Last updated Sep 2020
The quick guide to mind mapping
Evan Roxanna Ramzipoor,
Contributing Writer
Evan Ramzipoor is a California-based writer and author who has been featured in McSweeney’s, Salon, and others. Check out her work at erramzipoor.com.

What is a Mind Map & How do you Make One?

Have you ever felt the urge to sketch something out in order to get it straight in your mind? Or, have you ever needed to brainstorm different ways to solve a problem? Enter, mind mapping: an amazing visual tool to brainstorm and map out connections between concepts and ideas. Why is it so amazing? It’s nonlinear – just like your brain.

Keep reading to find out more about mind maps, and how you can create one (for free!) in Miro.

What is mind mapping?

At its core, a mind map is a type of diagram that visually links a central subject or concept to related concepts, ideas, words, items, or tasks. When you create a mind map it allows you to come up with ideas in a non-linear way, start to make connections between concepts, and then add structure to ideas to make a hierarchical map.

It has many applications, but a few things we love using it for are brainstorming creative ideas, thinking of ways to solve a problem, mapping out processes, making visual sitemaps, creating organizational structures, and so much more!

Learn more about this Mind Map Template>>

The theory behind mind mapping: Why use mind maps?

Although the mind map and similar models have been used for centuries, it was first popularized by British psychologist Tony Buzan (who also invented the first speed-reading technique). He argued that traditional outlines required the thinker to take in information from left to right and top to bottom. According to Buzan, those methods are inherently limiting and contrary to how we naturally process information. Mind maps allow us to follow the brain’s natural preference, which is to process information more holistically and non-linearly.

To further understand why mind mapping is so effective, let’s take a short detour into the world of cognitive science. What happens when you take a bite of your favorite food? Or recall a memory? Or watch a movie? Every time a piece of information enters your brain, it becomes part of a complex neural network. This network is simply a collection of information in the form of central nodes with smaller, related branches radiating from each node. In other words? A mind map!

“Did you know that you use less than 1% of your brain? The good news is that mind mapping can help you to access the other 99%!” – Tony Buzan

Mind mapping is exactly what your brain is programmed to do, and is doing, all the time. Your brain is basically a supercomputer with lines of thought radiating from massive constellations of data nodes. Using a mind map can help you unlock those constellations and present them in a way that’s easy to understand.

Mind mapping examples

Since mind mapping is a technique for visualizing, let’s show you some examples of mind maps from real Miro users.

Example #1

Let’s start with a simple mind mapping example. This utilizes the Random Words brainstorming technique, which is all about free association. You have your central concept or word in the middle, then you think about random words that are related and map them to that concept.

Example #2

Now let’s look at a slightly bigger mind map made into a Miroverse template by Javier Peña. This mind map maps the process to planning a sustainable business, as summarized in the book The Entrepreneur Myth.

Example #3

Time to go even bigger. This mind map, created as a template by entrepreneurial community De Brouwerij, was created as “a brave attempt to get a grip on what makes companies successful” as they grow from small to medium-sized. It’s a great example to show you that mind mapping really has no limits!

How to mind map

As soon as you start mind mapping, you’ll see how naturally intuitive it feels. The beauty of creating a mind map is it’s fairly easy and straightforward. It’s designed that way to encourage a free flow of ideas and information.

You can do it on paper easily, but we’re going to show you how to make a digital copy that you can work on alone or collaboratively with others.

Here’s a step by step to make a mind map – and tips for doing it in Miro.

1. Start with a concept or central idea

Begin with something that is central to your problem or topic. Once you have it, type it in the middle of the map, in the central bubble. When working from a blank canvas, you can press Shift+Enter to create a new bubble. Keep the name of each concept in each node relatively short.

Pro tip: If you're mind mapping with a group, make sure you have no more than six participants

2. Add related ideas

Next, in a rapid-fire session, have your team develop related sub topics or concepts around that central one. Add branches and child nodes by clicking Enter or Tab. If you need to delete a node, just select it and click Delete.

3. Repeat the process for more subtopics

Generate even lower subtopics and connect them via branches and child nodes. Once you’re ready to move or structure ideas, hold down Ctrl or Cmd and click on concepts to drag and rearrange the branches

4. Highlight the best ideas

Review your mind map and mark the ideas that resonate the most with you and your team. Think about what's missing and what can be fleshed out or explored even further.

5. Get creative with it

You don’t have to be a designer to create a visually fun mind map diagram. Try changing the color and orientation or even intersperse things like sticky notes, images, or emojis.

Create your own

Miro makes it fun and easy to create a mind map. Your imagination is the limit! Whether you’re creating your first mind map or you’ve done it a thousand times before, you can streamline the process with Miro.

  • Share the board with others to allow teammates to view, comment, and edit.

  • Export your mind map in high resolution.

  • View the edit history on your mind map and revert to previous versions as necessary.

Brainstorm, design information architecture, plan projects, create org charts, develop sales strategies, and more – all without switching tools.

Learn more about Miro's free mind mapping software>>

Looking to read more about remote collaboration? Start at Chapter 1 of our guide!

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