Mapping Your Way to Creative Greatness

Stuck in a creative rut? Try mind mapping.

Everyone struggles with finding new ways of looking at things on occasion. It may be exploring the launch of a new product, or putting sales information together in a way that's easier to understand, but thinking creatively can sometimes be a struggle.

For centuries, mind mapping has been used to enhance problem solving and brainstorming by helping the user to think more visually. Think about it - when you make a list of ideas, the initial items take on an inflated sense of importance just because they happen to fall at the top. A list's linear nature unconsciously influences how we "rank" information as we scan it.

The goal of a mind map is to get your ideas out in a more democratic fashion - more of a horizontal image than a typical vertical list. Start by placing your core idea in the center of a blank page - a pad, a white board, a computer document, the format doesn't really matter. Add associated ideas or concepts, then link them via lines when you see relationships begin to form. What you end up with is an intriguing web of interconnected ideas rather than a top-to-bottom list.

For example, we often use mind mapping when developing taglines for new products. We'll start with the product's core attribute, then branch out with terms and concepts that reflect competitive differentiators, market factors, brand promises, even related pop culture references like movie titles or song lyrics - anything even vaguely related that comes to mind.

Using a mind map for projects like these makes it easy to group our ideas into categories, and to spot relationships or new directions that might never have come to light via a plain old list.

Mind mapping is arguably superior to other creative exercises because it uses both hemispheres of the brain and appeals equally to our creative and logical sides. Whether this is a better way of brainstorming is anybody's guess. But it certainly differs from the usual approach, and doing things differently is a great way to get your creative juices flowing.

The benefits of thinking differently
At first, the obvious advantage of mind mapping is its novelty. When you think about a task in a different way, you'll start to generate fresh ideas and see new relationships. And by thinking more visually, you can make connections that otherwise may not be apparent.

Another advantage of mind mapping is when working collaboratively. Getting input from other people means you can connect their ideas with yours for a more robust result. It's also helpful when you want to organize a large project with multiple layers of content.

Giving mind mapping a whirl
From a blank sheet of paper or the nearest white board to more sophisticated online tools, mind mapping can be as low or high tech as you want to make it. The good news is that many online tools are available at no or low cost, and they are browser based, so it doesn't matter if you're on a Mac or PC.

Although there are many terrific mind mapping resources out there, of special note is mind42.com. What sets Mind 42 apart is its intuitiveness and ease of use, which can't be underestimated when you're collaborating with a group, or if you're more technical dunce than technical maven.

Give mind mapping a try on your next project. Whether you take advantage of some of the great software options or rock it old school with pen and paper, you may find yourself unlocking more creativity than you ever knew you had.

About the Author
NJ copywriter Lisa Fahoury, a Certified Business Communicator and principal at Fahoury Ink in West Orange, is the editor of Creative Compost: Where Great Marketing Ideas Grow, a marketing newsletter focusing on offbeat promotion strategies. She is also the creator of the Think Like a Fish seminar series on creative thinking. Reach her at 973-324-2100 or info@fahouryink.com

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