effort by utility company Florida Power and Light. This was the first American
company to win the coveted Japanese Deming prize (Hart et al., 1989). Another
active learning method used at our school (all the work reported here was
accomplished when all three authors were affiliated with Loyola College) since
1991, is mandatory development of lessons learned by each student based on
his or her learning from and reflection on class assignments, team projects, and
prior career experiences (Barclay, 1996). This learning-after-doing reflection
exercise, described by Garvin (1995) as a process rarely used by most US
organizations, was introduced to our school in 1991 by a colleague who learned
the technique in the US military. Refer to Sullivan and Harper (1996) when
discussing After Action Reviews and the Center for Army Lessons Learned and
Baird et al. (1997).
One of the most frequently used pedagogical techniques in graduate
business programs involves the use of case teaching. Teachers who are adept at
lecturing are not necessarily effective case leaders (Christiansen and Hansen,
1987; Shapiro, 1985). Successful case teaching requires patience, a willingness
to encourage open student participation, and (perhaps most importantly) an
ability to subtly stimulate productive dialogue over a long period of time (Barnes
et al., 1994; Rangan, 1995). We have found mind mapping to be a powerful tool
for case teaching, especially in EMBA programs, where students are required to
gather, interpret, and communicate large quantities of complex information. It is
an extremely effective technique for sharpening the thinking and learning process
Mind mapping is a creativity- and productivity-enhancing technique that
can improve the learning and efficiency of individuals and organizations. It is a
revolutionary system for capturing ideas and insights horizontally on paper. “It
can be used in nearly every activity where thought, planning, recall or creativity
are involved” (Buzan, 1989). Starting with a central image and key words, colors,
codes, and symbols, mind mapping is rapidly replacing the more traditional
methods of outlining and note taking in workplaces around the world (Margulies,
1991). The proliferation and use of mind mapping software has and will continue
to accentuate this trend. Figure 1. Uses for mind maps is an adaptation of Tony
Buzan’s (1989) mind map of the uses of mind maps. (Buzan invented mind
mapping and the term mind map is a registered trademark of the Buzan
Organization, 1990). Figure 1. Uses for mind maps depicts six main uses of mind
mapping as main branches emanating from the central idea. Detailed associative
ideas are shown radiating from each of these main branches.
Visual note taking has existed for centuries, as evidenced by cave
drawings of primitive man, hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, and sketches of great
thinkers such as Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. According to Margulies
(1991), before we learn a language as children, we visualize pictures in our mind
which are linked to concepts. Unfortunately, creative channels are often blocked
when children are trained to write only words in one color on lined paper.
A mind map allows the user to record a great deal of information on one page,
and to show relationships among various concepts and ideas. Visual
presentation of ideas helps one to think about a subject in a global, holistic sense
and increases mental flexibility. On a mind map structures of the subject can be
seen in a way that is not possible with linear outlines. Think of the last time you
prepared a lecture or wrote a paper. How difficult was it to get started? How
exactly did the process flow? When creating an outline, the writer has to wait until
the first idea appears, Roman numeral one; then wait until another thought
comes that follows in exact order and is a subset of the first one. Obviously our
brains do not work that way; we have numerous thoughts, images, mental
pictures, and impressions that occur simultaneously. Linear note-taking systems
such as outlining cannot keep pace with the complexity of our thoughts but mind
The purpose of this paper is to describe the technique of mind mapping
and to highlight specific applications in a variety of contexts based on our work in
executive education and management development consulting. We provide
specific examples of mind maps that our students have produced, and describe
positive outcomes due to this approach. Pilot data regarding student experiences
with mind mapping are briefly discussed and our paper concludes with why we
believe this technique works.
What is mind mapping?
Mind mapping was developed by Buzan in 1970 (Buzan and Buzan, 1996)
after reviewing research on the psychology of learning and remembering.
