top of page

Mind maps: an especially effective method for managing knowledge through an overall perspective

1 August 2016
brainstorm and coffee cup

Mind maps are charts which summarize, organize and present a large amount of information in visual form while integrating keywords, symbols and pictures on a single page. The form of representation is hierarchical, with the central visual component being a star which branches out to other levels of the hierarchy of information items declining from center outwards. These branches place the keywords together with suitable symbols. The map allows us to summarize long texts into a small number of keywords supported by enticing graphics.

Mind maps are constructed accordance to neurological principles. The human brain reviews the world from principle to detail; while shipping, we will first notice the vegetable isle, only then will we notice the tomatoes or cucumbers. Likewise, when driving we will first notice the car on our left and only then will become aware that said car is a Hyundai. This is a trait developed through evolution: our ability to recognize a threat or food in first glance, only later paying attention to details. Another important neurological trait: our brain remembers new things only if they are somehow connected to previous knowledge. This relation enables the brain to understand new things, thus remembering them.

 Our brain also aspires to work as less as possible, which is why organizing information/knowledge in a manner which fits our neurological structures will always be more efficient: the data will be understood by the brain faster, will be learned better as well as remembered better. Furthermore, the individual attaining this new knowledge will be able to more easily manipulate the knowledge process it into new knowledge, integrate it into other material, and prepare a presentation/summary/report etc.

A concise history of mind maps

During the second half of the twentieth century Novak, an American professor, developed the "term map"- a simple way to organize knowledge by visually charting central terms and connecting one term to another using lines that represent the type of relationship they share: this "belongs" to this, the other is a result of another term etc. Thus, instead of dealing with an abundant text one can focus on the central terms and their relation.

Term maps have become a useful tool for many organizations: schools, universities, business organizations etc.

During the 70s, British professor Tony Boson takes the whole paradigm one meaningful step further and develops the "mind map" which is essentially a term map with some added features which make it a highly more effective tool for both learning and knowledge management.

A mind map is a term map which as one includes only the text's keywords yet also makes substantial use of colors, symbols and pictures and uses the connecting lines freely. A mind map is less formal and strict regarding its rules, which is why it is considered more user-friendly and is popular among students beginning from elementary school.

How does one write a mind map?

First of all, it is important to understand that anyone can do this. A mind map is constructed according to rules which define the way in which writing and icons are placed on the page and the relation between the two. The process combines creativity and logical thinking and is easier and more fun than a regular document's writing process.

The first step is to specify the subject using a central picture or symbol, meant to centre attention. We then build the hierarchical lines and above them write the main terms and some of the less-central terms (to a desirable extent). The next stage involves coloring in order to highlight and differentiate (color is a powerful memory anchor) and adding icons/pictures in order to animate the terms (thus leading to even better chances of remembering them). That's it. Your mind map is now complete. Remember, there is no point to write the entire text on the map; only the main terms are required (when we learn something new, we don't remember details anyway, only the main concepts and terms). Note: there is no need to "know how to draw". These are very simple and basic drawings, meant only to animate terms. Anyone can draw a "house" or "face" or "tree".

A mind map is read from the central picture outwards, descending through the branches clockwise. We thus review both the main terms and the text's overall structure. Hereby is a computerized mind map explaining how to construct a mind map.


The central picture represents memory. The map uses pictures, beginning with the central picture, as well as symbols and codes. The map also requires using colors and the lines must flow (no sharp angles). It is customary to draw mind maps on a blank page spread horizontally. The map should be aesthetically appealing. Keywords are associative (which is another feature which assists the reader in remembering the map). The lines branch out with their titles spread out across the entire line. Keywords should be written in an easily readable font.

Applications of mind maps

A mind map is a friendly and efficient way to summarize a learned subject, prepare a presentation/class/lecture and chart its main points, present an index or simply present the entire body of knowledge on a certain subject (e.g. a budget) effectively, efficiently and comfortably using an easily operated method which is accessible, concise and way clearer and friendlier than 'heavy' text documents.

 Sometimes, the mind map remains the document presented to the target audience: students, business associates, etc. Organizing the knowledge and understanding it will be done using the map. After constructing the map and organizing the knowledge, we can move it to a regular text document or Excel chart (when, for example, building a budget) or a Powerpoint presentation.

There are several free programs that allow constructing computerized mind maps, yet many still prefer to construct their mind maps manually.

bottom of page