I opened my copy of The Times yesterday to read the sad news that Tony Buzan, the man who developed and then popularised the technique of mind mapping, has died. Coincidentally, the only other thing on my desk at the time was a mind map that I had prepared for a meeting with a prospect earlier this week, which I had updated during the meeting, and was supposed to be reviewing…
I don’t suppose a week goes by when I don’t produce a mind map. I do one for every (important) meeting I have. I do one for every blog or article I write. I do one for every presentation or talk I have to give.
The one I did on Monday was slightly unusual, in that I did it by hand. I always think these are more authentic, as I find it easier to do them in the way that Tony Buzan proposed (thick branches, words on branch, strong colours etc.). In truth, the real reason I did it by hand is that I find it quicker than using software, (and I was in a rush). The software tools do allow some features (e.g. notes) that are hard to do by hand, and allow moving of branches, so normally I do mine in XMind, my favourite mind mapping tool.
So, it’s pretty obvious that mind mapping is something that is part of my armoury. I can’t pretend my maps are great works of art – I have seen, over the years, some remarkable maps done by people I have worked with, and I know I can’t replicate those. But I believe (I know) they make me more effective, and more efficient.
Why do they work? Mainly because Tony Buzan based the technique on his own understanding of how the brain really works, which is not in the linear ways we are used to (top-to-bottom, left-to-right). When faced with a blank sheet of paper, a mind map allows you to say what you’re thinking, there and then, whereas the linear methods demand you find the beginning first…which is not always so easy to do.
Some of the obituaries of Tony Buzan I have read today and yesterday seem to trivialise his work a bit as just a neat way of drawing a diagram to help you revise for your exam, or something similar. Mind maps may not have been totally original with Tony – he acknowledged his own debt to other thinkers. But they have proved a remarkably successful way of helping millions of people think more clearly and more insightfully, and in a way that they can remember their thinking easily. And his contribution to our understanding of the brain went beyond mind maps, even if they are what he will be remembered for.
His passing means we have lost a prolific author, a great (visual) thinker, and a true innovator.