How do you record your brainstorms? You do not have to be a creative to brainstorm ideas and use a mind map to organize them. The combination of these two methods for exploring thoughts and gaining insight are valuable in any field.
Here we share tips and tools to help you use these strategies for research, planning, and innovating.
Defining the Terms
Getting down to the bare basics of what each term literally means, Dictionary.com defines them as follows:
A sudden impulse, idea, etc.
A diagram used to represent ideas or information branching from a central key word or idea and used as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
So, when you combine these two, you can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your thought process. Brainstorm your ideas and do not discount any of them right away. As you do this, create a mind map with each thought as a node.
From there, the diagram will allow you to explore all of the concepts on a visual level. Basically, this lets you see the whole picture at once. Then, you can add, rearrange, remove, or edit the pieces as needed.
As the Dictionary.com definition suggests, you can use mind maps as study guides. In addition, you can use brainstorming and mind maps for other school activities. These tools can be especially useful when working on team projects.
For example, a project for psychology class with the central keywords as Behavioral Disorders may begin with a mind map looking like this:
Remember that you can use mind maps for brainstorming projects you work on alone too. This gives you a quick way to capture the ideas the pop into your head for term papers, speeches, and presentations.
Whether working alone or with coworkers, consider adding a mind map to your brainstorming session. When you have a marketing meeting, project kickoff, or new product session, pop those ideas onto a mind map.
Say you are meeting with the advertising team to create a plan. As everyone provides their ideas, put them right into the mind map for a clear view.
Mind maps can include more than just ideas and thoughts. For project managers, as an example, you can make the project name the center node and add deliverables and tasks as children to create a terrific overall picture. You could even prepare a complete Work Breakdown Structure.
For the Creative
For authors and writers, the use of these two methods can be very helpful. For instance, as an author you may have many ideas for chapters, characters, locations, conversations, and conflicts for your book. You can toss these ideas onto a mind map for maximum insight and easy editing.
If you are a writer and compile article ideas, try a mind map. When those thoughts about a specific article emerge, you can organize them in the order you want with a mind map.
Helpful Online Tools
When you are ready to create a mind map, you should have the right tools. Luckily, you can choose from several online mind mapping applications. The key to picking a tool is simplicity. You should be able to add and review your ideas quickly and easily so that you can concentrate on the brainstorming portion. Here are just a few great online options to get you started.
MindMup 2 is a web-based tool with wonderful features. You can add nodes easily, change their colors, include notes, and attach files. When your mind map is complete, you can save it or publish it. The application also works with Google Drive for instant access to view or share your maps.
You can jump right in and begin using MindMup 2 for free. This allows you to create public maps up to 100 KB in size and save them up to six months. You do not have to register or sign in with this option. You can also check out the Personal Gold paid plan which lets you create private maps up to 100 MB in size and save them for longer.
Another nice, free, online tool is WiseMapping. With the same ease-of-use and intuitive interface as MindMup 2, WiseMapping also provides a nifty set of icons and shapes for the nodes. You can add links, include notes, export maps, and embed them on web pages.
WiseMapping offers a handy mind map of its own to get you going. You can edit it and get used to the tools available before starting your first mind map. The online application is available for free and is open source, making it useful for schools and businesses.
One more web-based option to check out is Coggle. This is another full-featured mind map tool with extras that make collaborating on projects simple. You can add comments to nodes and chat with coworkers right from the application. You can also view a history of the diagram changes and receive email notifications when edits are made.
Coggle offers a free plan with real-time collaboration and unlimited public diagrams. You can also review two paid plan options that provide shared folders of diagrams, chat history, and branding options.
Applications You Own
The online tools mentioned give you fast and simple ways to build your mind maps. However, if you find yourself without internet access, keep in mind that software you already own can often be used too.
Microsoft applications such as Visio are built specifically for diagrams. But, you can also use Word or PowerPoint to create mind maps. The same goes for Mac users who have Pages and Keynote. While these tools are not ideal and can take more time, they can still help you when you are in a bind.
Do You Use Mind Maps When Brainstorming?
You do not have to be a visual person to appreciate the value in using these two methods together.
Have you tried the combination of brainstorming and mind mapping yet? Do you have suggestions or tools that you would like to recommend? Let us know in the comments!