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Published on March 25, 2020

How to Use Mind Mapping in Your Everyday Life

How to Use Mind Mapping in Your Everyday Life

Your brain retains a lot of information. All of this information is inter-connected to make sense. Without these links, the information would be jumbled and confused.

In other words, your mind creates maps that function just like geographical maps — one location leads to another. There may be multiple routes to the same destination as well.

The technique of mind mapping can be used for effective learning from birth to death! Find out more about mind mapping, its remarkable advantages, and how to implement it in your day to day learning in this article.

What Is Mind Mapping?

Mind mapping is a simple concept whereby you create a map or flowchart to better process information. It is the implementation of how the brain processes information to encourage creativity.[1]

Mind maps don’t necessarily have to be physically written or drawn. Sometimes, a mind map can be imaginary, too. The latter is more convenient for compact ideas and will be more suitable once you get the hang of creating mind maps.

To understand the concept of mind mapping, you should picture this scenario:

Many times, you have so much information at hand that is so closely connected that it seems almost impossible to comprehend.

For example, you’re at a music class. The instrumental chords of a guitar and piano are so similar yet completely different at the same time. How can you possibly organize this information as a beginner?

The best way is to create a mind map.

All the elements of a mind map will help you connect the information in a way that will make it easier to absorb.

5 Elements of a Mind Map

You can personalize your preferred mind mapping technique according to what suits you best.

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However, a mind map usually has 5 main elements.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but an effective mind map is usually based on the following 5 parts:

  1. A central image
  2. Branches or relationship arrows
  3. Keywords or images
  4. Sub-themes
  5. Nodal structure

Some people like to further categorize the themes and topics to create up to 10 components. It is an extension of the sub-themes. But once again, how you choose to mind map is totally your personal preference.

What the Elements Represent

Each element is important as part of the whole. Here is an explanation of each of the parts.

A Central Image

The central image is the main theme or topic. Therefore, the central image is whatever the information is ultimately connected to.

It can be as broad or narrow as you like. Carrying on with the example of learning a musical instrument, the theme is instruments or music.

Branches

The next component is branches. Each idea you write down must have some sort of connection with at least one other part of the mind map. You cannot include any idea that doesn’t link up. Therefore, all the ideas in the mind map must be connected with branches or relationship arrows.

Keywords or Images

There are keywords or images. Certain ideas and information include a lot of detail. You cannot write it all down in a mind map.

Mind mapping has to be compact and precise in order to lead to effective results.[2]

If the idea is too elaborate to be expressed in a couple of words, you can either use an image or multiple connective keywords in its place.

In the case of digital mind maps, images work very well.

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Sub-Themes

The sub-themes are the narrower topics that fall under the bigger umbrella theme. For the same example of musical instruments, the sub-themes include guitar, piano, specific chords, etc. There are usually numerous sub-themes in a mind map.

Nodal Structure

Mind mapping is based on a nodal structure where sub-themes are explained and everything is linked. Certain ideas are broad and cover other compact concepts as well. The whole idea of mind mapping is incomplete without this structure.

Benefits of Mind Mapping

Now you know what mind mapping is and are probably convinced that it is an excellent approach to learning. But what is in it for you to use this method?

Well, the benefits of mind mapping are tremendous. Here’s a quick rundown:

Easy Organization

Right off the bat, there is no better way to organize information than with a mind map. No matter how confused you feel, a mind map will put everything in its right place.

Organized information is easier to remember. The visual representation of every connection imprints on your mind.

No matter how stressed you are, once you begin to organize all the ideas in a mind map, everything starts to make sense. Once that happens, there’s nothing left to worry about!

Brainstorming

Mind maps are a process. From one keyword to the other, from one image to the next, the connections trigger the brain to bring other related links to the surface, too.

This technique will help you brainstorm like no other.

Mind mapping is a very engaging learning process. Therefore, the brain is fully involved and focused. This encourages new ideas and concepts so that the learning process goes beyond the information at hand.

The magic in mind mapping is that all sorts of complex information also seem easy to understand. With brainstorming, these ideas are further built upon.

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Here’s an example to give you a clearer picture:

You’re learning a foreign language. In your mind map, you can link the foreign words with images or keywords of the language you know. Within this map, you can brainstorm to figure out certain common elements that will help you remember the foreign words easily.

These elements may be prefixes or suffixes. Or, there may be a specific trick that you can put your finger on once all similar words are linked up. While it is extremely easy to do in a mind map, it is almost impossible to identify these things in other learning methods.

The bottom line is that with mind mapping, the learning process becomes a continuous cycle of learning progress.

Guaranteed Results

As mentioned previously, mind mapping is the implementation of the process of the way that the brain actually works. Using the creation of links like that in a map, the brain can remember knowledge for the long-term.

