One man's view of mindmapping styles

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Mind mapping has gone through stages, forked left and right and is still changing. Some people refer to mind maps when they mean concept maps, bubble diagrams and other graphical ways of expressing ideas and information. The way I see it, there are "Buzan's Mind Maps" which follow the ten rules and then, well, there are all the other types. So let's start with the "real" rule-based mind maps.

Rule number 8, "Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping" subverts all the others, of course. This is the only one I follow religiously! But if you follow just the other 9 and copy Buzan's own style, I think that more than anything you have a great motivator for kids in learning. Here's one example of the type:


I've seen skepticism expressed about whether there is any peer-reviewed research published that shows that mind maps really help with learning, and I certainly haven't seen any such research myself. But I think the motivation thing alone is enough. For kids that take to it, that is. Some people, kids and adults, don't think that way, I know, and they don't need me to tell them that's fine. They have to find other ways and I'm sure people with razor-sharp memories can't be bothered with drawing pretty colored pictures. So, the kids who learned mind mapping or its cousins at school or college leave the education system and go to work. If they liked mind mapping and their job involves thinking, generating ideas, managing projects, organizing information, or planning, they're not going to drop it. I know from having consulted in companies around the world that they often go on using some variant of mind mapping. And I know the rules (except numbers 7 and 8) pretty much go out the window.

Sometimes I find the "one word or image per line" rule is really useful - like when I'm wrestling with new concepts or thinking something through that I've never properly analyzed before. Mostly it's an 'out the window' rule. Then what you have is really a spider diagram or spidergram. Here's an example of this type:


In the Buzan rules, there is no provision for boxes or bubbles (unless you feel rule 8 gives that freedom). Yet some mappers like to have nodes: Something concrete or tangible that helps when you're organizing some information that you have at your fingertips but not on paper yet, and when you're drawing relationships. This can lead to what many people like to call a bubble diagram. Time for an example again:


Once you are there, it doesn't take long before you're joining boxes together in a non-radiant way and rules 1, 5 and parts of 10 are abandoned.

Now we're just a short step away from Concept maps. And the last example here:


A concept map introduces the added information of how two nodes are linked. For example "Paris" is the capital of "France". They may or may not help with learning as much as mind maps - I've seen no studies of this, and I'd like to know. But they do allow knowledge, in contrast with just information, to be represented more easily. There are many software products that help you make maps of all varieties and all but the most trivial support making links between the maps and the world outside the map. They let you link nodes to files, so that once you've made a mind map, you can start gathering information on it.

Information management with Mind maps

This means that many users of mind maps or concept maps use them for information management, with greater or lesser degrees of success. The biggest bar to success in this area is the number of cases where we have several documents, images, files or web pages which are all about one subject or topic or node. This can happen if you have several versions of a document (kept for historical or backup reasons, for example), or scanned images of a 3-page magazine article you want to keep for reference, or multiple .mht files holding web pages 1 to 6 of an article from the web.

We'd like to have them occupy just one place on the mind map, but most mindmapping or concept mapping software insists on having every file shown as a separate node: Six nodes in the case of a six-page article from the web.

An answer to this is discussed elsewhere on this site.

Q and A on information mapping - more about this great way of getting organized.

Mindmaps Directory - thumbnails and links to pages of mind maps, categorized by type and subject.

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