Tony Buzan on Mind Mapping


Ever had a brilliant idea but struggled to communicate it to other people? Ever wondered how to relate your thoughts to a group of people in an interactive way that triggers creativity?

Tony Buzan has spent a lifetime's work dedicated to developing and refining a simple, but powerful technique to capture ideas, thoughts and inspirations – mind mapping; it is a concept that has gained millions of fans around the world.

Buzan's world is the human mind, and he is the individual most responsible for bringing the concept of mind mapping to the business world. Revenues from his many and varied mind mapping activities are estimated at over £100 million annually.

He has had a hand in more than 90 books (with over six million sold in 33 languages) and travels eight to nine months every year, covering 73 countries so far.

Buzan's headquarters are close to the River Thames in Buckinghamshire, which is where Stuart Crainer caught up with him, as the martial artist, rower, and founder of the World Memory Championships, explained the essentials of the mind mapping concept and how it can help businesses to be better.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a visualisation of thought. Knowledge is not linear. All kinds of things radiate from your head when you have an idea. It is like an explosion, a supernova. It is in 360 degrees, three dimensions. That's the thought process that a mind map helps to capture.

How do you make one?

The mind really works in multiple thoughts and directions at the same time - radiant thinking, thinking from an image at the centre and radiating outward.

To make a mind map, start with an image in the centre of a blank sheet of paper and draw connectors branching out over the page.

Use both sides of the brain to think about your idea — the right side for images, dimensions, colour, and the left side for words, numbers, analysis and logic. Capture all those on one page in an associated way, and you have a mind map.

Because people don't make the most of their brains?

If you've never been taught about your brain, all you know is that your brain is your real problem. It is three pounds of grey slush and you're losing brain cells and your memory's going.

Most people don't like their brains. They've been taught that colour, imagination and daydreaming are wrong and childish. So when someone comes along and says you need to use colour and be playful, the immediate reaction is that they're talking nonsense.

It is not just a matter of teaching people how to more fully utilise their brains, but of removing the blindness with which people have been brought up.

What is the business case for brainpower?

By encouraging radiant thinking, we can make the best use of our creative abilities in an easy, natural way; that can have great benefits for any endeavour.

Imagine a company the same as your own that opens up across the road. Each of the individuals in the new company is 10 per cent more intelligent; 10 per cent more fit; 10 per cent faster in everything they do that requires speed; 10 per cent healthier; 10 per cent less stressed; 10 per cent better at learning and thinking; 10 per cent more energetic; 10 per cent happier.

How long would it take for them to dominate? What would happen to your company? It wouldn't last long, but it is quite easy to become the alternative company.

But don't companies invest more in training and developing people than ever before?

To lose £800,000 in a day, invest £1 million in training — 80 per cent of what people learn is forgotten within a day of training. That isn't because training is inappropriate; it is because the training doesn't take into account the way the brain functions.

Until training takes the brain into account, there will continue to be new fads and new titular directors of the fads. People will continue to be disillusioned and search for the perfect fad, the panacea. The good news is that business schools now often include mind mapping as part of their teaching equipment.

Have companies put your ideas into practice?

One of the most memorable examples was the accounts department of IBM in New York. They structured their activities through mind maps. This saved the company millions of dollars and made them money. They trained their people how to think.

One organisation I worked with is a $50 billion bank with about 1,000 people. Their training covers the mind and the body — mind mapping, innovation, creativity, knowledge management, communication skills, poetry to strengthen their metaphorical muscle, aerobic fitness, Ikedo, rowing, and mind sports like chess and Goh.

This has transformed the company's culture, personal and family lives. People are healthier, and communications skills have been notably enhanced.

So everybody can access the power of the brain if they choose to?

Yes, most people think that they're less able to determine their own future than they really are. People think they're trapped when they are not. It is self-perpetuating until you get a bigger perspective. Once you realise you are trapped, you change.

The brain is self-organising. It's designed to organise and manage knowledge. It has astonishing power to do that. It is in part a blank slate. If you feed it the correct formula, it will organise itself in the proper way.


About The Author

Des Dearlove & Stuart Crainer
Des Dearlove & Stuart Crainer

Des Dearlove is a long-term contributor and columnist for The Times and a contributing editor to Strategy+Business. Stuart Crainer is a contributing editor to Strategy+Business and executive editor of Business Strategy Review.