According to Buzan and Buzan (1996):
The mind map is an expression of radiant thinking and is therefore a
function of the human mind. It is a powerful graphic technique which
provides a universal key to unlocking the potential of the brain. The mind
map can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and
clearer thinking will enhance human performance. The mind map has four
1. The subject of attention is crystallized in a central image.
2. The main themes of the subject radiate from the central image as branches.
3. Branches comprise a key image or key word printed on an associated line. Topics
of lesser importance are also represented as branches attached to higher level
4. The branches form a connected nodal structure.
Mind mapping represents a powerful aid for stimulating whole brain thinking
(Buzan, 1989). It engages the often inactive right hemisphere of the brain by
emphasizing spatial and visual language; it focuses on spurring creative as well
as logical thought patterns. Whole brain thinking has become more desirable in
today’s business environment as firms must innovate to meet intense competitive
pressures. Survival and growth in the marketplace demand a continuous stream
of new and different products and improved processes for creating and delivering
value. Integrative and creative thinking requires the process of left- and right-
brain thinking to produce synergistic outcomes.
Left- and right-brain thinking
The upper brain is divided into two equal parts, the left and right
hemispheres. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and the left
hemisphere controls the right. The two sides are connected by the Corpus
Callosum, a huge complex of fibres that allows both sides to be in constant
communication with each other. Discovery of the dual nature of the human brain
is usually attributed to the physiological psychologist Robert W. Sperry (1968).
Sperry’s pioneering split-brain research and his work on neurospecificity was
rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981 and the National Medal of
Science in 1990, among other awards. Concurrent with Sperry’s work was that of
Ornstein (1977) who garnered worldwide fame for his studies of brainwaves and
specialization of brain function. The essence of what Sperry and Ornstein
discovered was that the two sides of a person’s brain, or cortices, deal
dominantly with different types of mental activity. In most people, the left cortex is
concerned with logic, words, reasoning, numbers, linearity, and analysis – the so-
called academic activities. The right cortex is more in the “alpha wave” or resting
state; it deals with rhythm, images and imagination, color, daydreaming, face
recognition, and pattern or map recognition (Buzan, 1989).
Zaidel (1983) continued Sperry’s work at the University of California. He
discovered that each hemisphere contains many more of the “other side’s”
abilities than was previously thought, and that each hemisphere is capable of a
much wider and more subtle range of mental activities (Buzan, 1989). Buzan
(1989) provides evidence suggesting that Einstein, Picasso, Cezanne, and da
Vinci apparently used both sides of their brain in producing their most famous
contributions. When human beings are effective at thinking creatively, they use
both hemispheres. Failure to strike a balance in the double brain results in less
than optimal creative thought and application. In some cases, an imbalance can
result in dysfunctional thinking and suboptimal outcomes like groupthink (Janis,
In the Western world, thinking shows a decided bias toward the use of
linear thought patterns when processing information, perhaps due to a high
regard for Newtonian perceptions of the universe. Whatever the reason, formal
learning activities in primary, secondary and post-secondary education
traditionally stress linear thinking by emphasizing logic, sequence, and
quantification. Linear thinking and decision making rely heavily on analysis,
ordering of information in a definite pattern, and use of precise taxonomy. De
Bono (1990) distinguishes between the two thought processes when he asserts
that linear thinking is essentially selective in that “… one selects the most
promising approach to a problem, the best way of looking at a situation. With
lateral thinking one generates as many alternative approaches as one can”. For
De Bono, vertical thinking is selective; lateral thinking is generative.
If creativity relies on a Tao that balances the positive aspects of both
lateral and linear thought processes, what mechanism is needed to accomplish
this desired effect? How can an organization encourage thinking that is
generative as well as selective and provocative as well as analytical? How can
an organization stimulate non-sequential thought? Stated another way, how can
organizations internalize in their members a need to question continually all
paradigms related to existing products and processes. Mind mapping provides
the answer; it is a tool that requires the use and interworking of both upper brain
hemispheres (Buzan, 1989).
