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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How Mind Mapping Helps You to Brainstorm More Great Ideas

How Mind Mapping Helps You to Brainstorm More Great Ideas

There are many ways to plan out projects, ideas, and plans. You could use a simple piece of paper, a digital planning tool, or you could use a mind map.

I first came across mind mapping when I was at school. One of my teachers showed us how to structure an essay, and his method was to create a mind map and develop arguments using the branches of the map, so you never lost sight of the question.

The next time I use mind maps extensively was when I began creating presentations in the early 2000s. As an English communication teacher teaching business executives in Korea to better communicate with their English speaking partners, I was not teaching vocabulary, grammar, and structure—my students already had that. I was teaching more about the culture of communication in the English speaking world.

I found mind maps allowed me to explore ideas and learning points before building the presentation. And since then, I have used mind maps to discover new ways of handling difficult problems, develop online courses, and plan out what I want to accomplish over the next twelve months and longer-term.

In this article, I want to show you how you can benefit from adding mind mapping to your productivity and planning tool kit.

How Does Mind Mapping Work?

Mind mapping works by giving you a visual means to brainstorm your ideas while, at the same time, giving you the foundations of a structure you can use once you have completed your mind map.

You start by writing down in the middle of a page what it is you want to answer. The best mind maps have a question as a title, although you do not have to use questions. The reason questions work best is because every time you look at your mind map, you engage your brain’s problem-solving abilities.

For example, you could ask the question, “What do I have to do to earn $1 million every year?”

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When you use a “what do I have to do to…” question, your brain begins searching for ways you can achieve whatever it is you are asking.

If you ask the question “how do I earn $1 million every year”, your brain is likely to give you unrealistic or unclear answers, such as becoming CEO of a global company, winning the lottery, or investing in high-risk stocks on the stock market.

Those answers do not tell you “how” you will do it; all it does is tell you “what” to do. You will still need to drill down further. What you want to do is fine-tune the question so the answers you get are things you can do that will take you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.

If you were to use a mind map to create a presentation, you could use the question, “what do I have to do to explain how to build a successful podcast to an audience who has never created a podcast?”.

This will engage your brain far better than asking “how to build a successful podcast” because it helps you remember who your audience is—which is a key part of the whole presentation experience—as well as remind you that you need to keep things basic.

Once you have spent time developing your mind map, you will have a list of ideas that you can use to build your project, goal, or presentation. It allows you to prioritize and organize your thoughts, so it is easier to move to the next step of doing whatever it is you want to do.

How Do You Create a Mind Map?

Knowing how mind mapping works is different from applying it. Here are the 4 steps of mind mapping and how you can apply it in your life.

1. Start With Your Question

Before you start, think about what it is you want to mind map about. If we take the example of presenting to an audience, ask yourself, “what exactly do I want to tell my audience?” and “What do I want them to leave knowing?”

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The clearer your question, the better answers you will get.

For example: “What do I have to do to explain how to build a successful podcast?” This is an excellent question because it will elicit some good points you can then develop into your presentation.

Once you know your question, write that down in the middle of the page.

Although I love technology, I still prefer to do this on paper, but you can use mind mapping software for this, too. It depends on how you like to work.

For many of the mind maps I create today, I use my iPad and Apple Notes to create mind maps. But for more in-depth, complex mind maps, my go-to is still pen and paper. There’s just something about having a few colored pens and a highlighter to sit down with and start brainstorming ideas.

2. Let Your Mind Go and Write Whatever Comes to Mind

    Once you have your question written down, let yourself go. Don’t try and edit yourself. No matter how crazy, wild, or stupid something may seem at first, get it down onto your mind map. You can remove ideas later.

    In these early stages, you want to brainstorm ideas. Editing yourself at this stage will not produce your best ideas. Out of what may seem a stupid idea could come the killer idea.

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    When I developed my Time Sector time management system, the original idea came to me while I was at the gym. As soon as I got home, I began a mind map of the original idea.

    The question I used was: “how do I build a time management system for the 21st century?” and I spent around two hours scribbling out all the ideas I had. There were all the things I knew about why people struggled with more traditional systems and what was needed for the way we work today.

    At the end of those two hours, I had a lot of points, ideas, and solutions. Many of which were silly, but everything I had been thinking about came out plus a lot more because ideas sparked other ideas.

    3. Leave It for a Few Days

    This part is an important step. After your initial brainstorm, leave it for a few days. You want to engage your subconscious mind to develop your thoughts and ideas.

    Unfortunately, your subconscious mind is slow. It analyzes, thinks, and connects new ideas to old experiences, and all that takes time. Giving yourself a few days will generate more ideas and expand others.

