Mind Mapping Made Easy


During a recent conference session, all my fellow participants wanted to take photos of my mind mapping notes! I did not think I was doing anything unusual since I have been using this technique regularly to take notes, design sessions, and to think about a specific topic for almost two decades. With groups, I occasionally use it at a big scale to capture many ideas around a topic.  Because of the interest, I wanted to share some great tips on using this fabulous tool.

What is Mind Mapping?

The mind-map process, developed by Tony Buzan, is a powerful graphic (visual) technique which uses color, key words, and images to generate ideas and summarize, sort, and retain information on any topic.

Mind-mapping, used for creative problem-solving, is the process by which you extract information from either your or others’ memory, or from your or others’ creative reservoirs and organize that information in an external form. It can help tremendously with decision-making.




It is also known as radiant thinking because we as individuals and groups can start with one concept and draw “radiant” branches of similar information associated with it. When we do this we “discover the vast potential of (our) associative machinery as well as gaining insight into our own and others’ uniqueness as individuals” (Buzan, p. 64).

The Many Benefits

  • Time saved in noting, reading, and reviewing notes/ideas
  • Concentration is enhanced
  • Clear and appropriate associations
  • Easier for the brain to accept and remember visually stimulating, multi-colored, multi-dimensional concepts
  • Continuous and potential endless flow of thought
  • In harmony with brain’s natural desire for completion or wholeness

Materials Needed


  • Blank 8 ½ x 11 paper
  • Fine tipped felt pens of many colors (at least 8-10 colors)
  • Highlighter pens and/or colored chalk for shading effects


  • Large, blank paper. Use several flipchart sheets taped together with tape on the underside or cut an 8-10 foot section from a paper roll.
  • Bold colors of thick tipped felt pens. Avoid using yellow, red, pink, or pale orange for the words or lines as they cannot be seen from far away, or by those who have color-blindness. These colors can be used for parts of some of the images.

Guidelines to Remember

  • Think three-dimensional
  • Use arrows to connect ideas
  • When you have no more ideas or thoughts on one sub-theme, go on to the next sub-theme
  • Try to use an image, icon or symbol that is meaningful to you or the group
  • Start in the middle of a horizontal page, placing the main idea in the center, and then developing lines outwards in a radial form
  • Use a minimum number of words on each of the main branches; preferably use keywords or just images
  • Represent the main idea or topic with a clear image
  • Ensure adequate space between branches to accommodate and balance out these ideas
  • Underline keywords or circle them in one color to strengthen the map structure.
  • Use a different color for each branch and its key words.

My Own Examples

Below are notes I took in a course by Kimberley Bain of the BainGroup in Kingston, Ontario. It was on planning for a complex conflict intervention and was fantastic! This is a simple mind map using just a pencil and a few markers to highlight the case study we were working on.




The example below is a mind map I used to map out the pre-conference we offered in Mumbai with Lilian Wang and Yvonne Yam on Meetings That Rock.  The mind map helped me get clear on all the different aspects that we wanted to include in our 1-day version.




Helpful Resources

Ted Talk on a map of the brain: https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_jones_a_map_of_the_brain

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. Mary Repole on January 12, 2020 at 12:00 am

    Hi Barbara,
    I am interested in doing a mind map at an upcoming board retreat. Do you have any experience doing it large scale in real time as the group calls out different thoughts that are impacting an issue? I’d be interested to hear your experience.

    Mary Repole

    • Barbara MacKay on October 9, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      Dear Mary,
      Yes!. Very easy. Just put together a large piece of paper or I often will take four pieces of flip chart paper together on the wall or more if a larger group. Have many different colored markers available -make sure they are really fat tipped. Do about six different colors of branches coming out from your main central topic circle. As people offer ideas you can write it in large LETTERS on one if the the main branches and then as people add offshoots of that idea you can just add it to the branch with that theme. Add drawings as you go along -ask people where it might go If you are not sure. Once you got about four teams going, stop and ask someone to summarize what they’re seeing or do it yourself so people can be thinking about other ideas that might be added as offshoot ideas. Get the group to sum up the discussion and rename the themes if they think they have better words to describe the actual categories of ideas. Hope this helps. I do have a PDF module on it on my website for sale.

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