Mindmapping: Use your whole brain to boost creativity

Mindmapping: Use your whole brain to boost creativity

For those of us who are visual thinkers, mind maps are useful tools that can help immeasurably in examining concepts, evaluating options and developing plans. For the uninitiated, mind maps are visual depictions of ideas, generally shown as a central idea with supporting thoughts or ideas represented as lines and symbols radiating from it.

Mind maps are literally whole brain thinking: they use both hemispheres of the brain and the entire range of cortical skills, including logic, rhythm, lines, color, lists, daydreaming, numbers, imagination, word and Gestalt (the whole picture). British author and psychologist Tony Buzan, who founded mindmapping back in the 60s, claims that our brains are better able to scan a whole “map,” rather than wade through a traditional outline from top to bottom. I agree.

I discovered mind maps more than 10 years ago, and still love using them on a regular basis. The ability to just put your thoughts on paper, or in an app, in a non-linear fashion, using lines, shapes and images, is so much more engrossing and freeing than a typical outline. Mind maps can be used to create marketing programs, plan special events or even schedule a week’s worth of client work. Use them for brainstorming, project management or taking notes at a meeting.

Although there are many apps that purport to be mindmapping tools, some are just collaborative whiteboards that enable individuals or teams to enter ideas on “post-its” on a central screen. Mind maps are often said to be an example of “radiant thinking,” because they always have a central idea with the subtopics or themes radiating out from it.

Just a few of the mindmapping apps out there:

MindMeister: This one’s pretty easy to use. For $10 a month, you can collaborate with others, export to pdf/image/Word/PowerPoint files and incorporate custom styles. Desktop/IPad/Android/IPhone versions.

XMind: XMind has lots of bells and whistles. There’s a cloud-based version that syncs maps across all platforms, including PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad. There are versions for business charts, Gantt views and slide presentations. Export to most of the office/image types of files out there. Collaborate with your team and save your map to Evernote. It's priced at $79; $99 for the Pro version, which includes a library of icons and presentation, Gantt chart and audio note features.

Mindomo: Mindomo focuses on teachers and students, with native mobile apps for iPad and Android. It includes a presentation mode, video and audio notes and a web image search feature. It’s collaborative and integrates Office 365, Google Drive and Dropbox as well as educational learning systems, including Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2Learn, among others. $36/6 months for the basic version, $90/6 months, which includes 6 “guest” collaborators and $162 for 6 months for the top tier, which includes 5 users.

What tools do you use for brainstorming and idea mapping?

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