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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Ideas (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Ideas (With Mind Map Examples)

When you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you may create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion. However, this type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It lacks in clarity and makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing. Instead, try looking at some mind map examples to learn how to mind map and visualize your thoughts.

Mind maps can help you zoom out and see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected. You may see connections you were missing before and find new ways of brainstorming solutions.

Below, you’ll find more information on mind maps and see some mind map examples to inspire you next time you need to organize information.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram invented by Tony Buzan[1]. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to declutter your brain or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using a pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

How to mind map: Mind map example

    Image Credit: English Central

    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

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    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[2]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner. It can be a single word or even a central image.

    How to mind map: start with a central idea

      Step 2 : Add Branches of Related Ideas

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out nearby by connecting it with shorter lines or a line of a different color. Ensure that it remains organized.

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          You can always add images or other branches later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits.” Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

          Mind map example

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, and add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

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              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                One your ideas have filled the branches, the mind map is complete.

                Branch by branch mind map example

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy of mind map examples, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. Here, you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Do the same for the next level (level 3). You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                      Level by level mind map example

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. There are no rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                        Free flow mind map example

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you to help you start problem solving.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map using the mind map examples above. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and organize your thoughts.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective, and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on a phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Tony Buzan Group: Home
                          [2] Verbal to Visual: A Mind Mapping Approach To Your Sketchnotes

                          More by this author

                          Matt Tanguay

                          Matt is the CEO and Chief Visual Facilitator of Fluent Brain. He writes about problem solving techniques and tips to supercharge the brain.

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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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