Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mind Mapping and Visual Thinking in Project Management

When ever I hear the term ‘Mind Mapping’ , it take me back to my high school days. Those days we used to prepare for various competitive exams. In most of the help guides there will be a centre spread advertisement “Mr.Raj Bapna’s Mind Maps for high scores in competitive exams’. I think Raj Bapna can be called as the Indian ‘Buzan’. Btw, Mr.Buzan is the guy who took ‘Mind mapping’ to great levels.
I think India has got a great edge in the subject of Mind Mapping. India’s rich intellectual culture has contributed a lot to research about human mind, its reasoning skills and psychology. Combined with the rich art culture, it has derived a lot of great works in mind mapping.
“A picture speaks a thousand words” – its very true. I learned to draw before I learned to write. I paint reasonably well and I was able to secure many prizes in school, university & inter university levels. I had felt many times that I have more photographical memory, rather than the conventional memory. It is very difficult for me to remember long numbers and generic data.(Its very hard for me to remember phone numbers, bank account numbers ..etc) But I have relatively higher capability to remember formulas, relations and diagrammatic representations. I classify myself as a guy with average (or slightly below average) memory and relatively high logical/analytical skill.
I was using mind mapping techniques well before since I heard about it! When ever I had some idea , I used to take a paper & pencil & draw out what ever was in my mind. There were many reasons behind it. One thing is , I used to forget what I was thinking few minutes back and this ‘Brain dumping’ helped me to organise my thoughts and look at them in a ‘Bird’s eye’ view. I draw pictures, arrows, lines, comments, balloons and clouds to express my thoughts. In my younger days , I used to arrange plays (which can be considered as small projects) at my home. My brother and cousins were actors and I was the writer, director, artist, designer..etc etc.. and last but not the least , the lead actor ! Rest of the family watched our drama! I used to make diagrams & story board for the play and lots of planning to arrange the exotic costumes from household stuff   !!
Later during my college life, I have organised several programmes and led several IT based projects. For overall planning, navigation and interface design I have used mind mapping extensively. Lots of white papers scribbled with graphite!
Now as a project management professional, in the age of enterprise project management tools, still I use paper & pencil extensively. I draw bar charts & histograms in paper before I go to full fledged planning. The beauty of paper and pencil is that, it offers no limitation to imagination! I write & draw what ever comes to my mind. Some times I draw symbols of plant, equipments and even people (The fat guy, the contractor with big moustache.. :) ) in the plan. While in kick off meetings and short discussions I take notes as mind maps (Not just boring titles!) I may be doing this because I am so much fond of sketching.
Of late, I have read a lot of articles on replacing the conventional barcharting with ‘Mind Mapping’. I will give a set of links which will help you to gather information regarding usage of Mind Mapping in Project management. There are a range of softwares starting from basic diagramming tools to full fledged enterprise level mind mapping packages you can choose from!
After observing the latest developments in Mind mapping tools for project management and the debates going on among the PM professionals I have drawn the following conclusions regarding the same.
Mind mapping is the excellent tool for (When used in Projects):
  • Development of new ideas / initiation stage of projects
  • Base planning (Top level planning)
  • Plant layout discussions (In software projects IT hardware/ sw network design)
  • Brain storming
  • Recording planned actions in meetings
  • Explaining a change in the plan
  • Erection methodologies (Especially useful for heavy lifting using cranes)

How ever for detailed planning and management we need sophisticated tools, which have evolved by taking inputs and feedback from the industry. We just can’t dump them and adopt Mind Mapping as an alternate tool. I would recommend PM professionals get familiar with Mind Mapping tools and use them additional to the existing tools. “” is a very good attempt for establishing an online platform for mind mapping. I have found it very interesting and useful. Its collaborative features make it wonderful software to try with!

Mind Map image credit:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Interesting post. My partner uses mind maps, but I just can't get into them.

  3. I didn't know there was a technical term for it. In college we used to use it for group studies. Now we use it in conference rooms to gather ideas. Mind mapping is a better term than scribbling. Thanks.

  4. Sreejith,

    Great post. Truly hope and believe that the Twenty-First Century will be one of India's shining once more.


  5. @ Srinivas, Richard & Sharat :Thanks for stopping by!
    Alec : I am humbled. At the moment I wish more peace in India .I am praying god to sweep a wind of constructive & creative mindset across the globe to heal the wounds of 2008 !

  6. Sreejith,
    Thank you for these mind opener ideas which really gave me another perspective on how to view project management.
    I really enjoyed going through your blog!
    Keep up the good work.
    Im too working in Qatar btw.
    Which project are you working on right now in Qatar??

  7. @Anas : Thank you very much.
    I am into Oil & Gas projects.
    We have projects from most of the blue-chip companies operating in Qatar (Shell, Total, Maersk, RasGas...etc)

  8. Im into construction management. Different experience i guess!
    May be we can share some thoughts some time.

  9. @Anas : You can mail me in the mail ID provided below the "PM Karma Community" logo on right side.

  10. Mind mapping is an amazing technique that helps not only to think ideas in an organised way but also visualize the concept accurately as you think. There are numerous mind mapping applications available like Tony buzan's imindmap, freemind, xmind, mindjet manager, etc. Thanks for sharing.

  11. The use of project management software means that certain tasks are likely to be carried out with greater efficiency. The easy accomplishment and swift completion of a project requires effective communication with a project sponsor, the ability to make easy-to-follow assignments for other team members, and definition of the scope of a project,

  12. I really appreciate your efforts on Project managementand I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again


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