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What is mind mapping and why is it good for your creativity?

Pieter De Vocht

Innovation & Service Designer
People who say that they’re not creative are probably wrong. They might just think that creativity means having awesome visualization skills, drawing and rendering fancy designs. That’s not the most accurate definition of a creative person.
Visuals are the means, not the end goal
I understand why many people misinterpret creativity. It’s probably because visualisation is often an important element in the creative process. But the visualisation must not be the output of a creative process. It IS the process. It’s a means to structure your thoughts, connect ideas and to convey your thinking process to someone else so that he or she can join and contribute to your process.  
It doesn’t matter how beautifully you can visualise your thinking. The only thing that counts is that you can visualise your thoughts on a piece of paper or a screen. Don’t write, visualise. Because people process visual information 60.000 times faster than text, a visual is so much better for us to come up with new ideas. That’s why mind mapping is by far the best creativity tool for anyone who’s afraid of drawing beautiful pictures. The technique enables visual thinking without the need for any visual skills.
But also people with good visual skills like mind mapping, for example Da Vinci. The technique has been around for a while and is still not outdated today - for good reason. It’s been proven that mind mapping boosts our creativity, productivity and memory.
What’s mind mapping?
It’s a thinking tool to visualise your ideas and info by using words, images and visual-spatial awareness. The tool helps people to hop on different thought paths and put them all together in one space.
This way, mind maps are a representation of what’s happening in our brain. We have an idea and build upon that idea towards another idea space. From that one idea, our mind naturally generates related ideas. This is represented in the mind map by the branches. These branches are your thought paths that show how an idea or a piece of information is linked to another thought or to other info. You can just let your mind wander and capture all thoughts and ideas you come across along the way by using the structure of a mind map.
The map is just a picture of what you were thinking, but the real-time visualisation supports more creative and complex idea generation because your brain is now supported by what your eyes are seeing. Essentially, you don’t need to remember everything you’re thinking so that you have more processing power left to come up with new ideas and ‘dot connections’.
Free your thinking
When you’re creating a mind map, try to think like a child. Children can imagine the wildest things. Adults tend to only suggest ideas that are ‘not crazy’. Don’t be like the grown-ups. Write and jot down all the crazy things. The ideas you feel are too much out there, can often evolve into great ideas after you’ve reworked them a bit to fit in the real world. Mind maps are a great tool to look for these crazy ideas, to explore them profoundly and convert them into doable concepts.
See the bigger picture
Mind maps allow you to see the bigger picture. After you’ve mapped out all sorts of information and ideas, you can literally take a step back and look at the whole thing in front of you. You can see the branches that should get more of your attention still and you can search for the flaws in your thinking.
Step over the creativity hurdles
In any creative process, you’ll feel stuck at some point. A mind map is a great tool to get past that point because the tool forces you to think broadly instead of diving into one specific thinking path. Because you limit yourself to using just keywords instead of a detailed text, it’s easier to connect multiple branches to that one keyword. This stimulates you to think of many paths and explore ideas you’d not have found without the map.
The map should be a visual thinking tool, so add enough images. This helps you to process information better and find more creative connections between your ideas. Mapping everything brings you in a creative space, showing you all the different connections you could make. This is an ideal place for creativity to thrive.
All the ideas you put on your mind map are often more valuable than an idea you have on some Post-It or in your sketch book. Why? Easy. It’s because the ideas on your mind map are connected to many other thinking paths. It’s these connections that’ll help you to work out a way to turn that idea into a tangible concept.
So apart from being a great tool to boost creative thinking, the mind map is also an ideal place to source ideas that should be brought to life. Give it a try and boost your creative mind!

Pieter De Vocht

Innovation & Service Designer


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