The Power Of Mind Mapping

By: Dan Woods

Mind mapping, a form of visual outlining, may seem superficial, but once mastered it provides a powerful tool for managing information overload and the hyperbolic multitasking of the modern world. Recent advances in shareable mind maps take the power of this technique further, enabling groups to quickly capture and organize a massive amount of ideas. This week, I take a look at why mind maps are effective and how they can amplify your productivity.

Most people who are living the examined life in technology have heard of mind maps. They look like sprawling network diagrams that radiate out from a central point. The central bubble contains a label of a general topic, like service-oriented architecture. Lines radiate out from that center to bubbles representing related concepts (for SOA, governance, service level agreements, lifecycle management, operations, repository, development tools and standards). More bubbles may radiate from those bubbles (perhaps for monitoring, change management and version management.)

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Mind maps solve all these problems. I can capture ideas from an interview or a design for a book in a mind map, and I don’t feel frustrated or fatigued. Going from a linear view to two-dimensional space allows me to move around quickly and put an idea in the right place in the hierarchy by sailing right there with my mouse, expanding and contracting the level of detail as needed. Because this is quick and easy, I capture more ideas and restructure them faster, meaning my mind map better reflects my understanding.

When I return to a mind map, the context of my latest thinking is quickly restored; nothing is missing or lost. I don’t get that feeling of dread. Mind maps can be large and complex, and to control the depth, you expand or contract branches. I often use mind maps to organize and analyze information stored somewhere else, like all of the opportunities I am working on in


Proof Is Greater Than Theory
Proof Is Greater Than Theory

I (Dan) use MindJet MindManager, which has a shareable version of maps called MindJet Connect. Shareable mind maps can be viewed and changed by many people at once. It is a wonderful feeling to work quickly on a shareable space to capture ideas and trade thoughts. Free Mind is a popular open-source mind-mapping tool (a step down in usability from MindManager, but it will give you the idea), and many other commercial and open-source tools are available as well.

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