This is the big picture
May 2, 2006
For years I’ve fooled everyone around me into believing I think in straight lines. My academic and business writing makes “sense” and I can follow the rules if I’m pushed to it. But I’m a secret mind mapper…it’s the only way I can make any kind of sense out of complex ideas and concepts while doing them justice before re-framing them for consumption elsewhere.
Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting on my France experience with a view to writing up those reflections in the form of a paper. As usual, it took me ages to get going on the computer to actually write it up. But I kept a mind map open and as thoughts occurred to me I added them in to a branch here and there so I had the paper plotted before I started writing.
In all honesty this isn’t a real mind map because there is far too much writing and not enough single words and images. But the thing with mind maps is that each one is individual. I’m guessing that no one would be able to figure out what the final document looked like from this diagram and that suits me just fine – they don’t need to – I need to!
I have used mind maps over the years to capture the content of books, plan presentations, to think through complex meetings and I’m amazed at how it aids retention of information. If, like me, you take notes at meetings and never read them again then you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to mind maps. They’re creative, playful and indulgent in all the best senses of those words.
The thing about mind maps is that each of the branches really doesn’t need to connect to the others when the idea occurs to you. The connection is with the middle. And that’s the way I work in groups also. I’m not that concerned when seemingly random comments or branches of conversations happen that on the surface, don’t seem to link up. My job is thinking about how they link to the middle, or the big picture. When conversations “wander” there’s always something interesting happening in the room. Sometimes it’s an avoidance of difficult issues, other times it’s free association, but ultimately it’s all related to the middle. Who enjoys being in groups where it all works in linear and straight lines. If you’re like me – then the big picture is where it’s at.