How often are you presented with a complex array of information during the course of your working day? If your business is anything like mine, this will be a frequent occurrence. In today’s fast-moving world, when we are all given access to an unprecedented amount of information with the click of a button, decision making is a complicated affair. To be clear, this is a good thing for businesses - the more information you have, the more factors you can consider when making important decisions, leading to improved outcomes. Nonetheless, it’s still true that keeping track of every variable in your head is a difficult and tiring task. This effect is multiplied for leaders who may have to make multiple important choices each day.
Mind Mapping as a Visual Tool
When faced with a long list of factors, most people are inclined to write it down in that way - as a list. Whilst this will serve the purpose of reminding you about variables you could have overlooked, it’s not the most efficient way to make a decision. Mind maps are useful for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they are a very visual tool. Mind mapping advocates will usually promote the use of colours within the map, engaging the visual portion of the brain and enabling easier learning by encouraging the brain to associate a particular shade with a category or idea. Secondly, the structure of a mind map, with branches and sub-branches, allows for easy compartmentalisation of ideas into efficient groupings. This can help you to assess each variable in the relevant context before bringing them all together. Thirdly, they take advantage of the natural inclination of the brain to gather information from the page as a whole rather than simply reading from left to right. The latter is a mechanism that we force our brains to engage in, and is not the most efficient way to gather information.
A list is a ‘closed’ method of recording information. Without erasing and rewriting sections, it is difficult for colleagues to add their suggestions to your project. A mind map is a great collaborative tool because others can easily add their thoughts onto an existing branch, or even create a new branch of their own. Mind maps are also great for presentations because they can easily be scaled up and shown on a whiteboard or projector screen, once again allowing colleagues to participate in the decision-making process and boosting innovation at work.
Mind mapping isn’t just a great tool for making tricky decisions - its properties make it suitable for use in other capacities. For example, its visual nature might help you to create separate ‘pro’ and ‘con’ charts for a particular situation. In this way, all the different potential consequences may be given their own branch and their impacts on the business explored. The mind map’s diffused structure can also help users to memorise complex concepts, and so could be useful when revising for professional exams or learning talking points for a crucial meeting.