no more hierarchical than flow charts. In fact, simple process maps often are flowcharts, though many other forms, like swim lane diagrams, also exist.

    Roy Grubb
    Editor, WikIT

  2. Joanne Vo

    JJ, this is such a good piece of information! No idea why this method isn’t taught in school, but I definitely look forward to applying this as much as I can in my life. Colors, no straight line or structure, and images? I am all over it! This will be great for brainstorming sessions.

    Joanne Vo

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