What are thinking maps and why should you master them?

What is a thinking map and why it is important to master the skill?

Consider this:

Three people enter a jigsaw puzzle competition. There are 1,000 pieces to each puzzle. One contestant is given a picture of the puzzle that needs to be put together. The second one is given the wrong picture of the puzzle and the third contestant is shown no picture at all. Who do you think stands the best chance to complete the puzzle fastest and win? The first contestant, of course – the person who was given the picture of the puzzle to be completed in the first place.

So… what is a thinking map?

Thinking maps date back to the time of Aristotle. The Greeks used this tool to help them organise information quickly and easily. Being able to access logically structured information enabled them to think more clearly.

Thinking maps are visual tools that are used for productive learning. They provide the individual with the ‘overall picture’ of the information they want to comprehend and retain.

Thinking maps give you a macro overview of all the key parts, critical headings and smaller issues. You can then add visual or creative elements to the map, which will enhance your retention of the information you’re trying to process.

Why are thinking maps so powerful?

  1. If the thinking map is organised in a simple way, the key concepts can be revised quickly and easily.
  2. The map enables you to move backwards and forwards to see the links throughout a section of work.
  3. This organised and creative representation of information results in clear and critical thinking – a vital skill in our day and age!

In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow (a summary of key concepts of the book can be found here), Kahneman explains that there are two systems running simultaneously in your brain. System 1 involves fast, automatic and more instinctive thinking, while System 2 involves slow, logical and more complex reasoning. System 2 (the slow and analytical type of thinking) requires more energy and focus and is therefore more taxing on your brain. For your brain to work optimally, you should learn to reap the benefits that can be derived from both systems and therefore, if done correctly, a thinking map can act as a powerful tool to help you achieve this brain-enhancing balance. You can utilise System 1 to get your ideas down on paper fast, then employ System 2 for slower, more careful analysis of how it all fits together.

When working on a macro overview, it’s best for you to think faster. However, when working on the finer details, slower thinking is more useful.

A thinking map is a wonderful tool to help you become both a fast and slow learner and in turn help you become a more proficient, critical thinker in the process.

Do you use thinking maps? If so, share your tips or thoughts below, and don’t forget to subscribe!

About Daren Denholm

Daren Denholm went from nearly failing University to becoming the Highest Ranked Competitor at the World Memory Championships from Africa and the Southern Hemisphere for 6 years in a row! (2006 – 2011) He was also the only person in the world to compete in ALL 6 World Memory Championships during this time.