My wife and I went for a walk the other night. On this particular walk, I could smell the fall in the air. The dampness in the air isn’t as warm. There’s an earthiness to it, the leaves are wanting to change. Summer is coming to an end.
One of the benefits of working for an art school, or in any college or university setting are the educational perks. Things like lectures, classes, discussion groups, panels, or workshops. I’m up for anything new, interesting or insightful.
I had the opportunity to attending a class that a colleague of mine was teaching on mind-mapping. I was mostly interested in seeing her teaching style and to gain a better understanding of how classes work on campus. I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did.
I love that.
My mind-mapping experience was from 7th grade and it was used for organizing thoughts and ideas into a paper. Like an outline only more visual. I didn’t get it. I got that people might prefer using a mind map over an outline but I didn’t understand the specific benefits of mind-mapping as a technique over outlining.
A few years ago I watch a webinar where the guy used mind-mapping software to go through the concepts he was talking about during the webinar. The software allows you to open and close different section of the mind map so that the concepts were unrolled in an organized way. Instead of just seeing a whole bunch of random ideas at once.
The software is called X-Mind. It impressed me enough that I downloaded it. It didn’t hurt that it was free. I’ve been using it to organize different projects ever since.
But that’s all I was doing, organizing thoughts on project I already had. I wasn’t fully utilizing mind-mapping.
The photo above is of my colleagues mind map from her thesis year at art school. I just assumed that she used it the same way that I use X-Mind until she said that while prepping to teach she pulled out this mind map and added to it.
For her, that particular mind map was a living document.
There’s an exercise that I like to do with students to help them recognize the natural connections our brains are capable of. It’s called Point at Stuff and Name It. The title is pretty self explanatory. There are three different phases.
Students walk around for a minute pointing at different things around the room. When they point at something they say what it is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Door”, (pointing at window) “Window”, (pointing at floor) “Floor”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they say what they previously pointed at.
Example: (pointing a door) “….” (pointing at window) “Door” (pointing at floor) “Window”, etc.
Students walk around for a minute point at different things around the room. This time when they point at things they call it anything except what it actually is.
Example: (pointing a door) “Chicken” (pointing at window) “Marsupial” (pointing at floor) “Abraham Lincoln”, etc.
What happens on the third phase after the previous two warm ups, is that our brains will categorize. When we point at things we’ll go through every farm animal we know and then switch to football teams. It’s not something we try to do we just do it.
For me the untapped potential of mind mapping is organizing free association brain storming. I love free association because it opens the gate to our subconscious, which allows us to connect things we might hesitate to bring up. But, because everything is spur of the moment, it just happens.
When creating a mind map of whatever topic I’m thinking about I can connect the initial ideas with the roots that triggered my thoughts. When I go back and review it provides a clearer picture of my initial process. I can then edit it and make more logical sense of it so that I can clearly communicate my ideas to others.
This is a mind map that I made for an upcoming post about building a relationship with my son.
Before starting it I just had ideas without a clear way of how they were connected. Later I will edit this into the actual blog post, expanding the ideas and writing through their connection.
It’s another tool that I can use to accomplish my goals. Hopefully the more I use them the more proficient I will be and the more “work” they will accomplish.
How have you used/do you use mind mapping?