How to integrate brainstorming into mind mapping?

Neurons firing -- Image via

Sometimes the brain goes faster than our ability to apply logic, sort, filter, or structure. Sometimes we can barely keep up with our brain – and jotting down a few key words representing our thoughts is the best we can do.

This may happen when we’re associating rapidly, making cross-linkages between seemingly unrelated strands of thought, or getting “some kind of big idea” in a sudden flash that we ought to capture somehow before it’s disappeared back into the great unknown.

This creative, dynamic stage may be referred to as “brainstorming”. Both individuals or groups can experience it. In fact, i’ve just come back from a 3 hour 1-to-1 meeting which felt like “free-flow” brainstorming most of the time.

When you’re lucky enough to be in such a “free-flow” mode, that is the time to go for quantity rather than quality. What i mean by that is: capture your ideas somehow, all of them, quickly. Forget about spelling, grammar, aesthetics, or structure. Forget about producing elegantly flowing mind-maps, too.

Trying to create “proper” mind-maps can throw you off key when you’re in brain-storming mode, as it may prompt you to focus on the wrong things. If ideas are springing to mind anyways, why inhibit the process and worry about the “grammar” of a mind-map? Just capture (and enjoy!) the fruits of all those neurons firing!

The capturing could be done in within a mind-map itself; it works quite well. Just create a list of ideas – e.g. one idea per branch – and organise this later on.

In a way you’d make the most of the creative energy at your disposal through this two-stage process: Firstly there’s the “brain dump”. Subsequently, there’s the transformation of the list of ideas into a proper mind-map; a process that surely will lead to some further ideas. The end-result would nevertheless look like a decent mind-map, ready for further use.

Using a tool to capture and re-work the information digitally might be helpful rather than using pen and paper.

The brain-storming itself may or may not be “time-boxed”. Some would argue that a bit of time-pressure would help to get ideas flowing. I for one prefer a somewhat open-ended approach; usually it becomes clear whenever a brainstorming phase has come to a natural conclusion.

Next post

My next post will address the question: What are good resources on mind-mapping?

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