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As entrepreneurs a common trait among us is our ever present barrage of ideas that bounce around in our head. This is a natural bi-product of always looking for moments where creativity meets opportunity and there is little, if any control when it comes to the timing of the entrepreneurial process. You know what I’m talking about, that thing that when activated feels like your brain is incapable of any other thought. Like an alarm sounding off with great intensity, as if a power drill is boring through your skull from the inside out, desperate to be released. This little entrepreneurial factoid is probably the number one cause of relationship issues for us as well, as it can become all consuming. If you have never experienced this then understand it’s a feeling like no other and no amount of explaining can truly convey the intensity of it all.

Now without an outlet this primordial creative ooze that pours out of our ears just ends up evaporating into the air. This needs to be channeled and contained, otherwise these sparks of brilliance just dissipate back into the ether from whence they came. Sometimes never to be seen or heard of again. (Moment of silence please for all the ideas that have gone to idea heaven to be reborn to some dude who had a dream and strikes it rich and never does anything else again). So a good entrepreneur will usually carry some type of notebook or use there smart phone. Many still use paper, I myself being one. As these moments could strike at any time and cause a spontaneous brainstorming session that a touch screen simply will not do. (That and I enjoy practicing the lost art of handwriting. Ok I just like to doodle)

Who says you can’t love paper AND technology?

Picture it, you’re out for a quick dog walk and you run into a neighbour. In the ensuing conversation, said neighbour (completely unknowingly) produces a certain powerful, secret code containing nugget of what they consider unimportant information; yet to an entrepreneurs ear this is strategic intelligence. The missing piece to a dormant puzzle buried deep in their sub-conscious, that once awakened, can take on a life of its own. Right at that moment the world around you shifts; what feels like spiders of information begin to crawl through your scull. The light outside changes and you can barely hear what your neighbour is saying, as the only noise you can discern is from the increasing internal thoughts.

Your eyes begin to shift as you scan your surroundings; it’s the park. You have dogs bags in one hand and a Boston terrier tugging to chase the squirrels in another. You check for your phone and remember it is sitting on the coffee table back at home….NO! Internally you scream “MY KINGDOM FOR A PIECE OF PAPPER DAMMIT!”(Why do you think so many brilliant businesses have been started on a paper napkin?) It’s almost as if the fabric of space and time rips open right at this moment and allows you have a brief glimpse. You hastily bid adieu to the neighbour and rush back home. Stumbling through the front door you maki a mad dash to the closest writing instrument available (I have been known to use a makeup pencil on the back of my hand). Relief! You manage to scribble the idea down before it is whisked off by the idea fairies.

Now what? Aside from being high on adrenaline for the better part of the day, what happens after that strike of brilliance has fizzled out and you have this hastily written idea scribbled in sometimes almost illegible script? Well that’s where mind mapping comes in. Without some order and structure these ideas you fought so valiantly to preserve can end up being just words on a napkin never to be looked upon or even worse built upon! (Oh the shame.)

These faeries are all around ready to run off with any unappreciated ideas.

Mind mapping is my tool of choice to fight this entrepreneurial form of ADD/ADHD. According to my extensive Wikipedia research *cough*, this can also been known as a “spider diagram” or “idea sun bursting” as it was called in the 70’s (I can picture the brown and yellow prints and the afros just by reading the name haha). The reality is this tool can be traced back to the third century to the noted thinker Porphyry of Tyre. And since mind mapping is a close relative of the pictograph, that has had a popular resurgence and is all the rage right now, we can see that this technique is found throughout history.

Its appeal lies in the ability to break down information into cohesive and digestible chunks. Allowing you to create plans, draw correlations and take small and measurable steps when dealing with big picture concepts. If you have ever seen doctors in those scary plague movies and television shows, (remember that the first season of The Walking Dead, the doctor at the CDC that blew the place up) they too use mind mapping to hone in on patient 0. And if Hollywood says it’s so, then it must be so.

I was introduced to the concept of mind mapping a few years ago when I decided to go back to college. I invested in a psycho-educational assessment to make the best use of my innate learning and processing style when studying. It was the best money I EVER spent. And I recommend it to EVERYONE I meet. It ended up taking almost 8 full hours over three days, but I walked out of there equipped with the tools I needed to make my years of adult learning as productive as possible (I abhor any form of inefficiency, especially when it has to do with my time or my space. A spontaneous sock drawer rearrange is always in the cards).The skills and techniques that assessment taught me have invaluable and have been fully translatable in both my business and my life.

I find that mind mapping removes the intimidation factor when starting certain projects. It can be used in writing (every blog I write as a mind map first. This also allows me to brainstorm several posts in one sitting, creating an outline of my ideas, examples and references. Cutting my actual writing down by a good 75% compared to just sitting down and writing from scratch), project stages, procedural outline, and the list goes on and on. For example both my marketing plan and my business plan are laid out in a mind map. According to ThinkBuzan.com, another mind map developer, the reason for its appeal is that it mimics how our brain stores information. As well as the logical progression in assimilating and retaining the information. This technique is also great for remembering as it tricks your short term memory into recalling the cluster of details instead of the details themselves.

As you can see it does not have to be pretty, but simply have it work for you.

There are also several programs for your computer that allow you to structure your entire computer file system exactly how it is mapped in your mind. In the past I have used one called The Brain (my partner still using this one after almost 7 years. It just allows you to produce a more intuitive set up that makes going back to regular file systems seems downright torturous and un-natural). There are many alternatives such as Xmind, MindManager, Freemind and Visual Understanding Environment just to name a few. My only reason for not using one currently for my computer set up is, the nature of my work requires that I sometimes access client computers remotely, and I want to stay as familiar with the regular operating standard of most people’s computer. Otherwise I would be all over that like a Sex and the City shoe sale.

So of course you have read my previous blogs (it’s a given that you hang on my every written word). Referring back to my previous blog on delegation (Part of the “Entrepreneurial Parables” series) this is a tool that goes hand in hand with delegating; as mind mapping is a fantastic way to create an outline of the tasks you wish to get others to help you with. Allowing you to create an easy to read road map of what you are wanting out of their help. And the beauty of it all is you don’t even need a computer for it to work, as you can see by my pictures of my blog post outlines, those are all done by hand (the fluency of motion that writing creates is almost therapeutic for me and aides in my creative process). Mind mapping can be used in your business in so many different ways:

  • Business plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Proposals
  • Blog posts
  • Public Speaking/ presentation slides/ writing outlines
  • New website ideas/layout
  • Work flow charts
  • On boarding process
  • Procedural manuals

If you think you have never tried mind mapping, you probably have and just were not aware of it. And if you use it, that’s great, use it more. If formal writing is not needed then this is an ideal format for saving time, sticking to the point and being able to brain dump in the most user friendly manner.

What are some of the things that you mind map with? And if you don’t mind map, then I would love to know how you deal with your idea lightening and how you prepare for when it strikes again? How do you make the best use of your entrepreneurial creativity?

I would love to hear how you contain your creative ooze and shape it into greatness.