Guide to Understanding Mind Maps

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a non-linear visual diagram that organizes and links the concepts related to a particular topic. Key ideas branch out directly from the central concept, and other ideas branch out further from these. This visualization helps order information into a hierarchy and shows the relationships between different concepts.

The purpose of a mind map is to mirror how you map out the thoughts and ideas you envision without worrying about their structure, order, or presentation. It helps you turn a monotonous stream of information into a colorful image that is easier for you to remember. This picture can help you form new connections between topics and generate new ideas.

Types of mind maps

Here is a brief list of some of the key types of mind maps that you might be familiar with:


Flowcharts are diagrams that show the separate steps in a sequential process. They are often used to help teams identify essential steps in a process where it is important to do things in order. For example, flowcharts are often used in supply chain management to show the sequence of specific actions that must be taken to deliver the end product.

Basic Flowchart

Tree diagram

Tree diagrams are an excellent option when you need to represent a sequence of events. For example, machine learning engineers use tree diagrams to build intelligent systems. Over time, the system learns which branches are most likely to be correct, and it gradually alters itself to remove unnecessary branches.

Decision tree

Bubble map

Bubble maps feature a noun that is surrounded by adjectives. They can be used to develop your thoughts and explore your creativity. For example, business owners can use bubble maps to come up with new project ideas. They can then share the bubble map with other team members to collaborate and develop their ideas further.

When to use a mind map

People often use mind maps when brainstorming and trying to come up with new, unique ideas. The main reason is that the non-linear structure of mind maps inspires them to use their creativity. There are many different contexts when this can be useful, including:

Business planning

Business owners can create a mind map and partition it into different sections outlining various aspects of business planning, such as financial planning, management structure, marketing planning, and products and services. This data can give them a high-level overview of their business and helps them to notice where there may be gaps in their plan.

Running meetings

All too often, people spend hours in meetings that ultimately end up with no actionable outcome. Using mind maps can help attendees quickly organize and stay on track by providing an easy way for them to look at their notes throughout meetings. Its non-linear format also makes it easier to record discussions and highlight priorities.

Project management

Because project management involves daily decision-making, managers need tools to help them collect data to think critically and understand problems better. Mind maps allow managers and their teams to focus on a central idea and brainstorm and outline critical concepts for any project. They encourage groups to create new plans, analyze existing ones, and contribute creative ideas and solutions.

Benefits of using mind maps

Benefits of using mind maps

Mind maps are an excellent tool when you need to organize your thoughts and ideas. They help you save time, reduce redundancy, encourage creativity, and streamline assigning priorities and timelines. So, why should you choose mind maps over other brainstorming tools?

Topic structure visualization

A mind map's layout helps visualize a topic's structure, allowing you to take more efficient notes. This feature makes highlighting each section's relative importance easier, which means you can understand it more quickly when looking back at it later.

Simplified Processes

Mind maps help you break down complex topics into easily digestible bitesize thoughts. Doing so simplifies the brainstorming process.

Organize and make connections

Sometimes, it isn't easy to see the entire picture when trying to solve a problem or make a decision. Mind maps make it easier to organize information and make connections you might otherwise not notice.

Reduce complexity

A mind map makes capturing information quicker because mind maps aim to get your thoughts down without having to articulate them clearly or think about where to put them.

How to make a mind map

Start by understanding why you're choosing to create a mind map and what you'd ultimately like to achieve from it. Once you've done this, you can get started.

To help you, we have compiled this step-by-step list of how to make a mind map:

  1. Start with a central idea that you would like to explore deeper. For example, this could be a project idea, a topic you're trying to learn more about, or a problem you're trying to work out.
  2. Add branches that lead to more specific topics. You can later branch off these new ideas to get even more specific if needed. Branches closer to the central idea are generally more closely related to it.
  3. Each branch should have a separate keyword to create connections.
  4. Color code the branches to help your brain link visuals with the logical elements.
  5. Use images throughout your map to help to make your mind map more memorable by engaging different areas of your brain.

Why use MindManager to make mind maps?

You can make a mind map by hand or in any graphic design program or use a program specifically designed for mind map making. MindManager, an industry-leading mind map software, allows you to create complex, detailed mind maps with ease.

MindManager's key benefits include:

  • User-friendly, intuitive interface
  • Extensive image library—over 700 topic images, icons, and symbols to add to your mind maps
  • Premade mind map templates
  • Convenient file storage, retrieval, and sharing
  • Powerful integrations with file storage apps like Box and OneDrive
  • Google Docs integration via Zapier
  • Various tools and features to facilitate brainstorming and strategic planning
  • Google Chrome extension—MindManager Snap—to easily collect and import text, links, and images from the web

MindManager helps you synthesize ideas and information by providing a simple, intuitive framework for organizing your thoughts. With MindManager, you and your team can clarify complexity and collaborate in new and unexpected ways.

Mind map templates

MindManager comes pre-installed with many templates. To use these templates:

  • Open MindManager
  • Click NEW in the navigation menu
  • Select the template you want to use
  • A preview screen will appear - check to see if you'd like to use your selected template
  • Select 'Create Map'
  • Customize the template for your specific project
Mind Map Template

Mind map FAQs

What are some mind mapping techniques?

There are many different mind mapping techniques that you can use. Which ones you choose depend largely on what you will be using your mind map for. If you’re just getting started, here are some basic mind mapping techniques that you can benefit from:

  • Keep things simple by using as few words as possible. Brief sentences or even single words often suffice.
  • Use color to separate different ideas or group similar ideas together.
  • Add images to make it easier to visualize your mind map and recall important information.

Can you use a mind map to brainstorm?

Yes, you can use mind maps as virtual whiteboards to brainstorm ideas. They provide you with an area to get your ideas down without any limits on space, ready for you to organize and prioritize later.

What are the parts of a mind map?

Although you'll find many ways to create and organize a mind map, most have the same central parts. These include:

  • A central theme or idea displayed in the page's center.
  • Words or ideas associated with this central theme radiate out from the center.
  • Lines are used to connect ideas with the central theme, and also to connect associated ideas together.
  • Color and images help coordinate the mind map and make it visually appealing, making it easier to remember.

What will a mind map help you to achieve?

A mind map is designed to help you learn new information by connecting different ideas and helping you to understand how they are related. Mind Maps also help develop your creative problem solving by encouraging you to draw connections between concepts to generate new ideas.

Create new connections using mind maps

Mind maps can help visualize your thoughts and ideas, making it easier to organize them. They also help you create new connections between ideas to help you understand the relationship between them and create new ideas. That makes it easier to communicate your ideas to others.

Visualize more with MindManager

Ready to build a mind map? Try MindManager for free for 30 days and start building mind maps right away with premade, customizable templates.

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