    After a few days, come back to your mind map and give yourself another hour or two with it. You will find you have a lot more ideas to add and you may also see ideas that don’t work—you can delete these if you wish, although I prefer to leave them just in case they spark more ideas later.

    After this session, you will have a lot of ideas, answers, and steps. The next stage is where you fine-tune these ideas and start to structure the next steps.

    4. Number Your Ideas by Importance

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      Whether you have been developing a project, a solution to an existing problem, or preparing a presentation, you now need to decide in what order you will move forward.

      If you have been developing a project, what needs to happen next to start the project? That’s number one.

      Go through your mind map and number all the points. If you were mind mapping a presentation, what order will you bring in your points? If you were developing a podcast, what needs to happen next? Perhaps it would be to begin writing a list of twenty topics.

      Once you have all your ideas and points numbered, you can then move those to your to-do list manager, slide deck, or project plans and place them in the right order. You may find that as you begin working on your project, you change your order round. But by having an initial order from your mind map, you will at least have a place to start.

      Key Takeaways

      Mind mapping is a great tool to get a lot of jumbled and disorganized thoughts out of your mind and into the open and once there, you can easily organize these thoughts and ideas so that you can take the first steps to build something exceptional.

      Mind mapping is a great way to encourage your brain to develop ideas and brainstorm solutions to existing problems, create new product ideas, and build engaging presentations.

      Mind maps are a visual representation of your thoughts, and they encourage you to go deeper with your ideas, so they are thoroughly thought through and developed.

      More Articles About Mind Mapping

      Featured photo credit: airfocus via unsplash.com

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      Carl Pullein

      Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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      Published on April 6, 2021

      How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

      How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

      Do you continually look for ways and means to do things better but find yourself in a shortage of ideas? As humans, we are continually evolving and looking for ways to do what we do more efficiently—to yield the same or higher output with lesser inputs in time, resources, and effort. One way to do this is to wait for the Eureka! moment and inspiration to strike. But that is far-fetched and requires a lot of waiting around to take small steps ahead.

      However, putting in place a structure for ideation can come in handy for those looking to take giant leaps forward. And that’s where brainstorming ideas can help.

      Let’s have a look at how to brainstorm ideas more creatively and effectively. But before that, let’s dive deeper into understanding brainstorming.

      What Is Brainstorming?

      Brainstorming is an excellent tool for ideation, out-of-the-box thinking, and creative problem solving without criticism or judgment.

      Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines brainstorming as “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem.”[1]

      Three things stand out here:

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      1. Spontaneous contribution – Brainstorming allows individuals to share crazy, far-fetched, out of the box half-baked ideas. It does not have to be thoroughly thought out yet at the ideation stage.
      2. All members – Brainstorming is a technique where taking in diverse opinions can improve ideating offbeat solutions.
      3. Find a solution to a problem – It is fundamentally goal-oriented towards one thing—solving the issue at hand. Without a clear problem statement, brainstorming ideas will not yield effective results.

      Broadly speaking, brainstorming is synonymous with the idea-generating process that creatively solves problems.

      You Can Brainstorm Ideas on Your Own

      It is common to think that brainstorming is effective only in groups and cannot be done individually. However, that is not entirely true. Studies have shown that although both approaches have their pros and cons in catalyzing idea generation, people are more creative when they brainstorm on their own than in groups.[2]

      Individually, one is empowered to flexibly work at their pace and drive idea generation. They can set their own time and place and ideate when one is at their creative best. Additionally, there is no fear of judgment when brainstorming individually.

      On the other hand, group brainstorming holds a sacred place in innovating in workplaces. Here, you can take advantage of the diverse experience, perspectives, and creativity of all team members to ideate and develop offbeat solutions that offer outstanding results.

      Is Brainstorming Effective?

      Brainstorming delivers tremendous value, from providing innovative and offbeat ideas that would have never occurred in the ordinary course of work to building a culture of collaboration and team spirit. Here are some reasons why brainstorming is effective and beneficial.

      1. Goes Beyond Creative Blocks

      Brainstorming ideas can help individuals and teams move forward when they find themselves creatively stuck. Inspiration is hard to come by, and brainstorming is an excellent approach to access on-demand creativity without the pressure of getting it right the first time.

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      2. Encourages Divergent Thinking

      By leaving no idea behind, brainstorming can help explore diverse ideas and alternatives to grow. Brainstorming ideas offers a judgment-free space to think of as many possibilities as you can until you’re convinced of the way forward.

      3. Supports Team Building

      Compared to other techniques, you create a relaxed and informal ambiance to brainstorm ideas that encourage open participation among team members. People are offered the space to share their opinion and points of view without fear of judgment, strengthening the camaraderie among team members. Frequent brainstorming sessions instill the spirit of collaboration and help teams to rely on each other’s strengths to deliver improved results.

