Mind-mapping can get more out of all sorts of problem-solving. Brainstorming, planning, note-taking, research… But it’s also good for presenting complex information with ease, and it’s such a break from PowerPoint.
When your thoughts are popping into your head at random a mind map lets you pin down everything and explore it fully. I find it helps me examine the whole problem without missing a thing. You start with the main idea and branch into sub-topics and so on into more detail.
The process harnesses more than the analytical skills used for making a list on a spreadsheet. A mind map also stimulates the creative part of your brain. And everyone does have a creative part! A mind map allows you to lay out all the different parts of a problem and see the relationships between them – something you just can’t do with a spreadsheet.
So you think you know what a mind map looks like…
The guidelines to create a mind map may surprise you. Watch the following video. You’ll see what a classic mind map should look like using pen and paper. Then you’ll understand where the online versions do things differently…
Online applications take the core idea of mind-mapping and give you a lot more. Not only can you map the thoughts in your mind but you can link to the world of information across the internet. And of course computer-generated mind maps are easier to edit and update. Throw in sharing and collaboration and you have a perfect tool for problem-solving.
MindMap is the simplest take on mind-mapping. You drag a branch from a node and it opens up a textbox ready for you to enter text. Each branch is coloured automatically and you just carry on dragging to create a sub-node. If need be you can go back and change the colours or borders.
This application dispenses with most of the classic features of a mind map. What you get is a way of recording your thoughts in a clear branching structure. The great advantage is that the process doesn’t get in the way of coming up with ideas.
The styles are limited but may be all you need. You can attach images, video and urls. There’s also a built-in drawing pad to insert your own drawings.
The saving and sharing options are very flexible. You can save via Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, share on social media, embed within your website or export as an image.
MindMap is available as a web application or Google Chrome extension.
Price: Free (ads on the website but not on your maps)
Mindomo offers a broad suite of mind-mapping tools to cater for a range of situations. There are templates for SWOT analysis, risk management and even planning a website. So from the outset you can tailor the process to the exact solution you need.
It’s easy to insert multimedia, hyperlinks and notes. And at every stage you can determine the look of each element with a range of styles and themes. This is particularly useful when you want to take advantage of the Presentation Mode.
Mindomo is geared up for collaboration and sharing. Many participants can take part, it’s easy to insert comments and tasks can be assigned. If any change is made an email notification can be sent to participants. You can choose to make your map public or keep it private with a direct link for team members or clients.
All data is backed up automatically to Google Drive, Dropbox or an FTP account. It’s also possible to work offline, sync your work and save your maps locally. There’s even an app in the Google Apps Store.
For most people this is the best mind map tool. It’s a flexible solution that covers more than mind-mapping across a range of situations.
Find out more in the Video.
Price: From $36 to $162 for 6 months depending on features and number of users. A free option offers 3 maps.
iMindMap is endorsed by Tony Buzan who coined the term ‘mind map’ in the 1970s. He used his knowledge of psychology to refine guidelines for the whole concept. This application comes closest to achieving the look of a classic mind map. But is this the look you want?
If you watched the video at the top of the page you’ll understand that this design aims to do more than display topics in an organised array. It tries to draw out new ideas for creative solutions. It offers a nonrestrictive structure and many styling options to create a unique map. And you can even deliver a 3D animated presentation.
You can insert all sorts of multimedia including audio notes. It integrates with Outlook, PowerPoint and Microsoft Project. Can you tell it comes with all the bells and whistles? Yes, but for a hefty price tag…
Price: From $100 to $1,995 for 6 months depending on features and number of users.
The best mind map tool provides the quick and consistent approach to problem-solving that’s best for you. Compared to pen and paper an online tool offers a degree of polish that business often demands. You’ll find options tailored for presentation, creating an overview of a problem or organising resources in a methodical way. What most online mapping tools lack is that combination of techniques founded in psychology that can stimulate you in a truly creative way. The physical effort of drawing seems to engage your brain more deeply. So online mind maps may be perfect for exploring most business problems but not all.