By Gavin Meikle, Head of Learning and Founder of inter-activ

As their business grows many owners suffer from the challenge of keeping one eye on the bigger business picture whilst they are immersed in the detail of a particular picture or activity.

I have found that Mind Mapping, the creative thinking tool developed by Tony Buzan in the late 1960’s provides the perfect tool to help me maintain a strategic perspective and at the same time stimulate creative thinking.

The principle is simple. You put the topic, key idea or project title in the middle of your page, surrounded by a circle, box or other shape of your choosing. You then draw radiating main branches outwards from this central topic. Each branch represents a key element of the project e.g. budget, marketing, logistics, sales, manufacturing. And related sub-ideas radiate out in turn from each of these main branches. See the example below.

The advantages are firstly that you can condense a whole project into a single sheet of paper. It’s a bit like brainstorming where linked ideas are grouped together. It works the way your brain does by making associations rather than linear pathways.

By using colours, symbols and pictures you can reduce the amount of words needed and stimulate the creative right side of the brain in order to enhance recall and creativity.

So what can a business owner or director use mind mapping for?

There is no limit to the applications of mind mapping but here are some examples to get you started.

• Project planning

• Time management

• Collaboration

• Speech and presentation preparation

• Business overviews

• Article and report writing

• New product development

There are now a number of computer software tools that allow computerised mind mapping with integration to other software applications such as word processing and project management software. Whilst these packages are not as spontaneous as hand drawn mind mapping, they do offer extra functionality such as drag and drop editing and linking of mind maps to external files making the creation of an interactive business dashboard simple and practical. Computer drawn mind maps are also more legible and easy to share with others in the organisation.

Mindmanager from Mindjet.com is probably the most sophisticated and widely used commercial mind mapping tool and recently iMindMap from thinkbuzan.com has offered a fascinating alternative. Both have free trials available to download from the internet.

Gavin Meikle is the owner of inter-activ learning and development, a Southampton based consultancy specialising in effective face to face interpersonal communication and presentations. He can be contacted at gmeikle@inter-activ.co.uk or by phone on 07810 645309

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