Jamie Nast is the author of "Idea Mapping" published by John Wiley & Sons. The book is available in the Business/Economics section of bookstores. Jamie has trained over 15,000 people world-wide to be more creative, more productive and better learners.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mind Mapping or Idea Mapping?

(See the Idea Mapping Blog, the squidoo idea mapping group and main squidoo lenses, and flickr photos for more idea mapping examples.)

I frequently am asked the question, “What is the difference between idea mapping and mind mapping?” Although Idea Mapping has a rich heritage in mind mapping, I use the description “Idea Mapping” because:
  1. Over the past 17 years some of my clients have reacted unfavorably to the term mind mapping. The "weird factor" was a bit much for them and I think idea mapping better describes the tool and the process.
  2. To respect those who map by the mind mapping laws. (Mind mappers often don't know they are breaking the mind mapping laws anyway.) Although there is some value in the laws when applied appropriately, some people feel their creativity is restricted by them. Some clients nearly abandoned the tool because of this (especially by the one-word-per-line law).
  3. When and where the laws should be applied should be determined by the purpose for which the map is being created.

These laws are shared with my workshop participants, but in the form of guidelines. Here are a couple examples of where it made sense to break the mind mapping laws:

The idea map above is titled, "The 4-Poster Question", and was created by the Cheif Engineer and her 12 engineering managers (plus 3 facilitators) of a large automotive company in southeastern Michigan. I won't go into detail about the application, but you can read the full story here. Suffice it to say that not all information radiated from the central point, but it was still important to visually be able to see everything on one page. The second broken mind mapping law is the use of one word per line. That didn't make sense in this case based on the purpose. The successful results speak for themselves.

Steve Rothwell from the UK created this map above. Full story is here. Again, not all words are on a line, he does some fishboning, and a few other law-breaking items. But it worked for him. Most importantly he was experimenting with color (colour if you're reading this, Steve) and he had a breakthrough.