There are many different exercises that people use for innovation, but very few of them are as effective as mind mapping. Mind maps create an intuitive structure of thought that enables your team to map out their scenarios in a very digestible and sequential format.
In this article, we will walk through what a mind map is while discussing some of the important ways it fuels innovation. If you want to learn more about collaboration and innovation, check out our article on design thinking.
Here is a brief overview of the 7 ways mind maps help fuel innovation:
- Inherently Creates Visual Association: Mind maps are inherently visual templates, and organizing ideas visually is the best way to create a shared understanding of how they operate.
- Enables Tiered Thinking: The different tiers of mind maps create solid context and comprehensible branches so you can review any level of your solution at a glance.
- Cater to Your Brain: Mind maps structure brainstorming in a way that is naturally understandable by your brain, helping you innovate and retain information.
- Vague Descriptions Boost Creativity: By keeping associations vague, it allows people to bring their own perspective to the mind map and gets their creative juices flowing.
- Includes Larger Context: Mind maps allow you to review your main concept/problem at any time, ensuring you don’t lose sight of your goals.
- Overcome Creative Blocks: By providing context and clear avenues for ideation, mind maps help overcome common innovation roadblocks.
- Forms Instant Relationships: Automatically connects ideas and demonstrates their relation.
What Is Mind Mapping?
Mind maps, as defined on Fresco, are “A mind map is a simple visual tool that helps organize ideas in an easily understandable, sequential structure. It can be used to capture different ideas and display their relationship while organizing them in a way that doesn’t clutter and disorient the brain”.
Mind maps allow you to build an organized template of your thoughts and present them in a way that is logical and comprehensible.
They are organized into a single main concept, a direct layer of first-level associations, and proceed with second, third, and fourth tier associations. These can keep going depending on how in-depth your mind map is. These association will be connected to the ideas that come before them which forms a sequential structure of nodes that are all interrelated.
Every piece of the mind map will be related to the part that came before it, and through this relation there is a clear structure of how everything fits together. No matter if the associations go off in completely different directions there is a clear visual connection between them and the main concept.
Mind maps also accomodate for different ideas that other note taking strategies struggle to entertain. By organizing ideas into buckets they create clear association between different trains of thought, so no matter where your ideation takes you, you’ll always have a clear trail of how it relates to the main concept.
Now that we have a general understanding of how mind maps operate, let’s discuss the reasons they are so important for innovation.
Inherently Deals with Visual Association
Regular note taking structures usually require a lot of reading and analysis in order for you to grasp the relation of the concepts. Mind maps, on the other hand, allow you to view the entire web of ideas all at once.
Viewing all of them at the same time opens your understanding of how they relate to one another, and also builds more creative associations that might not be apparent without a mind map.
Making creative connections between seemingly unrelated elements is a great way to improve your ability to find channels of innovation, and this would be impossible without the visual association present in mind maps.
Thanks to their visual format, mind maps are a good visual collaboration exercise and often they can be used to great effect when bringing people together.
Enables Tiered Thinking
Without a visual template it can be really hard to link ideas in your head and understand how they affect each other. On a mind map, however, you can easily access any tier of ideas and analyze their relations without losing the scope of your major concept. Mind maps make multiple tiers of ideas easily accessible and organizes them all on the same interface.
Innovation relies on new ideas and relevant connections to your value statement and mind maps encourage branches of thought that haven’t been previously engaged with. Engaging with ideas that stray from the norm are key to innovating and mind maps make branching out easier than ever.
Creating tiers of concepts and using them to branch into new ideas is one of the reasons mind maps are so good at promoting innovation.
Mind Maps Cater to your Brain
If you have ever had trouble retaining information from your notes or from document, it might relate to the the way you’re organizing your information.
Mind maps do a great job of taking complex information and building a structure around the most important elements. The information that the mind map holds might not be the most confusing content, but when disorganized it can be really hard to comprehend.
Mind maps are built to build understanding with your brain which is a reason they’re so effective when used for innovation. People can comprehend concepts and relations much easier and everyone can move forward with a shared understanding.
Vague Descriptions Boost Creativity
One of the key parts of mind maps is they are meant to be vague and brief. This might seem counterproductive, and in most scenarios when there is more description there is generally a better shared understanding. Mind maps, however, actually benefit from this.
In mind maps the associations and layers of ideas are deliberately brief, only holding one or two words each. This gives room for interpretation for everyone using the map and allows people to have different perspectives on the information being analyzed.
When you only see keywords and touchpoints instead of long descriptions, it helps fuel creative outcomes in your brain and allows you to take a psersonal spin on the structures in front of you. This means you can either introduce a new perspective to an existing idea, or you can branch off into an entirely separate bucket for your own innovation.
This simple association taps into your important creative thinking sklls and is a big upside for innovators.
Includes Larger Context
One of the biggest pitfalls to innovation is it allows people to fall into rabbit holes about tangential details. These details are often important, but the most important part of creating an innovative idea is establishing the larger goal and relating your changes to that mission.
Mind maps pose the perfect solution to this problem and create multiple different branches that all ensure relation to the main idea you began brainstorming with. When using a mind map you can be sure that you won’t lose the important context of your bse assumptions and can carry forward with that confidence.
Instead of finding solutions and then working backwards to see if they relate, everything you come up with will automatically have a relevant relationship with the main idea and will therefore be pursuable and interesting.
Overcome Creative Blocks
Innovation, just like many other brainstorming exercises, can be subject to serious creative blocks. Sometimes it can be really hard to innovate new ieas, and more often than not, the biggest thing stopping you is actually the way that your ideas are structured. You can’t force creativity, but you can help it along by providing a compelling template.
One way that mind maps help overcome creative difficulties is by expanding your scope. Instead of getting lost in the small details of your ideas, change your focus to the larger scope of their implementation and relation to your overall mission. Mind maps helps broaden your thinking and explore more high level ideas, which in turn help fuel your ability to innovate specific applications. This ideation is a reason mind maps help overcome creative blocks and make them a key tool for innovators.
Forms Instant Relationships
Sometimes when innovating your problem is not creative blocks but it’s simply taking down all the ideas that are flowing in. Using an online whiteboard is a great way to accomodate a massive amount of ideas, but using a mind map is just as helpful.
Mind maps not only help cater to a plethora of different ideas but they structure connections between all of them. Instead of hashing this out between your team, just put the idea under it’s logical bucket and move forward with it.
Having instant connections is a super helpful factor when innovating and saves everyone the time and headache of having to sort out your entire board.
Mind maps are also helpful because they provide connection between all of the ideas that you come up with. Helping your brain out by establishing connections between ideas is the best way to cement them in your brain and understand how they relate to the greater concept.
Mind maps are a great tool to utilize when brainstorming and help organize your thoughts in an easily accessible structure. Hopefully this guide helped highlight some of the biggest advantages to using a mind map, and if you want to learn, more check out Fresco.