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Mind Map: the Ultimate Thinking Tool


Since my invention of Mind Maps during the 1960s, they have become known as the ‘ultimate thinking tool’. They have taken me on a fascinating journey that has transformed my life, and I hope they will help you transform yours for the better too.

As a direct result of Mind Maps, the 14th International Conference on Thinking held at University Putra Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, in 2009, in conjunction with Malaysia’s Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, officially declared the twenty-first century to be the Century of the Brain, and the current millennium to be the Millennium of the Mind. The Minister also formally declared that we have moved through the Ages of Agriculture, Industry, Information and Knowledge into the new Age of Intelligence – and the Mind Map is the ‘ultimate thinking tool’ for intelligence.

In my second year at university, I strode purposefully into the library, and asked the librarian where I could find a book on my brain and how to use it. She immediately directed me to the medical section of the library. When I explained that I did not wish to operate on my brain, but to use it, I was politely informed that there were no such books. I left the library in astonishment.

Like others around me, I was going through the typical student’s ‘pilgrim’s progress’: the slow realisation that the volume of academic work is increasing and that the brain is starting to buckle under the strain of all the thinking, reading, creativity, memory, problem-solving, analysis and writing required. Again, like others, I had begun to experience not only diminishing returns but accelerating non-returns. The more I took notes and studied, the less, paradoxically, I seemed to succeed!

The logical progression of either situation led me to catastrophe. If I cut down my studying, I would not absorb the necessary information and would consequently do progressively badly; if I were studying harder, making more notes, putting in more time, I was similarly spiraling into failure. The answer, I assumed, must lie in the way I was using my intelligence and thinking skills–hence my visit to the library.

As I walked away from the library that day, I realized that the ‘problem’ of not being able to find the books I needed was actually a blessing in disguise. For if such books were not available, then I had happened upon virgin territory of the most staggering importance.

I began to study every area of knowledge I felt would help shed light on the basic questions:
★ How do I learn how to learn?
★ What is the nature of my thinking?
★ What are the best techniques for memorising?
★ What are the best techniques for creative thinking?
★ What are the best current techniques for faster and efficient reading?
★ What are the best current techniques for thinking in general?
★ Is there a possibility of developing new thinking techniques or one master technique?

As a consequence of these questions, I began to study psychology, the neuro-physiology of the brain, semantics, neuro-linguistics, information theory, memory and mnemonic techniques, perception, creative thinking, the notes of the great thinkers in all disciplines and the general sciences. Gradually I realised that the human brain functioned more effectively and efficiently if its various physical aspects and intellectual skills were allowed to work harmoniously with each other, rather than being divided.

The tiniest things produced the most significant and satisfying results. For example, simply combining two skills – words and colours – that exist in different hemispheres of the brain transformed my note-taking. The simple addition of two colours to my notes improved my memory of those notes significantly, and, perhaps even more importantly, made me begin to enjoy what I was doing.

Little by little, an overall architecture began to emerge, and as it did, I began to coach, as a hobby, pupils who had been described as ‘learning disabled’, ‘hopeless’, ‘dyslexic’, ‘attention disorder’, ‘backward’ and ‘delinquent’. All these so-called ‘failures’ very rapidly changed into good students, a number of them rising to the top of their respective classes.
One young girl, Barbara, had been told that she had the lowest IQ her school had ever registered. Within a month of learning how to learn, she raised her IQ to 160, and eventually graduated as the top student from her college. Pat, a young American of extraordinary talent, who had been falsely categorized as learning disabled, subsequently said (after having shattered a number of creativity and memory tests), ‘I wasn’t learning disabled; I was learning deprived.’

I started in 1971, and as I did so the image on the horizon became ever clearer – it was the growing concept of Radiant Thinking, Mind Mapping and a mentally literate world. In the early stages of developing the Mind Map, I envisaged mind mapping being used primarily for memory. However, after months of discussion, my brother Barry convinced me that creative thinking was an equally important application of this technique.

We sincerely hope that the Mind Map gives you the same thrill of discovery, excitement in exploration and sheer delight in the creative generation of ideas and communication that we have ourselves experienced.

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