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The Map may not be the territory – but it has many uses Mind Maps have become a very useful and versatile tool for expressing and understanding concepts and for developing ideas. Andy Coote, a mind mapper himself for 20 years, examines why and looks at the ways in which maps are used by some NLP Practitioners and therapists


t is good practice, I was taught, when writing features not to make the material too personal – and so I won’t, except to say that I have been an active mind mapper for some 20 years since it was first introduced to me on a Time Manager course, much of which, now I think of it, I don’t actually apply – but the mind mapping stuck. I’ve since used maps for many purposes, some of which will appear in this article and, like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, I’ve ‘gone electric’ in recent years, using a Tablet PC and mind mapping software. This article was planned using mind maps. My first encounter with Mind Maps™, back in the 1980s, was in a BBC book called Use Your Head written by Tony Buzan. Buzan has claimed Mind Mapping for his own since he developed his form of it in the 1960s, though it is suggested that mapping in similar forms may be age old in its origins. The words Mind Map are trademarked by Buzan’s organisation in the UK and USA. When I refer to mind maps and mind mapping in this article, however, I will be referring to maps that do not necessarily conform to Buzan’s rules. Mind mapping is a flexible way of note taking, organising, structuring and remembering information that can be easily extended without worrying about changing the underlying structure. The beauty of this form of working is that there is no imposition of structure until you choose to determine it – and even then, it can be changed quickly and easily. Mind maps are also useful, as we will see in a Therapy and Coaching context, for group or individual work including the co-creation and sharing of ideas. In its simplest form, a mind map is created freehand, preferably on a large sheet of paper. Initial mapping can be quick and instinctive. From an initial idea in the centre of the paper, ideas and themes can be added to the central idea and to each other. Relationships between branches can identified. Creating a mind map of everything that is known about a problem, for example, may lead, as we will see, to breakthrough either by combining ideas or by noting what is absent. In recent years, a number of software applications have been developed that allow mapping to take place on a PC or Mac. The additional benefits of software include the ability to move branches

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allows capture of pertinent details

verbal and non verbal

allows overview of areas not yet explored extract the essence from recordings/memory

works across multiple sessions

spotting 'structural equivalence' between metaphors

allows development of relationship questions

developed by questioning their perception of the issue

Personal coaching and change work

What benefits do you get?


One line describe what you do

creation of hypotheses

NLP Clean Language Symbolic Modelling

mapping the client's mind what would you like to have happen Subtopic

Answer to opening question at the centre of a map branch off from word and phrases used

start new map based on metaphor isomorphic representation of something going on in their head


Andy Nelson

level? therapist?

trainer trained doesn't like the term

mm for how long?

late 90s read book by Tony Buzan

move to metaphor

more detailed description of how you use (optional)

exploring structure and relationship of internal representation of an issue "like I'm banging my head against a brick wall" what kind of wall is that wall? explore what could have been a throwaway line

development questions

strength of Clean Language to move from shared prototypical description into detail

symbolic modelling

working towards where client wants to go only rarely a mind map

client produces a map of their symbolic landscape

not shared with client

What areas do you use MM in?


Type of approach software

- 30/09/2003 -

organising reports and learning subjects symbolic modelling symbolic modelling maps are all freehand which

not asked

for other purposes

Mind mapping is a flexible way of note taking, organising, structuring and recalling information

mapping books) Buzan makes a great point of around and re-structure maps at will, the mentioning the advantages of mind maps as ability to create groups of maps and to aide memoires. (See Box - A million million be able to create other documents from jabbering neurons…). Though it seems logical maps (and maps from other documents). that mind maps work best for visual people, my To create a basic map using the Buzan experience in talking to mind mappers is that approach, place the subject at the centre most people find the shapes and patterns useful. and radiate outwards through branches Some of the common uses for mind mapping that lead to smaller branches. There must have already been suggested in this article. be only one word per branch and the They can be used as a study aid, both in note use of use of colour and graphics is not taking and in memorising and revision and in research, collecting ideas only encouraged but strongly mandated. Make it graphic using letter and and references for later use. Software mind maps are useful for collecting word shapes and pictures that create a key to the idea in your mind. As a clickable web references as well as direct quotes. I use that process creative tool, it is important to be both expressive and memorable. when I am preparing I take the view that articles such as this and mind maps are a tool for presentations. The and that it is not always A million million jabbering neurons… ultimate use was for a necessary to be strict book I wrote in 2004/5 about Buzan’s rules – The science behind Mind Maps is complex, even though the process of creating one seems where extensive research Tony Buzan, of course, simple. Mind Maps work because they are expressed in the language of the brain, as a sort was recorded, sorted, disagrees with me. I often of ‘explosion’ of thoughts, ideas and emotions that fill the mind day and night. “Brains do much of it discarded and use phrases as well as not work in a straight line, monochromatic, verbal way,” says Tony, “but that is usually how then shaped into chapters single words and many of students are taught. The result is messy, difficult and time-wasting.” using mind mapping my maps are not coloured Buzan likens the Mind Map to a supernova, a bright star which explodes into new patterns software. at all. However, if I want of visible light we can only see after the explosion has taken place. The thought process Leadership to be able to remember is a series of similar explosions. Captured on paper using the rules of Mind Mapping, the Development specialist the map, rather than explosion becomes a snapshot of the brain’s thinking. However, the information and ideas Graham Wilson has been just transforming it into that have been generated are contained, ordered and logical. using Mind Mapping another document, I do for 32 years. “A teacher use colour and graphics. “This is the framework and the fundamental architecture of thought,” he explains. “Each showed us Tony Buzan Software mind maps also node in the Mind Map will contain a potential explosion of its own, so that one branch with presenting ‘Use your allow you to use multi a keyword will trigger many others.” Head’ on super8 and I media additions such as was hooked from that video and audio. Source – The Buzan Organisation point.” He uses maps in In Use Your Head many aspects of his client (and in subsequent mind

