Creating a Group Mind Map Exercise

Posted on by Brandon Klein

To build a Mind Map is to build a visual association of ideas — words and key phrases that express your important thoughts around a core idea or ideas. We use this as a large group exercise to Scan participants’ thoughts and build a context for later work. It works like this: start with a core idea — write it on the WorkWall, large, and circle it. This is your hub. Ask participants to share what ideas they associate with it. Scribe each as a word or short phrase around the hub. Link similar comments, or comments-on-comments, with a line or arrow, and allow these branches to build out from your hub. If appropriate, introduce other “hubs” to explore a set of related ideas. The key to a good Mind Map is, of course, the selection of the hub ideas. As a Scan exercise, this is usually related to a group’s identity or mission. It allows a group to Scan and share its thinking without forcing participants to declare “we are this” and “we are not this.” It’s often much easier to say, “that leads me to think of this (because I think that’s an important part of who we are).” We use Mind Mapping informally, as described. It was developed by Tony Buzan and his Brain Foundation as a technique to improve memory and creativity by using both left brain (analytical thinking) and right brain (holistic, visual thinking). Buzan invites the user to develop additional conventions to make Mind Mapping a more complete system of note taking and thinking — providing special meaning to different types of arrows, branching arrangements, shapes, geometric figures, color, et cetera.

To Scan and hear a wide range of ideas; to build context for the development of concepts; to begin a group process of design.

A Mind Map can be done at any point in the Scan process, including the opening module of a DesignShop. A good Mind Map can be done in 30 to 50 minutes.

Strengths — Facilitates a group exploring identity and mission, or concepts around other themes chosen. It forces short answers, thus (typically) a broad scan. It’s usually a short but valuable module. Can be a good “warm up” to get people thinking and engaged. Weaknesses — Usually doesn’t go deep. Doesn’t always yield surprises. Have to watch the timing — best if kept short. Specifications for Success — 1. As always, choose your topic well. 2. Should be tightly facilitated. Watch the timing — when the energy starts to drop off, switch to another aspect of the Map or draw the exercise to closure.

Also see Graphic Facilitation / Visualization Sub-Section.