Since mind mapping supports this mental process, there is no chance that you won’t successfully learn what you want to.

Basically, you will understand and remember whatever you want. There is literally nothing in the world that you won’t be able to excel at once you become a master of mind mapping!

Saving Time

This method is not time-saving in the sense that you’re probably thinking of. Creating a mind map, organizing all the information, and then fitting in new ideas may take up a decent chunk of your time.

However, since the learning is guaranteed in one go, you won’t have to spend time on the same theme again and again.

How to Use Mind Mapping to Learn New Skills

Mind maps are a tool that can be used every day. Use them to create an extensive to-do list or let the technique help you learn new skills.

For example, let’s assume you’re a social media content creator. You want to create more engaging content. Start creating a mind map that is centered on themes for your posts. You can include topics that you’ve already covered as well as ones you plan on posting about.

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Then, include the feedback that you received on your previous posts. Link it up to suggested improvements or continued strategies so that the new posts can perform better.

There is no rocket science in using a mind map effectively. You can categorize the process in 3 steps of mind mapping. Once you begin, you’ll quickly get the hang of it.

Helpful Tools

Mind maps can be made in numerous ways.

Some people find it way easier to work with a pen and paper, whereas others prefer a digitized version.

Each method has its pros and cons. Digital mind maps can be edited and altered very easily. It’s more convenient to add images. Also, the digital mind maps are more organized and neat.

On the other hand, using a pen and paper lets the individual’s brain go in a flow. Scribbling the thoughts on a paper encourages the brain to find more relevant connections.

The best way to get use out of both methods is to create a rough version on a paper and then shift it to a digital platform. Or, you can use a software or mind mapping application from the get-go.

Some of the best mind mapping tools available for free are:

  • MS Word
  • Canva
  • MindMup
  • Free Mind

You can find more options here.

Final Thoughts

You don’t ever have to feel stuck again. Going through a creative block or failing to learn new things in life? Mind mapping is the ultimate solution to get your brain back on track!

More Tips on Mind Mapping

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on March 1, 2021

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

As someone on the Millennial/Generation X cusp, one of my first memories of a news story was the devastating crash of the Challenger space shuttle. I couldn’t process the severity or the specifics of the event at the time, but looking back, the Challenger explosion represents a heartbreaking example of what can happen when systems fail.

A part of the shuttle known as the O-ring was faulty. People from NASA knew about it well before the disaster, but NASA employees either ignored the problem—writing it off as not that bad—or were ignored when they tried to alert higher-ups about the issue.[1] This is a tragic example of single-loop learning where organizations focus on what they’re doing without reflecting on how or why they’re doing it, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Single and Double-Loop Learning

Chris Argyris describes the difference between single and double-loop learning with a metaphor. A thermostat that turns on and off when it senses a pre-set temperature is akin to single-loop learning. The thermostat being able to reflect on whether or not it should be set to that temperature in the first place would be more like double-loop learning.[2]

Imagine the difference if NASA would have encouraged and addressed employees’ questions about how they were doing, what they were doing, and whether or not they should be doing it at all—you’ll start to see how an extra layer of questioning and critical thought can help organizations thrive.

Single Loop Learning

Single-loop learning is when planning leads to action, which leads to reflection on those actions and then back to planning, action, and more reflection. Now, you might think that because reflection is involved, single-loop learning would be an effective organizational model. However, because there isn’t room for critical questions that ask why actions are being taken, problems begin to bubble up.

The Double Bind

When organizations are operating in single-loop learning, they get stuck in what Argyris calls the Double Bind. Because there’s no value placed on questioning why the team is doing something, team members are either punished for speaking up or punished for not speaking up if something goes wrong down the line.

Primary Inhibiting Loop

When an organization is stuck in single-loop learning, the double bind leads to what Argyris calls the primary inhibiting loop. Real learning and growth are inhibited because team members withhold information from each other. This withholding leads to distrust and is difficult to remedy because even if employees attempt to become more forthcoming, lack of trust sours interactions.

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Secondary Inhibiting Loop

Because information is being withheld, team members play unconscious games (not the fun kind) to protect each other’s feelings. For example, I might try to distract my colleagues from worrying about a problem in our plan by shifting the focus to another project we’re working on that’s going better.

When you’re stuck in single-loop learning, the organization does whatever it can to continue taking action after action instead of stopping to truly reassess the bigger picture. This leads team members to hide information from each other, which causes distrust and behaviors that try to mask flaws in the organization’s structures and systems.

Double Loop Learning in Organizations

A common misconception is that the opposite of single-loop learning involves focusing primarily on people’s feelings and allowing employees to manage themselves. However, the solution for single-loop learning is not about doing the opposite. It’s about adding an extra later of critical analysis—double-loop learning.

