Monday, January 12, 2015

Mind Maps in Action: "Mind mapping made me a better coach, and even a better person."

In this latest instalment of our 'Mind Maps in Action' blog post series, we talk to Marina De Roover about her work with students with learning difficulties and how mind maps have helped to change their lives, and hers!
Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I’m a firm believer in ‘justice’. Because of my studies, background and personal experiences, I believe there are no ‘boxes’ that we fit in. But society is all about ‘boxes’. If you can’t read quick enough, you are dyslexic. If you aren’t social enough, you’re autistic. Don’t get me wrong, these diagnoses are very important, but they sometimes ‘restrict’ people to follow their instincts. That’s a shame. The sky is the limit; if you believe you can, you CAN. It can be difficult and different from ‘what is expected’, but it’s worth it! 
In 2012 I started as a self-employed coach for pupils and students with learning difficulties. Their self-esteem problems often overshadowed their great possibilities. I started to coach them in studying techniques and tried to give them back some trust and self-esteem. This started very small but grew fast thanks to word-of-mouth advertising. My background (I studied Speech and Language therapy) helped to build a good foundation for this coaching. I kept on learning by reading books, following magazines and attending open courses.

I like to quote Einstein, because it hits the mark:
"Everybody is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid." (Albert Einstein)

Everybody is a Genius, if you allow them to use the right tools. Therefore I named my website ‘climbing fish. This is my personal business in which I provide specialised coaching for students of all ages, but also specialised Mind Map workshops and training.

I started to cooperate with other therapists to provide lectures about visual thinking. Together with my Flemish TLI – partner (Think Buzan Licensed Instructor), we provide public workshops and in house courses.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

I followed a theoretical Bachelor degree as a speech and language therapist. I couldn’t find myself in some educational systems or techniques, because I think we judge people by emphasizing their disabilities. I want to start with their abilities.

Then, in 2011, I met Bernard Lernout, a great Mind Map Instructor in Belgium. I learned a lot from him and I wanted to follow his lead. After two years I decided it was time to meet the inventor of Mind Mapping and my greatest example, Tony Buzan. That’s how I decided to get accredited. So I became a TLI (Think Buzan Licensed Instructor).

What do you think are the greatest benefits of mapping?

Use your creativity to unlock the power of your brain, as Tony Buzan says. That’s wonderful! And it’s true. Mind mapping is very efficient and fun at the same time. It inspires me in so many ways. But maybe I can start with Tony’s line: a Mind Map is the Swiss army knife for the brain.

Mind mapping made me a better coach, and even a better person. I’m more aware of my own abilities myself. Imagination and association: keywords in mind mapping as in life as well…

What prompted you to start your current business?

The key moment just came half a year ago (may 2014). A student with Autism e-mailed me the quote of Einstein with these words: ‘Marina, this is what you did to me’. That was an eye-opener. It moved me emotionally. I was able to help her grow, to finish university, and now she said thanks to me in this very special personal way. It made me glow in the dark ;-).

I plan to open doors for all the students, all the people interested in lifelong learning and companies who want to learn to think outside the box and be creative. I want to continue personal coaching but I would like to combine this with organising Mind Map courses myself.
Marina created this superb mind map as a CV for herself!

What sort of response do you get from students, clients and colleagues when you introduce them to mapping?

Most students already learned about Mind Maps in school. BUT… These are mostly ‘proto-mind maps’, black and white, very few icons and pictures… So it doesn’t really hit the mark.

I always start out with reading techniques so they learn to detect key words. Then I let them use their imagination. ‘Which picture do you see?’ ‘What color does this remind you off?’. We start doodling, experimenting and before they even know, they made their first real Mind Map! Most adults are reluctant to use many colors and figures, but when they start…they can’t stop anymore. So the reactions are very positive.

How would you encourage people to try mind mapping for the first time?

It is VERY important to use topics close to their hearts. Students use their own schoolbooks, adults chose topics they encounter in their work or personal live.

This means I always have to keep studying myself. I try to know as much as possible about all the topics learned in high school for an optimal result. I also use speed-reading techniques to keep up with the things that are new to me. I always try to stay a step ahead, so I can better coach my students.

For companies, I do research in advance. I ask them what they want to accomplish in the course, and prepare exercises to keep the training as realistic as possible, close to the reality at work.

How to encourage those who aren’t interested? Ask them a real day-to-day topic they can’t tackle as easily as they would. Start brainstorming in a Mind Map. You’ll be surprised how soon they get curious about what the heck you are doing ;-).

A huge thank you to Marina for sharing her story with us! You can find Marina's website by clicking here, as well as her Biggerplate profile here.

