Mind Map – A Tool for Organizing and Expanding Your Thoughts

I observed these past few months that I was thinking or worrying about a lot of things that I’m having a hard time where to start. I need something to regain my focus and pinpoint the root cause of the problems that I need to address before things go out of hand. That’s when I remembered the concept of using mind maps. Organizing the information and connecting the dots helped me identify which issues I should address and how to prioritize them. I also came up with strategies on how to perform solutions that can resolve several problems at the same time. Realizing how it was beneficial for me, I decided to share some information about this powerful tool.

How it works
You start of with a central topic that will be the focus of your mind map. From there, expand the central node of your map to other connecting concepts, terms, ideas, and anything in between. Though the possible connections may seem limitless, keep in mind that you’re organizing ideas to achieve a goal, so stick with your goal while constructing your map. For example, if you’re trying to conceptualize a new product, you can start by identifying the features, target market,  cost, and useful references. It may look something like this…

Sample mind map for conceptualizing a concept. Created using Freemind - http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download

Sample mind map for conceptualizing a concept. Created using Freemind – http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download

It’s up to you how much you want to expand your graph. From there, identify the key nodes that may prove vital in fulfilling your goal. Check if there are any distant nodes that may seem to be connected in another way. Evaluate which are the most important concepts listed on the graph and create the necessary action plan or report.

The same process can be used to identify and address a particular issue like lack of product output or slow development process. You can start by identifying the possible root cause, then dividing it to smaller bits of data and then create a possible solution from there.

Weapon of Choice

I use FreeMind for creating my mind maps. It’s free and easy to use. The application requires Java Runtime Environment for your operating system. I find it convenient to use since it utilizes the use of the keyboard shortcuts to access the different utilities of the program. If you prefer not to install anything, then you can try MindMeister, a web based mind map creator. However, I find the former to be more ergonomic and feature-filled compared to the latter.

Possible Applications

Some applications I can think of:

  • Game Design – Start with a theme, expand the concept and choose a set of nodes or a connecting path that may lead to a solid gameplay
  • Advertisement Idea – Identify the target message and the connecting concepts that may be used for portraying the aim of that advertisement
  • Brainstorming Session/Meetings – Summarize or outline the topics covered in the particular session and use it as a visual guide for reviews and reports
  • Teaching – Create a mind map of a specific concept and let your students expand the concept and try to generate a pattern and pick up the most important ideas. This may increase your students’ critical thinking and analytic skills.
  • Life Hacking – As exaggerating as it may sound, you may use a mind map to evaluate different aspects of your life and find ways on how to improve it.

Mind Map is a powerful tool, but remember you can only utilize its capabilities if you take action after organizing and expanding your ideas. Don’t devote all of your time and strength for just gathering your thoughts. Knowing is just half the battle. Identify, plan, then execute.

P.S. There is actually an online game that uses a mind map as part of its mechanic called Argument Champion. It’s a fun game, try it! (~^_^)~

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