How students learn how to develop mind maps
One way we introduce students to mind mapping is by presenting an
introductory lecture that includes the history of the approach (Buzan, 1970), the
right brain-left brain distinction (linear versus generative or lateral thinking), and
some uses for mind mapping. This takes about one hour, then students are
involved in one or two hands – on exercises facilitated by the professor. To
provide a sense of realism and practical utility for mind mapping, students next
work on a specific pre-assigned case study. Randomly configured teams are
chosen and asked to focus on a particular aspect of the case, i.e. they are
assigned one specific case question. Student teams are encouraged to discuss
the question as a group for about 20 minutes, then each student is asked to
generate his or her own mind map based on the specific assigned team case
question. As students work on the assignment, the professor roams the
classroom in order to identify which student from each team produced the best
and most effective mind map for class presentation. One person from each team
is carefully chosen to present their mind map to the class. We are careful here to
ensure that students are exposed to a variety of different types of mind maps,
some containing hand-drawn icons and pictures and others being simply words
An alternative to this approach, when time is of the essence, is to send each
student enrolled in the course a packet of information a few days before class
begins containing: 1) a brief description of mind mapping; 2) a more descriptive
discussion (six pages) of mind mapping information found on the Internet using
the alta vista search engine for the key words “Mind+Map”. This information
includes a set of mind mapping “laws” developed by Buzan (1989) which include:
• Start with a colored image in the center.
• Use images throughout your mind map.
• Words should be printed.
• All printed words should be on lines, and each line should be connected to other
• Words should be in “units”, i.e. one word per line.
• Use colors throughout the mind map.
• The mind should be left as free as possible to make associations and connections.
In addition, a set of five or six excellent mind maps from previous classes, as
well as a short course-relevant article is included in the packet sent to students to
allow them to practice mind mapping.
To also get students thinking in terms of mind mapping, the first class and
much of the future class board work developed by the professor is in the form of
a mind map. For example, in the first class the agenda is mind mapped and
superimposed on the overall course logic and sequencing of material that is
found in the syllabus. This role modeling is an effective impetus to the mind
mapping process based on informal student feedback after the first few classes
in different courses.
Applications of mind mapping
Because of its robust ability to evoke generative or non-linear thinking, the
mind map has been used in many ways. Some of the more popular uses include
writing, meeting management, project management, brainstorming, activity lists,
visual aids, memory improvement, note taking, teaching, studying, personal
growth, and presentations. One of the first ways that we used mind mapping with
our students was to capture the essence or key points of an assigned reading in
the form of descriptive mind maps.
Descriptive mind maps
Our experience in EMBA programs provides a snapshot of the use of mind
maps. In a typical executive MBA course, a number of articles or readings are
assigned each week centering around a particular topic. In most cases, all of the
articles are related logically to a business case to be discussed. For example in
our Leadership and Organizational Behavior course when performance appraisal
and managing networks of relationships are discussed, we assign these articles:
“Managing your boss” (Gabarro and Kotter, 1993), “Deming’s demons” (Bower,
1991), and “A solution to the performance appraisal feedback enigma” (Meyer,
1991). Students are expected to read all of the material for each class and
remember the essence and key concepts of each article. For the fall semester of
1997 we asked a specific student or team of students to mind map particular
articles for each class. Figure 2. Mind map of Deming’s demons (1991) article
depicts a team’s mind map of the “Deming’s demons” article. Dr Deming’s central
ideas of learning from the Japanese, that cooperation not competition is the basis
for optimizing a system, that theory is the foundation of knowledge, and that
intrinsic motivation (pride and joy in the work) are primary determinants of worker
behavior, are captured within the wavy diagonal line. Ideas to the left of the wavy
diagonal enclosure suggest poor practices and outcomes related to practicing
management by objectives and management without theory. Process and
outcomes in harmony with Deming’s thinking are displayed to the right of the
One student from each team was asked to brief the class on the mind map
for a particular article. An unanticipated benefit of a well-developed mind map
was that students were able to give concise, clear descriptions of the key points
of an article without notes or apparent nervousness. It is important to note the
use of icons and symbols in mind maps. One explanation of why students are
able to deliver confident presentations without notes goes back to the inherent
nature of mind mapping. It is a non-linear technique which allows the user to
capture idiosyncratic information of importance. Users are more likely to
remember because they select the information to go in the mind map, organize
and display it in non-linear format for recall, and internalize it because it is their
unique representation of the information. According to Buzan and Buzan (1996),
the more one learns and gathers new data in an integrated, radiating, organized
manner, the easier it is to learn more.