rapport - Spring 2008

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work. Every meeting is recorded freehand and relationship of internal representation as are 121 client sessions. “I have created of an issue using Clean Language to move software versions for clients but they are the from shared prototypical description into exception, mostly I use them for the next session detail, mind maps work well in reflecting the and for supervision.” As well as using maps to developing structure. “The map allows me to create articles and books, he also uses them for capture the pertinent details, verbal and non verbal, speaker notes. “They are quick to create so I can do it and allows an overview of areas not yet explored. It ‘on the fly’. The key points are on one page, which keeps you also works across multiple sessions and allows me to extract ‘to the point’ and there are no reams of notes. The main benefit, though, the essence from recordings and my memory. It allows me to spot the is in the delivery. I’m not looking at – or reading from – notes and I have ‘structural equivalence’ between metaphors from which I can create of the flexibility to skip or reorganise material giving me the flexibility to hypotheses to be developed by questioning. We are literally mapping the tailor the speech to time or to the audience feedback.” client’s mind and their perception of the issue. John Farrell works with Emerging Knowledge, which has developed There are many more options for further uses of the software maps. out of NLP and Clean Language and uses NLP techniques with his Gyronix produce a time management system that tracks your projects clients. He also presents a radio programme for a local internet radio and tasks and creates reports including key tasks to be completed and station. His handwritten mind map is part can, if you choose, also use it to track chargeable of an organic process in which he uses key time. Why Mind Maps? words to “spark ideas and capture them in The combination of Tablet PCs, which allow the moment. The themes for the programme pen input directly into a laptop computer, and “People can be successful using only 10% of develop through the week”. Whilst software that allows freehand creation of maps and the cognitive potential of their brains. Mind interviewing, the mind map allows him to “go conversion of them into computer readable maps, Mapping is capable of unleashing the power of with the flow. There is no longwinded script has created new possibilities for capturing data in the other 90% and tapping into latent genius. and I can cover all relevant topics by referring real time. One such possibility, being marketed by When people look back on how they were to one piece of paper”. ‘conferenceREACTION’, is the recording of a operating before they learned to Mind Map, Andy Nelson also uses mind maps in his conference or seminar using mind maps combined they say it is as if they were working in the personal coaching and change work. He with multimedia – audio and video of speeches dark using the wrong tools.” uses hypnosis, NLP, Clean Language and and interviews with participants – all published Symbolic Modelling. Andy discovered mind to participants or a web site within a few days to Tony Buzan mapping in the late 1990s when he read one allow the ideas to be developed and conversation of Tony Buzan’s many books on the subject. to continue. It is in his Symbolic Modelling work that I may well be biased, but it seems clear that mind mind maps play an important part. “I put the answer to the question mapping and NLP have many synergies. From the straightforward use ‘what would you like to have happen’ at the centre of a map and then of maps to develop articles (and yes, I did use one to plan this article) branch off from there noting key words and phrases used. When the and books, to, literally, mapping a client’s mind, they have a flexibility client moves into metaphor, I start a new map based on the metaphor. and versatility that match the flexibility and versatility of the tools and What develops is an isomorphic representation of something going on techniques of NLP. in their head.” As symbolic modelling is about exploring the structure How will you use them?

Further Resources Buzan World (Buzan Organisation) MindManager

Mind Mapping software (Wikipedia)

Andy Nelson - Conference Reaction John Farrell -

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Graham Wilson -

Gyronix ResultsManager

Mind Mapping Article  

Published Rapport Spring 2008