If you have a 'Mind Maps in Action' story you would like to share, we would love to hear it! Get in touch via Twitter or by commenting below!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Biggerplate Unplugged returns to London in 2015!

After two years on  the road, we're very excited to announce that Biggerplate Unplugged will be returning to London in 2015, and it's looking bigger and better than ever!

> View event details

Since launching the mind map conference in London back in January 2013, the event has visited Paris, Utrecht, San Francisco, and most recently, Berlin. Now we return to where it all began, and will once again welcome the mind mapping world to London on 19 March 2015 for another fantastic day of learning, discussion, and innovation for mappers!
Tickets for the event are already selling fast, and we're expecting our biggest gathering ever, matched by an equally diverse and innovative programme for the day!
We'll be releasing more details in the New Year, but in the meantime, book your place now to save money through our Early Bird discount!
We look forward to seeing you for #BPUN London!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Mapping for Writers

In this 'Mind Maps in Action' story, we talk to author Tom Evans about his use of mind maps in his own writing work, and the potential benefits for other writers.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I am an author, writer’s unblocker and the creator of Living Timefully, a time management programme with mindfulness at its core.

How were you first introduced to mind maps? 
I went on a course run by Andrew Wilcox on Mind Manager and got hooked. I was drawn though to the progenitor of Mind Mapping, Tony Buzan, and trained as an iMindmap Instructor.

What do you perceive to be the greatest benefit of their use?
I like them because they get both hemispheres of the brain working on the same task at the same time - i.e. Whole Brain Thinking. The analogy I give in my talks is this.

The left brain says, “Aha, a map! I do the navigation around here, leave this to me.”

Then, seeing that the left brain is busy, the right then sneaks under its radar and is allowed to do what it does best by seeing the whole vision.

What role do mind maps play in your life and work now?
Every creative task I do starts with a Mind Map. I map out any talk or workshop I am working on. My personal and business goals are all mapped visually. Perhaps a little geeky, but bigger shopping lists and DIY tasks get mapped too!

What do you think are the best uses of mind maps for writers, and why?
I use them for all aspects of the life cycle of a book writing project. Initially, I will map out my goals for the book and an outline of the marketing plan. I also map the profile and demographics for my ideal target readers.

Next I map out all the themes and ideas I want to explore in the book. This is free form and often this is hyperlinked to research. Then I create a storyboard with the reader in mind. This is the journey I will take the reader on and it works equally well for fiction and non-fiction.
Then when the book is finished, I use a Mind Map to list all my tasks to get the book into publication and out to the market. Each task gets a nice tick when I’ve completed it so I have the whole plan captured in one image.

What is your proudest achievement that has been enabled or assisted by mapping?
I was stuck when writing a chapter of a new book so I did a free association Mind Map based on some key words. I documented the process in more detail in this blog :

As a result of that map, I ended up writing two spin off books that I hadn’t planned and creating a whole portfolio of online personal development tools that I didn’t plan to create. That one map has led to a whole business model, which means nowadays my income is mainly created from online revenues. Thank you Tony Buzan as this leaves me free to write and create even more.

Would you like to add anything else?
Yes, I recorded a visualisation that takes any Mind Map and embeds it in the visual cortex at the back of our brains. This makes it easier to remember and helps us spot information and serendipities associated with the map.

It’s available by clicking here.

A huge thank you to Tom for sharing his experiences with us! Find out more about Tom Evans, his books, online courses and trainings by clicking here. You can also follow Tom on Twitter.

If you have a mind maps in action story you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you! Get in touch via Twitter, or by commenting below.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Now Open: Annual Mind Map Survey 2014!

Can you believe we're nearing the end of the year? Neither can we, but it does mean the exciting return of our Global Mind Map Survey, which is now live, and waiting for YOU to share your experiences, feedback, and innovation ideas for mind mapping!


Last year's survey was completed by over 700 mind mappers from more than 60 different countries! The results were published in our Annual Mind Map Report 2014, which contained a wealth of information and insights into the current state of the mind mapping world, and key insights into how people are using mind mapping in their working and personal lives.

Once again, we're looking to the global mind map community to participate in building a comprehensive snapshot of our industry, by participating in this short but important questionnaire. There's also a chance to vote for your favourite mind mapping software (won last year by MindManager), and the most innovative organisation in the mind mapping world (won last year by!)

As a final incentive; upon completing the survey, you will also be entered into a prize draw to win £200 (or currency equivalent) of vouchers in time for Christmas!

