What is a mind map?
Mind map definition:
A mind map is a diagram that allows you to visualize how related ideas and concepts are connected to one another.
Mind maps, popularized in the 1970s by pop psychology writer and TV host Tony Buzan, are diagrams that allow you to visualize the relationship between a series of concepts and ideas.
Mind maps themselves are pretty straightforward. They feature one main idea as the central point of the diagram, with subtopics branching out and connecting to supporting ideas — and so on. They are hierarchical in that the most important ideas are the closest to the center, and each subsequent tier rolls up to the one before it. This structure helps you see a broad overview of the concept, understand its complexities and connections, and make decisions effectively.
What makes mind maps so powerful is not just the diagrams themselves, but also the process that goes into creating them. The inside-out structure makes it easy to get all your thoughts and ideas down in one place and draw connections between them. They encourage lateral thinking, pushing you to explore and investigate a topic from every angle.
Mind maps vs concept maps
You may hear people conflate mind maps with concept maps, and it’s easy to understand why. Both are diagrams that use nodes and links to visualize how ideas are connected. The key difference is that mind maps are hierarchical, while concept maps are not. While a mind map has one central theme, a concept map illustrates how a variety of different topics or ideas are connected, with no tiers or levels.
When to use a mind map
Mind maps are like the Swiss Army knife of visual thinking — a flexible, multipurpose tool that can do a lot of different jobs. Let’s take a look at some common use cases. This list is by no means exhaustive, of course. There are a lot of ways to make mind maps work for you.
You might create a mind map for:
- Understanding a problem or challenge
- Problem solving
- Collecting and organizing ideas from a variety of stakeholders
- Organizing your to-do list
However you use mind maps, you’ll find that they allow you to discover hidden complexities and connections to facilitate better brainstorming, exploration, decision-making, and planning.