Mind Mapping – A Helpful Tool?

2010 January 18
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I am a visual thinker. Ideas come to me as pictures. I love to doodle, sketch, look at photographs and observe people. The roaster project has started to fill my head with ideas and I feel like my head is going to explode. I need a way to organize my thoughts or at least dump them out onto paper or other medium so I can move forward. A friend of mine, Jeff Moriarty, mentioned mind mapping to me a couple of months ago as a way for visual thinkers to organize thoughts and “stuff”.

Now I am convinced that I need something like mind mapping. Below is a mind map (unrelated to coffee) done on paper. It visually organized info and shows relationships is a way that works for me. I think that it would help me see some relationships that are not obvious in text or on a spreadsheet.

What is not clear to me is how to execute a mind map. On the one hand, having a big roll of butcher paper that I carry around and colored markers is very appealing to my old school aesthetic. The actual touching the paper and doing the markings would have lots of sensory benefit. However, it is hard to share with others not present. I can just see myself scanning a portion of it as a PDF and e-mailing it to someone. Cumbersome! There are several mind mapping software applications available either for free or a very nominal cost. These ease of sharing is a huge benefit, as well as being able to edit the thing with using “white-out”. The downside is the learning curve and less sensory connection.

I am planning on testing  FreeMind and MindNode against my roll of butcher paper. I’ll update my progress as I come to some conclusions.

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4 Responses
  1. January 18, 2010

    I’m looking forward to hearing what you discover, and my only concern is that the best tool I’ve used – MindManager – isn’t in this list. It is commercial software, but you can try it for 30 days at MindJet.

    What I love about mind mapping is that it incorporates both sides of the brain, and both sides of the creative process. It mixes logical relationships with creative free-association. The best tools let you easily grow and organize your map. As you get on a roll you don’t want to be fumbling for commands.

    Paper is the best for pure creativity, but there are so many places you can take a good mindmap technologically – from a project plan to a research outline – that a good tool is worth the investment.

  2. Kevin Briggs permalink
    January 25, 2010

    I have not used a mind mapping tool and I am only slightly intrigued with the concept. I would prefer another graphical tool to communicate the path I have chosen as a possible solution.

    The Goldratt Institute (www.goldratt.com) and the Thinking Processes for the Theory of Constraints is a tool to communicate current understanding of “simple decisions” (I was only introduced to the If…Then graphical model). My background is science and engineering and I prefer If…Then…Else scenarios. I am not aware of Thinking Processes being developed for the If…Then…Else scenarios.

    The UML for object-oriented software modeling is a another tool to model interactions and development life-cycles (even of other items than software). One of the strengths of UML is building “use cases” to describe how the items and interactions will be used. Booch and Rumbaugh were major contributors at Rational Rose but I do not recall the name change after IBM bought them.

    • January 25, 2010

      Thanks, Kevin, for the comment on tools to help the creative process. I will check out the Goldratt Institute and see what I think. I have tested two mind mapping software applications for far: Mindnode and FreeMind. They are both quite easy to use and I will continue playing with them. I also intend to do a hand drawn one, shortly. I am an engineer, by training, but more of a design engineer than a mathematical/linear one. Therefore, the more free flowing, visual methods appeal to me.

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