Along these lines, Schneider and Bowen (1995) note that people naturally
form a “cognitive schema” (a type of mind map) in their minds that allows them to
make efficient sense of how different things in the world work. These schema
organize how we experience the world and determine how we integrate
information from our surroundings. New information is integrated into existing
schema, even when the information is different from what we have experienced
in the past. For example, in a service situation, if service has been great in the
past, a not-so-great experience may not readily change our overall impression.
The reverse is also true; if service has traditionally been poor and we have a
single good experience, our overall impression is that it remains poor. As a rule,
it takes a significant amount of different information to change a customer’s
prevailing impression of a business’ service quality.
Integrative mind map applications
As the fall semester progressed, we moved past descriptive mind maps to
those that captured key insights and concepts from a number of articles. The
advantage of this approach is that it enabled higher-order thinking by forcing
students to go beyond concrete thinking to a more analytical and conceptual
approach. With this method, students were asked to integrate three different
readings into a case analysis and to capture the essence of a week’s worth of
work on a one-page mind map. For this particular situation, the topic was
leadership; the readings were “Four star management” (Finegan, 1987), Ch. 6 in
The Essence of Leadership (Locke and Associates, 1991), and the Kouzes and
Posner Leadership Model (Kouzes and Posner, 1987). The case to which all of
the readings were logically related was Mahatma Gandhi and the video Gandhi
(Briley, 1983). Figure 3. Team developed integrated mind map – Mahatma
Gandhi case displays one team’s integrated mind map. The main branches of the
mind map include the four key components of Locke’s leadership model: motives
and traits; knowledge, skills, and abilities; developing a vision; and implementing
the vision. The associative ideas and images radiating from the branches
integrate events in the Gandhi case and video with ideas from Kouzes and
Posner and “Four star management”.
Students were required to see logical connections and common themes
and concepts between the readings and the case and video. Although this mind
map took the team many hours to produce, it effectively captured the majority of
key learning for the week. The team that produced the mind map commented
that producing a written case analysis (which the team was required to do) after
the integrative mind map was completed was fairly simple. This was the first
integrative mind map that a team developed and it was so well done that
everyone in class requested a copy.
Mind mapping with the case analysis process
We use business case studies on a regular basis and have found mind
mapping to be a powerful analytical tool. To maximize the effectiveness of case
analysis classes, these classes must be carefully planned and orchestrated
(Rangan, 1995). For each class during the semester, we assign three or four
articles to augment the case to be analyzed. The readings are carefully chosen
to provide both a context as well as important concepts to help students
understand the case. For each class, a specific student is assigned on the first
day of the semester a specific article or reading to mind map, as part of his or her
grade. A typical class begins as follows: we introduce the topic, establish the
context, and deliver a brief lecturette. To review the week’s assignment, each
student who has been assigned a mind map for that particular day brings a
transparency to class as well as copies for everyone in class. The students
explain their mind maps, answer any questions and are asked to conclude their
presentations with the three most important things they will take to their job as a
result of mind mapping the readings. After the students have finished their
presentations and answered questions from the class (30-45 minutes), we
proceed with the case analysis phase of the class. For each case assigned
during the semester, students receive a set of three to seven case discussion
questions (part of their syllabus on the first day of class). The explicit purpose of
case discussion questions is to cue and sensitize students to important issues in
the case, and help them prepare for the case discussion.
We conduct the case analysis in one of two ways; the first approach involves
writing the overall theme of the case on the board in the center box of a to-be-
developed mind map. The professor then generates a number of key issues that
go on the “branches” around the central theme. For example, we use the Tiberg
case as an opening case in our leading change course. In the center box of the
mind map, we write “Tiberg – key change issues”. (The Tiberg case concerns a
fumbled attempt by the newly hired VP of purchasing, Mr Porte, to impose a
significant top-down change within a decentralized organization.) Typical
concepts laid out on “branches” emanating from the central box are:
• culture of the organization;
• power base for Mr Porte;
• problem definition;
• implementation process;
• political issues;
• recovery strategy; and
• role of strategists, implementors, and recipients.
