Mind Map for a Better World

Mind mapping is a great tool to help organize thoughts in new ways, showing the structure and connections. Using both the left and right brain, they can be useful for anything from strategic planning to essay writing. Mind maps are versatile and can be used at any level, whether tackling complex social issues or mapping out personal goals. They help identify where energy is focused, what influences what, and foster creativity, leading to innovative solutions. Mind maps can be made on paper, white boards, computer programs. Map out that great idea on a napkin at your favorite coffee shop! Mapping can be done individually, with a subject expert, or as a group, even virtually.

Tony Buzan, key developer of mind mapping, which uses a central image and branches to reflect ideas, with color and images enhancing memory and creativity. 5 min.

Mind Mapping uses images and keywords to summarize concepts and their relationships on a single page, and explains its core principles and basic techniques. 4 min.

Ways Mind Mapping Can Help You Create a Better World

Visually outlining through mind maps opens up creativity and helps you see structures and connections in fresh ways. It’s great for tasks like understanding complex issues or starting new enterprises. 
mind map change the world nonprofit

Visualize and understand an organization

With mind mapping you can step back and look at your situation from a different perspective. Do a mind map or two with a small group lay to out different aspects of the group’s structure, programs, or challenges. Map a group’s activities and you’ll often hear “Wow, we’re doing a lot!” and “No wonder we’re so tired!” Sometimes it helps just to take stock.

The process often identifies a path with potential benefit for us to explore later. Sometimes an aha! occurs, a new understanding of the structure or program. Sometimes, just by seeing everything at once, an opportunity (for funding, strategic partnership, etc.) or some built-in work problem will jump off the map. The group can then discuss it, beginning a conversation about a better way.

Solve challenges

Put your challenge — such as raising funds or getting legislators to support a bill — in the center of the map. Create branches that explore the various aspects that address it. You can begin in a thousand ways but if you’re stuck, ask whowhatwhenwherehow and why and follow those branches out. Another way to start is to make branches for the obstacles, assets, strategic allies and so on. As you develop maps with both logic and intuition new ideas will emerge.

Plan and organize a new effort

Embarking on a new endeavor can be thrilling, but without proper planning, it’s easy to overlook important details and potential opportunities. Whether you’re starting a new program, organizing an event such as a conference or fundraising walk, or undertaking a new project, mind mapping can be incredibly helpful, particularly for smaller groups, to brainstorm and think out loud. Mind mapping’s visual nature can stimulate creativity and generate ideas that may not surface through traditional brainstorming methods.

Understand connections

Mind mapping can be used to understand the complex connections of “wicked problems” like childhood obesity and mass incarceration, as well as gain insight into programs and identify gaps, strengths, and connections. Nonprofits can use mind maps to visualize their most important supporters and identify relationships, while journalists can use them to display connections between politicians, lobbyists, and businesses in complex stories like political scandals. Mind mapping is an invaluable tool for tracking connections and identifying patterns and opportunities.

Develop a presentation or written project

Organize your thoughts, for a talk, a blog post, a video or even a book you’re wanting to write. Mind mapping is especially great for content creation, whether you’re planning an annual report, social media or blog posts. Use mind mapping to create the larger categories and work your way out to hte specifics.

You can use mind maps in presentations but a word of caution: nothing can make an audience’s eyes glaze over or cause your co-workers to worry about your mental state like showing them an in-depth, complicated mind map. As in all communications, match your message with the audience. Simplerelevant and interesting are key.

Tell a story

Consider the power of mind mapping to understand or share a complicated story. For example, in 2008 at Heifer International we noticed a few thousand dollars in donations coming in from the blog of best-selling fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss. We reached out and worked with him as, over years, he has raised from his fans well over $2 million for the organization. Here it is in the form of a mind map. Tell your cause’s story, from the beginning influences and founders, to current programs.

Mind mapping is a great tool, so play around with it and master it. As soon as you write your theme in the center, ideas will want to come out. You’re forced to begin by thinking, what are the main branches, the general areas to explore? New branches and sub-branches will follow, sometimes slowly but more often as quickly as you can draw them. Each new node generates its own new ideas. And in real life those ideas may help you change the world!

How to make a mind map 

Mind maps are simple to make. They’re a visual form of the outlining we all learned in school. (The following is adapted from Tony Buzan, but differs on several points.)

  • Start with a central theme or idea. What is this mind map going to explore? Write largely (and illustrate) the main subject in the center of the page. The rest of the map radiates from that.
  • Each large branch flows out of the center and represents a main idea. From these flow sub-branches (as many levels as make sense). You can draw lines between sub-branches and note what makes them connect.
  • Words. Each branch or sub-branch represents one idea. A single word offers more simplicity and power but use phrases as needed.
  • Use colors to make the map more appealing and help the brain organize different branches/subjects.
  • Add images to central idea, your branches and sometimes sub-branches. Don’t worry if they’re not works of art, they aid in creativity and memory.
  • Be creative! Break all of the rules and have fun!
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Mind Map Mastery

Tony Buzan’s comprehensive guide that covers the theory, techniques, and applications of mind-mapping, with practical tips and exercises to help readers develop their skills.

New Book from Tom Peterson

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