Our brains allow us to think in tangents. Too often, we try to force the brain to function linearly, such as when we get too hung up on lists. Instead, a mind map construction makes it possible to put your thoughts on paper in the order in which they appear in your head. Even better, you can mind map in a group.
Start With A Central Topic
Your central topic could be a goal you’re trying to achieve, a problem you’re trying to solve, or a task methodology you’re trying to create or improve. Put this in the center of your page. Don’t do this on the computer. Instead, handwrite your mind map to get your brain thinking in a new way about the problem.
Secondly, Create the First Branch
Your first branch can be the first “fix” to address the central topic. The primary branches should also be listed as sub-topics. For example, if your central topic is the problem of getting your spending under control, the first branch could be, “How do we stop eating take-out?”
Now that you have a targeted branch to address, brainstorm with your household about ways to manage the family schedule a bit more effectively to avoid the rush of takeout foods. List suggestions that will make resorting to take-out food less likely. These can be called solutions.
The Next Sub-Topics Will Be Easy
More branches will appear as ideas begin to flow. Make sure that:
- you’re tracking sub-topics and solutions only
- new topics are listed but tabled for now, and
- that the person writing down ideas also gets to share ideas
For example, while you’re reducing your family’s need for take-out, someone may come up with a new topic for reducing vacation expenses. Yes, this is important, but it doesn’t need to be part of this discussion.
Sub-Topics are Limitless
The Mind Map is a hub and spoke design, so be prepared to add as many spokes as necessary so that all team members are heard and included. Once you have all the sub-topics and the solutions written down, you can create a plan of action to tackle your central topic.
For example, the family working on reducing take-out expense might move from the free-form hub and spoke to the family calendar, a much more linear structure, and start listing who will do what on each day to reduce the need for take-out. Kids as well as parents can participate in this.
Even if you live alone, you can put this tool to use. If there’s a goal on your list that you never seem to get to, create a mind map around the problem. To keep it simple, start with 4 sub-topics you can work on to help you reach your goal. Go ahead and get a little silly; laughter frees up the part of the brain that tends to give up and keep plowing in a linear fashion. Change can be fun with mind mapping!
Benefits of Breaking Up With Your Lists
Lists are inherently hierarchical. Top of the list is generally the first thing you tackle each day. There may be stuff on the bottom of the list that never seems to move up. With a mind map, you can review the sub-topics and solutions for the most effective options and discard the rest. If you want a list of tasks to cross off as you finish them, go ahead and create it. However, big problem solving will be more effective if multiple approaches are considered equally.
At home, brainstorming can be a simple process as conversational free-for-alls are pretty easy to contain. However, in the workplace, not everyone is keen on stepping up to participate in a brainstorming session. You might prefer a virtual brainstorming. If possible, set this up so people can contribute ideas anonymously.
Additionally, it might be a good idea to break away from the concept of brainstorming. Storms tend to start small, grow huge and can be destructive. Instead, ask people to brainsplash. All you want to do in a team meeting is to get ideas on the board. They may work; they may not. A brainsplash is more convivial and may get ideas flowing more easily.