We identify as many branch issues as there are executive MBA (EMBA)
teams (most EMBA programs use a team format from the first day of classes).
Each team member is assigned one of the specific branch concepts to work on
individually for ten minutes. The professor then facilitates the development of one
mind map for the entire class as each individual’s input is solicited in a focused
brainstorming fashion. After about 45 minutes of questions, discussion, and
evaluation, the board is filled with key ideas that capture the essence of the
learning outcomes of the case. This approach involves both linear and non-linear
thinking since structure (left-brain thinking) is provided to students via the branch
concepts of the mind map, developed by the professor. This mind map is later
refined, as key concepts are consolidated and integrated.
A second approach frequently involves facilitation of the case discussion by a
pre-assigned team. The facilitating team presents their agenda on an overhead
and briefly reviews the key facts in the case using a timeline (if appropriate). The
team then randomly divide the class into five teams. Under this scenario, the
number of teams created corresponds to the number of case discussion
questions previously provided all students in preparation for the day’s class.
Each extemporaneously created team is asked to mind map one of the case
discussion questions. (One advantage of random assignment of students to
teams for the exercise is that students work together with class members other
than those on their formal teams with whom they have been associated for the
past two years.) Each extemporaneously created team works on the assigned
question as a group for 15 to 20 minutes, and is expected to generate amind
map on flip chart paper or transparency for presentation to the class. A
representative from each team presents their team’s mind map to the class and
fields any questions. Using this approach to mind mapping for case analysis
produces five mind maps corresponding to the number of teams assigned
discussion questions to work on. With this approach, the discussion questions
provide the structure or guiding logic for the exercise.
The third use for mind maps in case analysis occurs at the end of class. Our
goal in this instance is to capture final student meaningful insights from students,
as well as provide a sense of closure to the class’ work for that day. We write
“Today’s lessons learned” in the center of the mind map and ask students to
think about what they have learned from preparing for class individually, thinking
about the material, and class discussion. Students are allotted ten minutes to
reflect individually and to generate ideas. This process can be conducted in
teams after initial individual reflection, or left as an individual exercise. If time
permits, one advantage of the team approach is that it allows team members to
reflect on and share their lessons learned, and test them for clarity before
presenting to the class as a whole. When time does not allow for this approach,
the mind map is developed by calling on class members to share the important
“take aways” that they will remember. Class ends with distribution and discussion
of a mind map prepared by the professor that contains key lessons and learning
outcomes developed from teaching the case over the years to a variety of clients
and students. This closing handout provides a bounded structure for creative
ideas generated by the class as a whole in developing the last mind map. The
way in which we use mind mapping in our case analysis classes involves a
blending of structure and creativity (left- and right-brain thinking). The structure is
provided by the professor who specifies core concepts to work on (in the Tiberg
case), uses previously assigned discussion questions in the second example,
and, in the final example, asks students to integrate lessons learned developed
by the class in the final mind map with those provided in the structured handout.
The integration of all of these activities occurs with a required assignment for
students to develop a two-page personalized set of lessons learned for each
class during the semester.