      How Does It Work?

      Brainstorming ideas involves 4 crucial stages:

      1. Identifying the central problem or goal: This stage defines the critical purpose for brainstorming ideas.
      2. Idea Generation: An avenue permitting free-flowing generation of ideas.
      3. Developing the idea: Deep dive into the ideas produced and build upon them.
      4. Idea evaluation: Evaluating the top ideas towards its efficacy in solving the central goal or issue.

      The process is structured to allow consideration of varied ideas objectively to achieve the solution to the critical problem at hand.

      ProTips to Brainstorm Ideas Effectively

      Here are a few #ProTips to brainstorm ideas creatively and effectively.

      • Welcome wild ideas: Make sure you encourage offbeat and non-linear ideas. The more diverse the ideas produced in the ideation stage, the better it is to allow for innovative solutions to come forth.
      • Plan ahead: Allow people to think by themselves before the brainstorming session. This tip ensures that people are allowed sufficient time to mull over the problem statement and come prepared to ideate on tackling the issue.
      • Goal-tending: As you navigate the ideation stage, focus on the central goal or problem. It is natural to stray away while opening up the forum for ideas. So, it is essential to remind the teams on the problem statement to keep the discussions relevant and identify the best solution.
      • Record everything: Record all ideas, not just the good ones. This rule is fundamental to capture all probable ideas in the ideation stage. Make sure that every single idea generated is systematically captured regardless of how useful it is. Additionally, permit one conversation at a time to ensure all thoughts are given consideration and are not missed out in parallel discussions.
      • Judgement-free: Creating a no-judgment space encourages people to speak up and express their opinions freely. Keeping judgments aside can help continue the flow of ideas and encourage teams to build and develop each other’s thought processes. One idea could spark another, leading to much more effective solutions.
      • Defer evaluation: Refrain from evaluating ideas in the ideation stage. Hold the assessments till the evaluation stage for the best results. All ideas hold some potential so enforce the no assessment rule until all the ideas are captured, tabled, and developed. Alex Osborn, who conceptualized the brainstorming technique, recommends “defer judgment” as the golden rule to brainstorm effectively.[3]

      How to Use Brainstorming Effectively on Your Own

      Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively on your own:

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      1. Ground Yourself

      Make sure to ground yourself by meditating or practicing any other mindfulness technique to ensure your entire presence before brainstorming. You could also choose a time and place when you’re most active and energetic for the best results.

      2. Minimize Distractions

      Choose a time where you can focus entirely on brainstorming ideas for the problem at hand. Minimize distractions and create space for paying 100% attention in ideating solutions.

      3. Go Wild

      Individual Brainstorming does not have worries about other’s judgment and offers a safe space to ideate as many crazy or wild ideas as they come. There’s no worry about egos or team dynamics either. So, the brainstorming can be focused on solving the core issue.

      4. Use Mind maps

      To keep the chain of thought as you brainstorm ideas, you can use mind maps to arrange, assimilate, and develop concepts further. Word association, prompts, or even visual cues can come in handy to ideate across the spectrum.

      5. Take a Break Before Evaluating

      Don’t go into assessments and evaluations right after you ideate. Take a break. Do something completely different before you consider the ideas to be objective and unbiased. Keep the overarching goal in mind to filter the best possible outcomes. You could also narrow it down to the top 2 to 3 ideas and run it past your mentors or colleagues to get unbiased opinions from trustworthy sources.

      How to Use Brainstorming Effectively in a Group

      Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively in a group:

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      1. Diversity

      Form groups across functions to bring in different perspectives as you brainstorm together. Ensure that the individuals chosen are equally vested and aligned towards the shared goal to achieve maximum results. You could also brainstorm with a complete outsider to get a fresh perspective on a problem that you’ve been stuck with for a long time.

      2. 6-3-5 Technique

      You can adapt the 6 people coming up with 3 ideas every 5 minutes to keep the ideation momentum going. You can get over 100 ideas in 30 minutes using this approach.

      3. Challenge Bad Ideas

      Ask team members to write down the craziest and most ludicrous ways to solve the problem. Then challenge other team members to make changes to flip a bad idea into a good one.

      Final Thoughts

      Brainstorming ideas is an excellent way to creatively identify the best way forward. It provides structure to unstructured thinking and delivers immense value to individuals and organizations to think beyond the conventional norms. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ve picked up a thing or two to help you brainstorm ideas effectively.

      Featured photo credit: Leon via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Merriam-Webster: brainstorming
      [2] MindTools: Brainstorming
      [3] The Heart of Innovation: Why You Need to Defer Judgment During the Ideation Phase of a Brainstorming Session

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