Research is a big part of life. Even if it isn’t a part of your job, you will still have times in life where collecting information on a topic can give you an advantage in making decisions or preparing for your next move.
In my own life, I research new tools, work concepts, topics for blog posts, building a house, organizing finances, even getting a new dog.
But the type of research we’re used to doing, the type we learned in school, isn’t very useful to me. I realized a long time ago, that I think better in images. And what is a better way to organize information in the form of an image than mind mapping?
I’ve been using mind mapping for a long time. It started out with a paper and pen. Paper and pen mind maps were pretty limited. I could get the basic idea of a topic down on paper and get the general overview of the topic I was working on, but if I came across any new information that didn’t already have a space on the page, rearranging or reorganizing was nearly impossible. Also, you can’t incorporate links and videos into a paper mind map. Talk about limiting!
As technology advanced, so did my mind maps. Early mind mapping software was definitely an improvement over paper and pen. I was really excited to give these a try since I had found the medium to be so valuable to me. I’ve tested many mind mapping tools over the years.
Testing all these mind mapping tools brought me two important perspectives.
- I began to form a vision of a new way of mind mapping that would go beyond a basic mind map to combine the best of deep research with mind mapping capabilities.
- I started to form a list of the “must-have” features in a mind mapping software that could meet my exacting needs.
This led me to devise the special method of research I use today: Creative Research. But more about that later.
To understand, and truly appreciate, the potential of how my current method of research works, we need to learn a little bit more about mind maps, and why they work the way they do.
A mind map is a diagram that uses visuals to represent a topic in the center, with all of the related sub-topics coming off of that center topic. Mind maps can be arranged in different ways to use shapes, colors, and images to give a quick visual overview of the topic and related subtopics.
You may have used a mind map in the past. You were probably required to create one during your time in school as a project or assignment. As fun as it may have been to create a visually stimulating mind map to earn a grade, it’s possible you didn’t see any practical use for mind mapping in your everyday life.
There are a few possible reasons why you didn’t adopt mind mapping as a regular way of gathering information, for instance:
- Perhaps you were never taught the ways mind maps can be used and the different variations that exist.
- It was pre-technology and you didn’t like how much time it took to draw out the mind map, only to find you couldn’t easily change it.
- Maybe you’re not a visual learner, so mind mapping doesn’t come naturally to you.
Things have changed a lot since the days of drawing a mind map on a piece of paper. The mind mapping of today is not what it used to be. The type of technology that now exists makes mind mapping a great “new” resource for doing Creative Research.
Where did mind mapping come from?
There are examples of diagrams resembling mind maps tracing back centuries. The term “mind map” was coined in 1974 by British author and education consultant, Tony Buzan. His book, The Mind Map Book, put forward and popularized his idea of Radiant Thinking, which is the idea that your mind thinks in a “radial tree” pattern that starts at a central point and radiates outward.
Following this line of thinking, a mind map is a physical representation of the radiant thinking pattern of your brain, or it is a mirror of how your brain thinks. Using a mind map, you can get a complete view of a topic, versus having to scan from left to right and top to bottom in order to read the same information.