I said in an earlier post this winter that I'd talk about using mind maps to help with generating ideas on a topic to write about, do a podcast on, or create videos for your audience. Mind maps can help you organize your information as well as think creatively. If you haven't tried mind mapping, it's worth a shot the next time you need to figure out what to post on your blog, on Facebook, Twitter or your next webinar or program.
Mind maps have distinctive characteristics that them better and more useful than traditional organizational tools. They are great for visual thinkers and learners (and we all tend to pick up info quicker visually vs. all text), for creative thinking and getting out of your ‘normal’ routines. Lots of people don’t think in a linear way, so the graphic, relational method of a mind map works better for them. Mind maps can be used for organizing information, creating plans, goal setting, or certainly for idea generation for writing and research.
Brainstorming via a mind map encourages free association and a judgment-free zone. All ideas are valid, put them on the map and decide later if they fit or are good for your project. If you come up with a lot of ideas unrelated to your original creative session or theme, start a new, separate mind map and work on it later. Or if your map starts getting complicated and unruly, cut one or more sections of the map out and save them as new maps.
Start from the Center – Mind maps explore a central theme, idea, topic or question – something that’s fodder to build off of – and branch or build out from the center. Put the central idea in the literal center of your map (on paper, whiteboard, an app, XMind, PowerPoint, etc). Put other ideas and thoughts as spokes or sub-circles off the main, and each of those can spring new links, spokes, circles – whatever is related to the idea you’re noodling on.
Emphasis on Relationships – You can see at a glance how elements of the map (or central theme) are related. The links or relationships don’t have to be exact or strong, just what comes to you.
Keep It Simple – single words or concepts are better than complex or bundled items; use as little text as possible; use colors, symbols, pictures, doodles (most of the software tools will let you add images, graphs, other files, color coding). Just don’t go overboard with your color-coding. It still needs to make sense at a glance. If you don’t know where to put an idea, let it ‘float’ until you see its connections.
Ask Questions – use the classic 5-W’s (who, what, where, when, why + how) to stimulate your brainstorming. Or you could map out Pros vs Cons, of a tool, app, product or service. The Question approach is especially good for mapping articles, blog posts, how-to instructions, or research-driven content pieces. You could mind map your next webinar or video as well! For example, think about Who it’s for, Where you will film it, What are you teaching, and Why it’s important for your audience.
Mind Maps Are Fluid – they can easily be changed, edited, added to. Don’t stop, don’t think, just do. Just keep adding, spiking out. If you do get hung up on 1 word or idea, leave it and move to something else. If one branch starts to get a little long or veers off target from the central theme – no problem, snip it and turn it into a new map.
Collaborative Tool – mind maps can be generated as part of a team or group exercise (physically or virtually, in real time or with members contributing as they can). It’s easy for every member to add an idea or relationship and contribute to the whole.
From Darren Rowse of ProBlogger is this good, if somewhat older, post on using mind mapping for writing and blogging. His main points –
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There are many other free and paid mind mapping apps or software offerings to download. The ones above are the most popular. Do some searching, check out the interfaces, look at other options and try a few to see which ones are intuitive for you to use. If you can't or won't use it, it's not a very useful tool!
Producing effective ideas with mind maps – http://creately.com/diagram-type/article/producing-effective-ideas-mind-maps
Using Mind maps for brainstorming – http://www.novamind.com/mind-mapping/brainstorming/
How to brainstorm using mind mapping- http://coachingpositiveperformance.com/how-to-brainstorm-a-project-plan/
16 powerful ways to brainstorm with mind maps- http://upyourimpact.com/brainstorm-with-mind-maps/
Mapping your mind to create ideas- http://www.creativesomething.net/post/26558918419/mapping-your-mind-to-create-ideas
Brainstorming the brainstorm – workflows and ideas- http://brettterpstra.com/2013/08/23/brainstorming-the-brainstorm-workflows-and-ideas/
Brainstorming art ideas using a mind map- http://painting.about.com/od/inspiration/ss/how-to-brainstorm-art-ideas.htm
Mind mapping and brainstorming- http://www.mech.hku.hk/bse/interdisciplinary/mindmap.pdf
Test out some mind mapping tools, starting with pen and paper, and see if it helps you the next time you're feeling a bit stuck. Use one to map out your whole blog, or your posts for the next quarter. Create a mind map for your next course, program, seminar or webinar. Try mapping out your marketing and promotion strategy for the next quarter too. See where this creative, visual technique takes you and your content creation this year! Hopefully I'll share some of my own mind maps for content projects here at The InfoHound.com!
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