social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2017

Uh oh. Some one who defines himself as a content (psychology, social care, health care, public safety net programs) expert is going to go where the experts on mind mapping dare not tread.

My inspiration for this post comes from the application work of Philippe Packu and especially Hans Buskes as well as mathematical models, pragmatism, and the fact that I like to discuss the undiscussed.

Uh oh. Math and mind maps. Scary indeed. What is he thinking?

As I see it, mind mapping has evolved over the past 50 years in a predictable way.

Mind Mapping 1.0 was a discussion of those funny radial diagrams, why they might be important, which types of inquiry (brainstorming, summarizing, presenting, consensus building, information retrieval, memory) might be enhanced by these funny diagrams, feared by many because of the necessity at the time to have at least moderate artistic skills and the willingness to stand up in front of 50 people and display them. The giant in the era of Mind Mapping 1.0 was Tony Buzan who developed a series of core concepts about visual thinking and spread them widely in professional and public circles.

As part of his huge contribution, Buzan developed a series of “laws” of mind mapping. Much discussion of these suggested general principles has ensued. It would not be overstating to say that the degree to which one endorses these laws explains much of a split into different mind mapping “factions.” It is also important to remember that mind map use and training can anchor a very lucrative consulting practice and that factions will almost automatically arise as the consultants seek to differentiate themselves from one another. This is not bad, and the development of factions can drive theoretical development as it has in this case. A second faction of mind mappers – tending to be associated with the computer product family Mindjet – has also arisen. There are other variants lying along a continuum with Buzan and Mindjet defining the end points.

Mind Mapping 2.0 is a glorious era when the whole world can draw mind maps fairly easily using a large group of computer programs (expanding daily) to promote memory, creativity, brainstorming, collaboration, consensus, organization, information encoding, information retrieval, God, country, and Queen. We are right at the peak of that era when creativity has moved us into a period of great growth and enthusiasm. We have at least a dozen good products for expanding the empire, and an audience that is listening. So we need to get an effective, computer-era definition of mind mapping.

Mathematical (and other scientific) models usually go through a series of stages in which specific models are developed and rules of applicability are stated, a period of generalization in which the rules of applicability are stretched to fit more phenomena, and a later stage when the most general model is derived and tested in many different application areas.

The parallel in the mind mapping world was the development of Buzan’s “laws” for successful mind mapping, the “stretching” of Buzan’s model by making his laws more general or even ignoring some of them, and finally a model in which mind maps as we know them are but a subset of a more general model of information visualization (including dozens of similar techniques which go under different names in their parallel development universes). The best taxonomy of related information visualization methods is the Wiki developed by Roy Grubb. A general model can subsume most of the techniques discussed by Mr. Grubb.

My definition: Mind Mapping is a set of information visualization techniques that can be incorporated as a subset within the overall computational equations of a very general computer program iMindMap.

OMG. He’s defining mind mapping in terms of a specific “mind map” program developed by a company partially owned by Tony Buzan. Has he been drinking?

I doubt either Mr. Buzan or the ThinkBuzan company would agree with my definition at this time. They are wrong.

Developing a computer program to implement a information theory model requires a huge amount of effort in concretely defining a number of issues discussed loosely in words. Computers need SPECIFIC instructions. What often happens in (the best) computer program development is that in coding a variety of steps and subprocesses necessary to accomplish a general goal require  that a number of specific decisions be addressed (parameterized). Often rather than making an arbitrary yes/no, big/small, curvy-organic/straight decision, computer programmers implement a parameter whose value can be specified as an option (such as “how much curve do you want in the branch” or “which set of colors do you want to use in a map or “should you allow one-two-hundreds of words on a mind map branch”).

iMindMap is a program parameterized in such a way so that every other mind mapping procedure currently extant can be produced using the program. Hhhmmm. And, various information visualizations not necessarily currently called mind maps (concept maps, timelines, statistical graphics) can be produced in the program. We are seeing a very general information visualization model in the program that permits us to develop different parameterizations that have historically had different names attached.

Yes you can produce maps that look like those prepared from different mind map programs within iMindMap. Yes you can produce concept maps within iMindMap. Yes you can produce timelines within iMindMap. Yes you can produce path diagrams. Yes you can incorporate quantitative data. See the blogs of Hans Buskes and Philippe Pack and others including mine for many examples of generalizing the traditional Buzan model all within the iMindMap parameterization.

iMindMap will probably be rapidly superceded by more general models that relax further traditional assumptions and permit even more parameterizations. ThinkBuzan seems to produce such generalizations annually.

Again note that the general model incorporated in iMindMap can be reduced to specific models or the equivalent of different computer programs depending upon how the general model is parameterized.

I believed that the parameterization based general model should be attributed to Chris Griffiths although many others have undoubtedly also contributed to it as well.

Mind Mapping 3.0 is all about taking the promise of the general information visualization model and incorporating important, valid, reliable, actionable data into the application of the general model. Mind Mapping 3.0 is starting and will become a tsunami in the next five years. I promise.

Note: I often use mind maps in my blog posts. I intentionally did not include a map here because I did not want the style I usually incorporate in my own mind maps to confuse the issues above.



Post a comment
  1. December 18, 2012

    Great analysis George.
    It’s very important to keep our mind open when talking about mind mapping. As soon as we start to use it and promote a certain way of applying it, it should always come with clear explanation about the ultimate goal and the benefits, which might be very different from one person to another.


  2. December 3, 2012

    Please add your reactions to my conclusions.


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