Thought Leadership

Mind mapping

By Colin Walls

Intelligence is a funny thing. We all have a vague idea what it is, but I do not really think there is a sensible way to measure it meaningfully. I have quite a high IQ, but I really feel that this is just a reliable measure of ability to do IQ tests, nothing more. I recall, many years ago, doing some “computer aptitude” tests, which were just variants on this theme and were supposed to indicate whether one had a predisposition to being a programmer. I have met a lot of very intelligent people who would never be any good at programming.

I looked up the word in a dictionary and found: “The ability to comprehend; to understand and profit from experience”. A little bland, but OK I guess. A concept that appeals to me is the idea that intelligence is the ability to find the connections between concepts and ideas. The more concepts you can find links for and the more disparate those concepts are, the higher your intelligence

Given that thought, any technique that helps you relate and organize ideas, thoughts, concepts and facts must be worth looking at. This brings me to mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a technique developed by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. A mind map is a graphical representation of ideas. Children in UK schools are taught to use “spider diagrams”, which are much the same thing. You start with a central idea and add branches to other connected ideas, which in turn branch to others and so on. A mind map can be very simple, or incredibly complex – it just depends upon what you are mapping.

rainbow colors map
rainbow colors map

Some people much prefer to mind map using a pencil and paper. I prefer to use a computer so that I can very quickly change and reorganize the map without lots of erasing and mess; it also allows me to link to other resources on my PC and share my map easily. I do wonder whether the two techniques access different parts of the brain, but I have never put this to the test.

I use mind mapping for any kind of idea organizing and tracking. If I am planning an article, presentation or seminar, a mind map is always my starting point. I just throw in my ideas and the gradually reorganize until I have a structure to work with. I make a new map each week to organize my time. I find it very effective to have a map of the week to get a picture of how my time will be spent. I observe that making that map also allows me to assess priorities.

I would be very interested to hear about your experiences of mind mapping. Does it work for you? What do you use it for? Paper or computer? Please leave a comment or drop me an email. Also, if you want my take on computer mind mapping software, please email me.


0 thoughts about “Mind mapping
  • Interesting to know that you spend a little time in organising your time and task before commencing it. I read mind map first time in this column. I would like to know abt it and definitely abt software u use for mind mapping….
    Regards, Zeeshan

  • Zeeshan:
    I hope that everybody spends at least some time organizing before starting anything! 🙂
    I will email you with information about the software that I use.

  • Yeah, you are right. Buh spending this time fruitfully would definitley be an art which needs hard maneuvers. Moreover, Thanks for your concern. I will wait for the details of this software.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at