Mind mapping for a creative breakthrough

Nov. 11, 2013
What do luminaries such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Sir Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Marie Curie, Pable Picasso, and Sir Isaac Newton have in common?

By Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA

What do luminaries such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Sir Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Marie Curie, Pable Picasso, and Sir Isaac Newton have in common? What shared habit did they have that enabled them to see beyond the obvious and achieve incredible breakthroughs?

You might be surprised to know that it was a tool. A tool that helped them tap into their creative brain. This tool enabled clearer vision, links and associations to occur. This tool helped their brain make great leaps of understanding and imagination by association. It is this thinking tool that unlocked their amazing brain power.


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This tool is mind mapping. All of these celebrated achievers used similar methods of drawing to help them come up with their creative ideas. Although the technique is not new, the discovery of how to utilize mind maps is. The term mind mapping, coined by Englishman Tony Buzan, is now being taught in boardrooms, classrooms and brainstorming sessions throughout the world. The genius of Buzan is that he recognized the method of tapping into creativity and made it mainstream.

The reason why creative greats used a powerful language of images to organize, develop, and remember their thoughts is because the brain has a natural aptitude for visual recognition; it is, in fact practically perfect. This is why you are much more likely to remember information when you use images to represent it.

The magic of mind mapping is that it a whole brain alternative to linear thinking. This ingenious tool engages both sides of the brain with the use of image, color, and imagination (right brain activates) in combination with words, numbers, and logic (left brain activities). It encourages synergetic thinking. The sum of the ideas coming from utilizing the whole brain is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, when we engage both of our brain hemispheres, we have the ability to come up with novel new associations that can lead to a breakthrough.

How Does Mind Mapping Work?

Mind mapping reaches out in all directions and catches thoughts from any angle. It is a way of putting information into your brain and taking information out of your brain. It is like a city map and is a creative way to take notes by literally "mapping out" your thoughts. The best part is that it is simple, fun, and effective. With a mind map, our natural way of doing things can turn a long list of boring information into a colorful, highly organized, memorable diagram that works in line with your brain's natural way of doing things.

There are three benefits to mind mapping.

  1. It can clear your brain of "monkey mind," allowing you to focus on the subject.
  2. It helps demonstrate connections between isolated pieces of information, giving a clear picture of both the details and the big picture. With a grouping and regrouping of concepts, comparisons occur and the big picture is revealed.
  3. It requires you to concentrate on your subject, which helps store it in your long-term memory.

Mind mapping acts as a gymnasium for your creativity. It exercises your whole brain -- both the right and left hemispheres. Believe it or not, everyone is inherently creative. As children, we use our imagination constantly. But as adults, it truly is as Picasso said, "We simply get educated out of."

By practicing creative thinking, you gain in your capacity to come up with new ideas, to solve problems in an original way, and to stand head and shoulders above the crowd in terms of imagination, behavior, and productivity. If you fully unlock your innate creativity you will understand that your potential to achieve and succeed is limitless.

It is clear that mind mapping can help enhance our learning experience. When we apply mind mapping to challenges in dentistry, we broaden our knowledge of the issue, increase our scope of possibilities, and arrive at creative solutions. By drawing mind maps, we make associations about issues that seem unrelated yet are linked. Any issue can be addressed. Questions such as: What career path do you want to take? What is the pressing challenge in your dental office right now? How can we approach this old problem in a new way? What ideas need to be generated? How can the new training process be best implemented? How can you contribute more meaningfully to the office environment? How can you best provide patient care? What skills do you need to add to your professional portfolio? How do you create relationship with your patient? With your co-workers? With your boss?

With practice and working on your mind maps over a period of time, you will be amazed at how connections and creativity are enhanced. Mind mapping is the ultimate tool to learn, organize, and store as much information as you want, and to classify it in natural ways that give you easy and instant access to whatever you want. Activating this natural technique fires up your "whole brain" for creative insight. Unlike Edison, you may not transcend time with your breakthroughs, but you will find it to be a creative and effective way to learn. Plus, it is a lot of fun!

Steps to Mind Mapping in the Dental Environment
  1. Determine your challenge or goal.
  2. Start with a central image or picture. With an image worth a thousand words, you have already said much.
  3. Be colorful with the map. Color will add vibrancy, life, and energy to your creative thinking.
  4. Grow your map like the branches of a tree -- one branch from another branch to the main trunk. If you connect the branches, you will remember more easily.
  5. Curve your branches. Straight lines are boring for the brain, while curved lines are organic.
  6. Use one key word per line. Single words are multipliers, generating associations and connections.
  7. Use images throughout. Ten images will equal 10,000 words.
  8. Have fun with it.

DOROTHY GARLOUGH, RDH, MPA is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change in both the dental and corporate worlds. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at [email protected] .

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