Mind maps and group process analysis
A key component of our EMBA program first-year skills-building
component is building effective teams (Rushmer, 1997). Students are required to
work in teams at their first meeting, in a three-day, in-residence session that
meets before the formal academic part of the program begins. During the
residence, students learn and experience team development as they work
together on challenging problems in various performance contexts (Katzenbach
and the RCL team, 1995). Students are taught to be very cognizant of their
team’s group process (i.e. how they function as a group, whether or not they
adhere to the mutually agreed-upon norms on team functions that members have
developed as a team (“code of conduct”). Towards the end of the semester, in
the leadership and organizational behavior course, each team performs an
analysis of their group’s functioning, using a mind map format. The class
assignment focuses on team strengths, weaknesses, and suggests opportunities
Existing teams use team-building concepts to identify specific areas for
improvement. For existing teams, team building involves three steps. The team
first conducts a diagnosis of how it is functioning. A useful tool is the team
process checklist used extensively with our clients for team process diagnosis. At
this point, a meaningful mind map should be generated by an individual team
member or by the team. The mind map is used as a primary tool to facilitate the
next step, discussing group process data. At this point the team is tasked with
the third step, formulating an acceptable action plan to improve the team
process. A typical action plan focuses on redefining team roles and
responsibilities, changing meeting patterns and decision making, and more
clearly defining goals and objectives (Beer and Holland, 1989). A mind map is
used to facilitate this action planning phase. The team-building process
described for existing teams is a continuous improvement activity that requires
Positive outcomes from the mind mapping process
A number of our executive students have made clear and forceful
presentations using only a transparency of their mind map and with no fumbling
with note cards. After carefully developing their mind maps, these same
executives are able to handle challenging and probing questions in a confident
and succinct fashion, without hesitation. We believe that self-confidence and
mastery of the presented material can be attributed to information which is better
remembered since it has been captured and stored spatially, rather than linearly.
In our management development training programs and consulting activities with
various firms, we ask our students to reflect carefully on significant blocks of new
learning material that we have covered and generate a set of lessons learned.
This standard assignment stems from our strong belief that self-reflection is
extremely critical for learning, and that writing personal lessons learned is the
best way for students to own and remember important material (Daudelin, 1996;
Barclay, 1996). Capturing learning based on one’s work experiences is one of
the building blocks for establishing a learning organization. We typically ask our
clients to reflect on new learning concepts, ideas, frameworks, and materials in a
way that is personally meaningful to their lives. Specifically we ask them three
1. “What did you learn?”
2. “Why was it important?”
3. “How can you apply it?”
For the authors, use of mind maps has become almost second nature. We
use mind maps to develop the agenda and plans for each class, which allow for
considerable flexibility and last-minute improvements. We typically begin writing
papers by developing a detailed mind map which serves as the main driver to the
process of creative thinking. In developing a management development program
for first-level supervisors, one of the authors first mind mapped the overall
themes to be developed in the three-day training session. More detailed mind
maps were developed with colleagues that depicted a detailed hour-by-hour
agenda of the materials and concepts to be presented as well as learning
outcomes desired. The unanticipated advantage was that the mind maps could
be presented to our clients and to explain where we were going with the training
and why and how it fitted their needs. In addition, changes could be quickly made
in pencil or electronically to the mind maps and connections could be made
between non-obvious topics as the discussion progressed.
Some time ago, one of us noticed that he was mentally mind mapping the
homily delivered by our parish priest during the Christmas service. He quickly
arrived at the conclusion that it lacked a basic underlying logic related to the key
What our students tell us about the mind mapping process
Preliminary data collected from pilot questionnaires with over 70 executive
students generally indicate that they are very pleased with the power and
simplicity of the technique, and its significant advantage over linear note taking
for recall and creative thinking. Those who are most enthusiastic about using
mind mapping are like “apostles” of the technique, passionately spreading the
word to their spouses, children, and colleagues at work. All of our sample
respondents agreed that one becomes much better with mind mapping with time
and practice in a variety of different contexts. Respondents also agreed that mind
maps that are used for integrating sets of materials (as seen inFigure 3. Team
developed integrated mind map – Mahatma Gandhi case ) tend to be more highly
valued than mind maps used for purposes of description.
Not everyone is enamored with the technique . Although in our pilot
sample of 70 students there were a number of students with technical degrees,
three from this subsample tend to prefer the top-to-bottom bullet outline approach
to note taking and idea generation. We believe that the difficulty these students
have with mind mapping rests more with our explication of the process than with
the logic and content of the concept itself. Mind mapping would be a very
effective tool for these individuals to practice using since it allows one to break
away into right brain or more creative thinking. Dee Hock, a founder of the Visa
credit card and a member of Fortune magazine’s Business Hall of Fame, argues
The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind,
but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a roompacked with archaic
furniture. You must get the old furniture of what you know, think, and
believe out before anything new can get in. Make an empty space in any
corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it (Waldrop, 1996).