With double-loop learning, questioning why the organization is doing what it’s doing is an organizational value. Instead of moving from planning to action to reflection and back to planning, in double-loop learning, people are encouraged to reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help the organization take a step back and reconsider what’s best for all stakeholders instead of being stuck acting and reacting.

Ultimately, double-loop learning gives team members the time, space, and systems to ask tough questions and have them addressed in meaningful ways.

Let’s think back to the Challenger disaster. If NASA had created an organization that uses double-loop learning, employees wouldn’t have felt compelled to stay silent, and the employees who did speak up would have influenced the process enough to reconsider the timeline and develop a solution for the O-ring problem.

Single-loop learning is like a train with no breaks. Double-loop learning provides the extra layer of critical thought that allows the organization to stop and pivot when that’s what’s required.

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Think back to Argyris’ thermostat metaphor. Instead of just reacting—turning on and off when it detects a certain temperature—double-loop learning invites the thermostat to reconsider why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it might do it better.

How to Shift to Double Loop Learning

So, how can organizations shift from single to double-loop learning?

1. Stakeholders Must Level With Each Other

The first step to shifting from single to double-loop learning is for all stakeholders to sit down and talk openly about their expectations, values, and goals. These sessions should be led by organizational experts to ensure that old single-loop learning habits of distrust, withholding, and game-playing don’t keep people stuck in single-loop learning.

One of the keys to team members leveling with each other is listening. Focus on creating an environment where everyone can speak up without fear of judgment or punishment.

2. Create Benchmarks for Lasting Growth and Change

Old habits die hard, and single-loop learning is no different. If systems, check-ins, benchmarks, and periodic times to reflect and reset aren’t put into place, old habits of withholding and mistrust will likely creep back in. You can guard against this by making it a norm to measure, assess, and improve how new double-loop learning systems are being implemented over time.

3. Reward Risk-Taking and Critical Feedback

Double-loop learning requires squeaky wheels. You have to create a culture that rewards criticism, risk-taking, and reflecting on the system as a whole and the reasons the organization does what it does. Think big picture stuff.

This is about walking the walk. It’s one thing to tell employees to speak up and give their feedback, it’s another thing entirely to have systems in place that make employees feel safe enough to do so.

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Kimberly Scott’s Radical Candor comes to mind as one way to start shifting to a more open and critical environment. Radical Candor is a system that incentivizes employees and managers to start speaking up about things they used to sweep under the rug. It’s a roadmap and a way to assess and improve open and reflective feedback between all stakeholders.

Double Loop Learning for Individuals

Double-loop learning isn’t only for organizations. You can also apply Argyris’ ideas to your learning.[3]

Here’s how that might look:

1. Level With Yourself and Seek Accountability

Instead of being stuck in a single-loop learning cycle, break out by adding another layer of critical reflection. Why are you learning what you’re learning? Is it important? Is there another way? Think big picture again.

Become clear on what you want to learn and how you’re currently trying to learn it. Then, open yourself up to others to keep yourself accountable. Leave the door open to completely shift major details about your learning goals.

2. Create Benchmarks and Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

Just as with organizations, individuals also need to create goals and continuously reflect on whether or not they’re moving toward double-loop learning. Schedule times to meet with the people keeping you accountable for your learning plan. Then, ask yourself whether or not your learning goals still make sense.

Ask big picture questions. Are you in the right environment to learn? Is your learning plan working? Do you need to change course altogether or shift your goals entirely? If it’s double-loop learning, you can’t be afraid to ask questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing and change course when the need arises.

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3. Value Risk-Taking and Accept Criticism

You’re also going to need to shift your mindset from simply learning and reflecting to accepting criticism, being critical of yourself as a learner, and taking risks and experiencing discomfort as you ask big questions and make drastic alterations to your learning plan over time.

Instead of concerning yourself with grades and GPAs, double-loop learning would mean you’re allowing yourself time to step back and analyze why you’re learning what you’re learning, if there’s a better way, and even whether or not you should be on that learning trajectory in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Think back to the thermostat example. Doing homework, handing it in, and then receiving a grade is single-loop learning. Thinking about why you’re doing any of that and making appropriate changes that align with your learning goals shifts you into double-loop learning, and that’s a great way to see the bigger picture and get the best results.

Learning and reflection are two of the most important things when it comes to organizational or personal development. This is why double-loop learning is key if you want yourself or your organization to succeed.

More Tips on Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Cherrydeck via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NPR: Challenger: What Went Wrong
[2] Harvard Business Review: Double Loop Learning in Organizations
[3] Journal of Advanced Learning: The role of reflection in single and double-loop learning

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