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In Praise of the Mind Map

My Mind Maps

Mind maps have always been a part of my learning and creative process. I've been making them for as long as I can remember. They've been there for me in fun, creative times and times when I needed to work through difficulties. I have used them to intuitively develop my thoughts, work and projects. They're great fun and I always encourage my students to use them, especially if they're stuck for ideas.

Here are a selection of my recent mind maps:

Tony Buzan: Father of the Mind Map

Who invented the mind map? While we can't say it was Tony Buzan, he certainly made people realise how important and useful they are. He is a prominent psychologist and educator, and you can learn more about his work on his website. He was the first person to study and write about the uses of mind maps, for both an academic and popular audience.

Why Use Mind Maps?

Many people, when writing notes or planning, will create a heading and list items in order from top to bottom. This creates a linear, 'contents page' style layout. This is useful, but limited, since it 'only uses the left-cortex Memory Principles of order', rather than the 'right brain' to utilise imagination*.

A mind map, on the other hand, creates space to connect ideas and to generate them organically and 'on the fly'. They can then be adapted to something more linear at a later stage, as Buzan notes (giving you the flexibility to change to order of the points if you need to). This whole process is more sympathetic to how the brain actually works.

*Tony Buzan, Use Your Memory (BBC, 1986)

Buzan's Maps

Here are some example mind maps from his books Use Your Memory (BBC, 1986) and Use Your Head (BBC, 1974). You can see the classic structure, with the key topic or idea inthe centre, and the branches of related ideas radiating outwards.

Tony Buzan is very clear on the following points:

  • All writing should be in capitals (this helps memory recall)

  • Levels of branches should look different (e.g. line weight, style, shape)

  • Maps should be visual (include colour and pictures)

I don't do all of these things, but I have my own style and system for organising infomration that works for me, which also combines doodling, journalling and scrap-booking. Yet another wonderful thing about mind maps: they can be individual and unique; no two will ever be the same.

We Need Mind Maps More Than Ever

With increasing attention being paid in the public sphere to both neurodivergence and wellbeing, I think that mind maps and journalling are more useful than ever. Humans have a myriad of different learning styles and many people do not think in a linear way. In addition, we live in an attention / reward-driven world, where 'memory darts' lasting just seconds form a significant portion of the information that we consume on a daily basis. Instantaneous communication is rife and it is here to stay.

Buzan's insights on the dreaded 'work meetings'

We therefore need fun, visual and creative methods to keep learners motivated, instead of trying to squeeze them into a grey, 'one size fits all' system: a system which often penalises them for not thriving under these very specific and often counter-intuitive conditions.

Alongside his work on learning and memory, Buzan rightly notes that in work contexts, we are still chained to ineffective communication methods which alienate, rather than integrate.

So, this post is wholly in favour of the doodly, 'messy', spontaneous mind map, the ordered, neat and logical mind map and all other variations in between!

Share Your Maps and Thoughts!

Have you got a mind map to share? Let me know! Post it below or on your socials, tag LUDUS and let's make some connections!

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