The following unsolicited quotes pertaining to mind mapping were
received from four of our executive students as part of the lessons learned
assignment in the leading organization change class:
The introduction to "mind mapping" was truly an introduction to me. I
guess I consider myself a "visual" person, whereby I can remember where
on the page of a reading a certain sentence or thought appeared. For me,
that’s a first remembrance – better than the content of the message itself.
Consequently, utilizing "mind mapping" to convey to the class (and to
myself) the meaning of some of our readings was a revelation. It seems so
strange when one learns something new such as a technique like “mind
mapping” and the process is so simple to understand and to integrate into
one’s study methods that you find yourself seeing things in “mind
mapping” ways. I even started taking notes using a “mind mapping”
technique. Then I noticed that Dr ________ used “mind mapping” as he
filled the walls with lecture material. Then the culminating realization –
my challenge of change is the use of “mind mapping” to learn things in a
new way with both retention and understanding not always existent in the
The first tool I was exposed to in this class was mind mapping. I must
admit, at first glance, I could not understand how it could be useful or
exactly why I should try to apply this tool. As I reflect, I am disappointed
that this was my first impression. I would like to think that one thing I got
out of this program is open-mindedness and a more innovative approach to
business, organizations, and problem solving. None the less, I was
skeptical. However, after seeing the mind maps that have been presented
so far, I am really pleased with this tool. It is a great way to get all of our
ideas on the table, make some sense and order of them and see the "big
picture". When reading books or business documents, often times so much
information is presented that it is difficult to organize and truly understand
the total meaning and concept. This tool goes a long way to solve that
problem. Additionally, a big problem my organization has when having
meetings is that the groups are usually very large and a few players
dominate. If this tool is used, everyone’s ideas are acknowledged and
considered. One would think a tool would not be necessary, but my
experience has been that without some discipline, there are people who do
not “get their say”. Unfortunately for the organization, these could be the
best learnings and ideas. Finally, for me personally, I plan to use this tool
to prepare for presentations. Currently, I feel as if sometimes my delivery
is not as smooth as it could be because my thoughts are not organized
The last thing I wanted to mention was that I was excited to learn about
mind mapping. I had not heard of this, and I find it to be a fascinating
exercise. I have never been fond of public speaking but I think that this
type of mapping will make speaking in public and even chairing meetings
more productive and less threatening.
Mind maps are a very effective means of note taking. They are highly
personalized (when done properly) and can be used very effectively for
presentations. I was fortunate to have the task of preparing a mind map for
______________. I was able to talk at length about an article I had read
only twice and at times during the presentation I added to the article. I also
tested the usefulness of mind maps by not looking at it for three days
before the presentation. The result: I was happy with my presentation and
now I have a useful tool to add to my repertoire. In addition, one of my
many weaknesses before starting this program was fear of public
speaking. I have overcome this challenge and the mind map will only
increase my confidence.
From other student comments and our own observations, it helps to be
somewhat artistic when developing mind maps because the use of icons or
symbols can be very powerful. Fortunately, mind mapping software exists which
greatly facilitates the development of mind maps, including such packages as
Visio and Mind Man and Visi Map. Competently developed mind maps can also
be created with Power Point. These packages significantly enhance the use of
mind mapping for either public explanation or instructional purposes.
Mind mapping and metaphorical thinking
Another subtle but very useful outcome of mind mapping is that it
introduces students to the efficacy of using metaphors in their thinking
processes. By adding a visual and spatial dimension to generating and selecting
information, mind maps show how metaphors promote ease of understanding
when one element of experience is described in terms of another. Using mind
maps leads to the realization that metaphors are a very useful means for
interpreting, understanding, and communicating complex phenomena. (Refer to
the Hartwick College teaching case Jesus and the Gospels.) Through
development and use of mind maps, students are better able to conceptualize
how one element of a business situation can be understood in terms of another
through benchmarking; grasp the advantage to be gained by quickly achieving a
comprehensive view of business situations; understand how illustrative language
gives important identity to business situations; and realize that figurative thinking
provides new ways to gain useful insights. (For an alternative view, Carr (1997)
cautions about the potential perils of metaphor-based mindframing.)
