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The Many Uses of Mind Mapping in Project Management
Tony Buzan popularized mind mapping with students in mind. However, the impact on project management is equally significant. The process allows for the efficient removal (or "dumping") of ideas from your head by sketching them in a logical format on paper. The resulting depiction has many benefits. It shows the relative importance of information. The format makes is easy to remember complex and/or large amounts of information. It inspires new and non-linear ways of looking at issues. As a result, creative problem solving is supported by allowing the user to see connections about how things fit together in different ways. In short, it is a valuable tool for organizing and analyzing information.
If you have only considered using mind mapping for developing complex project plans using sophisticated software, then you are missing an opportunity to organize and connect information in other areas of project management. Some of the uses you may not have considered:
- Creating a presentation. Use it to make sure all points are covered in an impactful way. You won't be as likely to read a script since it will be easier to remember the presentation developed in this format.
- Problem solving. As you encounter a stumbling block during project implementation, use this tool to think through the resolution.
- Brainstorming. Individuals or group sessions will benefit by grouping ideas on a mind map.
- Note taking. A mind map is an effective way to take important project notes and to present the data to participants.
- Gathering research. Information from various sources is easily grouped for analysis using this technique.
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Best Practices in Mind Mapping
Amazing software programs for mind mapping, including some that are free, abound. They are particularly useful for large projects and when information is repeatedly edited for presentation purposes. For less-formal purposes, or, if you don't always get your best ideas when you are in front of the computer, sketch out a map on paper. The main tenants of mind mapping are as follows:
- There is a central idea or focus of every mind map. The idea is written in the center of a circle (or other closed shape) in the middle of a piece of paper.
- Main ideas radiate from the center using thick lines or "branches" that may be connected to another closed shape. The main idea is written on the line or in the closed shape.
- Information related to the main ideas is represented by thinner lines or "twigs" that may be connected to a closed shape. This information is captured on the line or in the closed shape.
Click on the image at the right to see an example of a completed mind map.
The most effective drawings engage multiple senses. Use these best practices to create maximum impact:
- Use concise and very meaningful words for ideas and concepts.
- Adjust the length of the line according to relative importance. If an idea is very important, make the line short.
- Adjust the thickness of the lines. Use thick lines to connect main ideas and thinner lines for supporting information.
- Use color for lines and shapes to organize similar pieces of information.
- Use concise and meaningful statements for main ideas and related information.
- Use art to increase impact. A picture may be more memorable than a statement in some cases.
- Try to use one piece of paper for each central idea. This will enable the viewer to take in all the relationships at one time.
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Mind Map Templates to Use Anywhere
If you would you like to keep a paper mind map template tucked away to pull out when the creative process occurs, then check out this site:
My Mind Map http://www.mymindmap.net/index.html offers basic one page options.
Another on-the-go method to document your thoughts is using one of the applications available for smart phones. Two programs to check out are SimpleMind Xpress and Idea Sketch.
Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MindMapGuidlines.JPG