By Judith E. Glaser
Seeing the World in a New Way
Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping book and techniques changed my life. They gave me the tools to start to think differently — not only about how to manage my own mind, but also how to help my clients innovatively transform relationships, teams and even their whole organizations.
Mind mapping is a visual approach to thinking — visually organizing information around a central idea, then adding branches of related details (ideas, notes, images, tasks, hyperlinks and attachments) to flesh out the idea. You end up with a big picture clearly before you, and branches for tracking all the details.
What is so exciting about mind mapping is that its framework offers a way to think both analytically and creatively at the same time. A common analytical framework is to organize material around big ideas and sub‐ideas ‐‐ big concepts and then bulleted sub‐topics. Yet for people who have creative minds, it’s very difficult to think in a linear fashion. Creative minds make links that others don’t think of or see right away. Having the freedom to create links that don’t follow any type of logical order ‐‐ and to do it visually ‐‐ is at the heart of the mind mapping approach.
The Evolution of Mind Mapping
My company has evolved over the years to include mind mapping as part of the work I do with all my clients. When using mind mapping, I started noticing that drawing ideas in visual maps or “mind maps” facilitated my client conversations and enabled us to work out challenging ideas in a highly collaborative way — even when there were potential conflicts amongst team members. When we were graphically mind mapping, we could feel an organic shift take place that turned foes into friends, and “my idea” into “our idea.”
Our conversations were so powerful, I gave them a special name -‐ Co‐creating Conversations(R). The conversations seemed to simulate an experience of mind melding — a shift from I to WE — that had the power to quell the fear centers of the brain, and activate the partnering centers of the brain. As a result, people began to innovate and co‐create at levels far beyond what they had ever experienced before.
Recent studies have shown that when we feel deeply connected with others, our brains produce oxytocin. Nicknamed the “love hormone,” oxytocin has been shown to contribute to behaviors such as relationship building, bonding and collaboration in teams. Our brains also start to mirror each other’s brains — which scientists can even show on an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), a scan of the brain’s activity. When people are really connecting, they also are activating a special category of neurons called mirror neurons — which truly enable us to “see the world from another person’s eyes.”
The combination of mind mapping and Creating WE, the philosophy behind my work, has been ideal for helping clients with some of their biggest challenges — for example, team members behaving like competitors and/or forming silos or exhibiting “us vs. them” thinking.
These two technologies give clients a way to create a safe space for breaking down barriers to trust. One technique I invented using mind mapping tools I call Double‐Clicking. I gave it this name because the process mimics the “double‐clicking” that we use when opening folders on the computer. When I use Double‐Clicking with teams, I ask them to delve into — or double‐click — on their individual mindscapes to share and compare word meanings and perceptions with each other.
Using Mind Mapping for Team Engagement
Double‐Clicking is one of the most powerful ways to create team engagement and shift conflicts into co‐creation. Here’s a great example of the application of Double‐Clicking to create business success.
Most people define “success” very differently, but don’t realize it. One person may view team success as a lack of conflict, another as the ability to share differing ideas, and another sees it purely as a financial measure. By double‐clicking on success, individuals can begin to understand each other’s perceptions better and dramatically improve how they work together. Breaking down barriers and creating bonding is the secret behind double‐clicking.
Try This Double Clicking Exercise!
Here are a few things you can do to experiment with Double‐Clicking and mind mapping:
- Gather a group of people, or a team that are going to work together. Have them sit at tables — five to seven people per table, ideally.
- Pick a few key words or concepts that are vital to your organization’s success.
- Ask each person to individually mind map one key word — and when they get stuck or run out of ideas, to double‐click on an existing idea to discover other embedded ideas.
- Then ask them to share and compare the mind maps, looking for words and concepts in common.
- Work as a whole group to identify the most important linkages that emerge from the mind mapping process and merge them together in one big map.
- Repeat the process with other key words.
Judith E. Glaser is a change agent and executive coach, and refers to herself as an organizational anthropologist. She’s been a speaker for Vistage and TEC for more than six years, and is the author of three best-selling books: Creating We, The DNA of Leadership and 42 Rules for Creating WE; her new book Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion) will be published October 1, 2013. You can e-mail Glaser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: Oct 20, 2011