A powerful example of mind mapping lessons learned was experienced
recently with a group of 40 executives. Following a tour of the Gettysburg
battlefield on which the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War was fought,
various executives were asked to reflect on what lessons they had learned from
the tour that could be utilized in their businesses. Without exception everyone
reported to the larger group in a mind mapping format.
Summary and conclusions
Mind mapping brings a renewed sense of enthusiasm to the classroom
because it tends to increase one’s sense of competence in mastering the
assigned materials. In effect, mind mapping serves the purpose of enhancing
one’s intrinsic motivation (i.e. those aspects of work that we do joyfully just for the
sake of doing). Deming (1994) discusses this phenomenon when he says that
people are motivated to produce high quality work when they take “pride and joy
in the work”. Regardless of the reading load or complexity of the articles, mind
mapping allows a user to grasp and depict the essence of each article on a
single page. By analyzing a series of mind maps one is able to refine and
integrate work across readings and articles into one coherent set of ideas, which
are easily manageable and understood. The restriction of using just one page to
capture the essence of an article or book chapter forces one to be efficient and
thoughtful in choosing those concepts and ideas that are most important for
understanding and for remembering.
Perhaps mind mapping is best explained by Buzan and Buzan (1996).
They stress that mind mapping works because it involves radiant thinking which
is the natural and virtually automatic way in which human brains function. They
Your brain’s thinking pattern may thus be seen as a gigantic, branching
association machine (BAM) – a super bio computer with lines of thought
radiating from a virtually infinite number of data nodes. This structure
reflects the neuronal networks that make up the physical architecture of
your brain. … From this gigantic information processing ability and
learning capability derives the concept of radiant thinking of which the
mind map is a manifestation…a mind map, which is the external
expression of radiant thinking always radiates from a central image. Every
word and image becomes in itself a subcentre of association, the whole
proceeding in a potentially infinite chain of branching patterns away from
or towards the common centre. Although the mind map is drawn on a two-
dimensional page it represents a multi-dimensional reality, encompassing
space, time and colour.
Research by Sperry (1968), Ornstein (1977) and Zaidel (1983) … “would
lead you to conclude that a note-taking and thought organization technique
designed to satisfy the needs of the whole brain would have to include not only
words, numbers, order, sequence, and lines, but also colour, images,
dimensions, symbols, visual rhythms; in other words, mind maps” (Buzan, 1989).
The nature of the mind map is concerned with the function of the mind, and can
be used in nearly every activity where thought, recall, planning or creativity is
involved (Buzan, 1989).
Our work is now focused on systematically examining the relationship of
mind mapping to the reflection process required in developing lessons learned
(Garvin, 1995). In addition we are examining an optimal way to combine mind
mapping and storyboarding (Forsha, 1995) to significantly enhance learning,
memory, and creativity. Our future research is designed to extend the use of
mind mapping. To the extent that executive readers are not involved with this
powerful cognitive technique, the following vignette may be provocative. We
recently worked with the top management team from the US subsidiary of a large
UK multinational. They conducted a strategy review utilizing mind mapping. They
subsequently presented this strategy to their UK headquarters group in mind
mapping format. Within that firm, mind mapping is now becoming a global
activity. Be forewarned that mind mapping may become a part of your
competitor’s competitive advantage.
Figure 1. Uses for mind maps
Figure 2. Mind map of Deming’s demons (1991) article
Figure 3. Team developed integrated mind map – Mahatma Gandhi case
Figure 1. Uses for mind maps
Figure 2. Mind map of Deming's demons (1991) article
Figure 3. Team developed integrated mind map - Mahatma Gandhi case
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