> Participate in the Global Mind Map Survey 2014

We thank you in advance for supporting this important project, and helping the mind mapping world to become better informed, better connected, and (most importantly)... more innovative in 2015!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Teaching Students the Art of Mapping

In this "Mind Maps in Action" article, we talk to teacher and mind mapping advocate Daniel Weinstein about his experiences of teaching students the art of mind mapping.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
My name is Daniel Weinstein. I teach English 11, AP Language, and Creative Writing at Great Neck South High School on Long Island. I love to share my ideas for teaching creativity - through my book, my website, and my personal appearances. In the end of Nov. I am doing a presentation on "Mind Maps and Other Language Art" at the National Council of English Teachers national conference in Washington DC. It's my second year in a row doing a presentation on mind maps in education!

When and how were you first introduced to mind maps?
I was first introduced to mind maps in the summer of 2001. I was taking classes at "The Leadership Academy" at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts - this program is designed to get teachers accredited to become administrators. I noticed a woman next to me kept taking notes in class using magic markers, creating webs. I was fascinated. Her name was Anne and she taught me the basics and suggested I buy Tony Buzan's books. I started to borrow her markers and make my own mind maps for class notes and I immediately was transformed: I was taking better notes! I was re-reading my notes again and again. I was adding drawings and new ideas to my notes all the time. I've always been a mediocre student, but the combination of magic markers and mind-mapping unlocked a superior student in me. I promised myself that I would teach every student I ever have about this amazing art form - and I have!

How do you now use mind maps in your personal and professional life?
The greatest benefit of mind-mapping is that it can be used by any student for almost any reason. I've seen everyone from the Harvard-bound to the Learning disabled to the English-As-A-Second-Language student enjoy mind mapping and access it's therapeutic and educational benefits. It is so amazing how flexible it is, too. I use it to plan lessons, distribute notes, and brainstorm ideas with a class. My students use it for a plethora of reasons: organizing notes, planning an essay, brainstorming goals, reflecting on memories, dissecting literature, and so much more.

How do your students tend to respond when introduced to mind maps for the first time?
I first taught mind-mapping twelve years ago, and it immediately took hold with my students. Through Facebook, I'm still in contact with many of those kids and they STILL acknowledge that mind mapping was a vital tool they learned, used through college, and employ in their careers. During these dozen years I have taught mind-mapping to EVERY student who has come through my classroom, regardless of the course title. I'd say 99% have had a positive experience with it and found it to be a unique and valuable educational experience with it.

Do you think there is scope for greater adoption of mapping in the education sector and, if so, how can we encourage it?
I encourage every teacher I meet to utilize mind maps in their classroom. I have spread the word through my book (The Creativity Core) and website ( I have presented my students' mind maps at several conferences and classes. Next week I'm doing a one-hour presentation for teachers in my district on Election Day (Superintendent's Conference Day). I feel compelled to encourage educators to use this amazing technique because I know it helps all students, inspires creativity, and turns even the dullest classes into an interesting experience. I think I would have been a better student throughout high school and college if I had known about the transformative powers of mind-mapping and taking colorful notes.
Visually engaging mind map notes, taken during a science class
Would you like to add anything else?
It is important to note that mind-mapping is one aspect of the bigger picture: teaching creativity. My workshop method is a product of studying with the National Writing Project and reading Nancy Atwell's seminal book, In The Middle -- these two influences showed me how to run a classroom so it is hands-on, enjoyable, and intensely educational. Integrating mind-mapping into the workshop is my special twist on this classroom method. My students write and create art (memoir, poetry, mind maps, and more) all year long, meeting the "goals & deadlines" I set for them. The experience culminates in a portfolio due in June. These portfolios are chock full of amazing "authentic" art, including 15-20 mind maps created by each student. 

This blog entry includes four short videos of students talking about their mind maps:

A huge thank you to Daniel for sharing his story with us! You can see a whole host of terrific hand-drawn mind maps by Daniel's students on his website, by clicking here. Do you have a "Mind Maps in Action" story you'd like to share with us? Get in touch by commenting below or via Twitter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Time Management

As we focus on Productivity this month at Biggerplate, we talk to Paul Klipp about his use of mapping as a time management and organisational tool.

1. Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
I own a software company in Krak√≥w, Poland, as well as an event management company that organizes conferences and training. I also own a web-based project management company that produced I'm a frequent speaker at conferences, mostly on project management topics, but also on other topics that interest me. In my free time I run and read. I'm currently training for an ultra marathon. 

2. In a nuthshell, how do you manage your time and workload on a weekly basis?
I have big goals posted on the wall, like learn a language, buy a bigger house, own a horse, just to keep my long-term goals in mind when planning the short term stuff. I plan every week using a mind map with nodes for every important area of my life. Then I use personal kanban to focus on doing each week when I'd planned on Monday.

3. How were you introduced to mind mapping?
When I worked as director of a competitive intelligence group in South Africa, my mentor introduced me to mind mapping. He had been a student of Tony Buzan. 

4. How would you have previously managed your time, and what made you adopt mind mapping as one of your organisational tools?
I've tried everything, starting with lists, then evolving to value grids adopted from Steven Covey's first books, then through GTD and finally I developed my own system that is a mix of all of them.

5. What do you perceive to be the greatest benefits of mapping, both as a time management tool, and in general?
Mind mapping makes the big picture digestible. That's what I think makes it so useful. You can see relationships even as you're focussing on details. 

6. How do other people respond to your personal organisation technique and to your use of mind maps?
I've spoken about my technique in open spaces at conferences, and the response is overwhelmingly positive.

7. What could be done to encourage wider adoption of mind mapping?
It's just a tool. There are many good tools. I wouldn't advise anyone to use every good tool, but they are all worth trying. I'd love to see more published mind maps. They can be a great communication tool. If proponents of mind maps used them to disseminate their ideas more, their value would be more apparent to others.

8. Would you like to add anything else?
Perhaps only this, If you're using productivity tools because you're overwhelmed, you might also consider cutting back. The biggest problem is rarely not getting enough done; it'd doing things that don't bring you joy and fulfilment. If all you accomplish is doing more things that don't need to be done, you're not doing yourself any favours.

Thanks to Paul for sharing his experiences with us! Want to find out more? Why not follow Paul on Twitter?

Do you have an example of mind maps in action? Get in touch via Twitter or comment below!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Amazing line-up for Berlin mind map conference!

We're getting ever closer to the next Biggerplate Unplugged mind map conference, taking place in Berlin on 16 October, and which will soon be upon us faster than you can say "ich liebe Deutschland"!

The Berlin conference looks to be our most international gathering of mind mappers to date, with confirmed speakers and attendees coming from the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Austria, and even South Africa! Not to mention a great selection of experts and mind map users from the local German community! It looks like a great gathering already, and with only a few weeks to go, we're delighted to confirm a fantastic line-up of speakers and sessions for the next #BPUN instalment!

Take a look at some of the names and faces that you can expect to hear from in Berlin, and then act fast to get your ticket for this exciting event!
> View event details

Confirmed for #BPUN Berlin:

Liam Hughes (Biggerplate)
Liam Hughes (Biggerplate) 
The Home of Mind Mapping?
Biggerplate founder Liam Hughes will outline how innovation and investment at is aimed at creating a genuine home for mind mapping online. Liam will discuss the challenges that come with trying to achieve this goal, and why we think this objective is essential for the overall success and adoption of mind mapping.
Jamie MacDonald (MindGenius)
Jamie MacDonald (MindGenius)
Details to follow...
Raphaela Brandner (MindMeister)
Raphaela Brandner (MindMeister)
Where do we go from here?
MindMeister's Marketing Manager, Raphaela talks about developments at MindMeister, and explores what the future may hold for online mind mapping, and how we can bring the mind map experience to the next level. 
Lucas Calabro (Mindjet)
Lucas Calabro (Mindjet)
Difference between Mind Mapping, and Business Mapping
Mindjet's international presales consultant will show a variety of innovative use cases for mind mapping in business applications. From first idea visualisation up to a professional project management tool, Lucas will give examples for Business mapping in complex processes, and demonstrate ways of combining existing enterprise structures with new and best practices.
 Christian Foltin
Christian Foltin (Freemind) 
Open source mind mapping: The goals of Freemind
In this presentation, Christian will outline both the history and future of Freemind as an open source mind mapping tool, and discuss the key goals and challenges facing an open source project of this type. Featuring use cases, and a discussion of the Open Source limitations, Christian will provide an invaluable insight into the fascinating world of open source mind mapping. 
 Marion Lercher
Marion Lercher (Lerchertrain) 
MindCooking - A visual approach to cooking!
In this pre-lunch session, Marion will show how easy cooking can be when recipes are written in the form of a mind map! Taking the traditional recipe approach and turning it into a mind map, Marion will show how MindCooking can be used to easily prepare classic recipes!
 Wojciech Korsak

Wojciech Korsak (Explorer Consulting)

Details to follow...
 Jeroen Grit

Jeroen Grit (GriDD Consultancy)
Managing stakeholder input using mind maps
In this presentation, user experience expert Jeroen will present a method for translating ideas to tangible requirements within a mind map, based on his own experience of managing large internet projects in multinational companies with numerous stakeholders and inputs. Jeroen will show how mind maps help to keep information in context, whilst providing both detail and big picture viewpoints. 
Faizel Mohidin
The evolution of Using Mind Maps Magazine
How changes in social, technological, and economic forces are influencing people's behaviour online, making it possible to reach and teach everyone, even in the remotest and poorest areas. This presentation will focus on the Mobile Revolution and how you can take advantage of this.