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Mind Mapping Expert Chuck Frey: “Mind Maps Help Me to be the Best Thinker I Can Be”

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Mind Mapping Expert Chuck Frey: “Mind Maps Help Me to be the Best Thinker I Can Be”


What are we talking about when we talk about mind maps? Brainstorm? Productivity? Ideas visualization?

Chuck Frey, the founder and author of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, and the director of content of Cultivate Communications, also recognized as one of the experts in mind mapping brought us back to the basic of mind map - learning to think, a skill that helps you to notice and solve problems, benefits from preschool students to the professionals, and most importantly, obtain more opportunities.

Besides, Chuck also shares his workflow at home, efficiency tips, and how mind maps make his career stand out. It is truly grateful speaking with him, and his experience and opinions are both valuable and practical.

Do you think that every one is suitable for mind mapping? Or, what kind of people do you think are more suitable for mind mapping?

  This has been a big debate for many years. Left-brained, linear thinkers are people who tend to think in logical, step-by-step directions. They usually don't see the value of mind mapping. They prefer to see information presented in neat blocks, rows and columns. They often consider mind mapping to be frivolous and not worthy of their time and attention. Right-brained, creative thinkers tend to be more visual and non-linear in the way they think. They "get" mind mapping. They intuitively understand it and are excited about what it can do for them.   I think that both types of thinkers can benefit from mind mapping software. It's actually a tool for whole-brained thinking. Here's why: It's very powerful for helping you brainstorm and capture a wide variety of ideas. Creativity experts call that divergent thinking. But it can also be used to organize, classify and evaluate those ideas, so you know which ones you should implement. That's convergent thinking. There is no other type of productivity tool that enables both divergent and convergent thinking.   I think anyone who works with information and ideas can benefit from mind mapping.  

What is your workflow of work from home? What are your tips for improving efficiency?

  I work full-time for a marketing agency in the States, which means I work in the office 4 days a week and remote one day a week. Now, of course, I'm working completely remote. I also had a job a few years ago where I worked entirely remotely. So this isn't a big change for me. I keep a hand-written task list next to my laptop, so I always know what I need to do next. Staying focused usually isn't a problem for me. I keep water near me so I stay well-hydrated. I also need a well-ventilated space, so I don't get drowsy. I also get up and walk around once or twice per hour. I find that helps me stretch out my body and it also helps to revitalize my thinking.  

We are now working from home, which software (productivity tool) do you use often? Is there any difference when you use it at the office?

  For my full-time work, I use the Microsoft Office suite - primarily Word and Outlook. Also, Excel and PowerPoint from time to time. For project communication with our clients, my employer uses Basecamp. What's new is the need to do video calls, which our team didn't use when we were working face-to-face. We've been using both and Google Hangouts for video calls between our team members. Both are also quite useful for sharing screens. That makes it easier to show and discuss creative work. In addition, the head of our agency has asked me to provide her with recommendations on how to incorporate mind maps and visual collaboration tools into our internal and client meetings.  

The most important thing about work from home is communication and efficiency, but sometimes absent. What are your suggestions for work efficiently at home?

  I'm finding that working from home requires a surprising amount of extra communication. When  coworkers and I were working in the office, it was easy to have quick conversations about many small project details and priorities. Now, it's not as easy to do that. We need emails, phone calls, video chats and Basecamp messages to manage all of those details.  

In addition to parents working from home, students are now having class at home as well. How do you think that mind mapping can help students learn efficiently?

  It can help them take notes on what they're reading and learning. Not only are mind maps great for creating well-organized outlines of the most important pieces of information, they're also excellent for helping students to retain knowledge. As students get older and need to write papers for their classes, mind mapping becomes even more valuable. They can use it as a tool for outlining the content of these assignments. Visual outlines lead to better organized papers and presentations.

Even for young children how do you think they should use mind maps to grow efficiently?

  I think they need to learn how to think and solve problems fluently - in other words, in many different ways. Mind mapping helps them to become more confident thinkers and problem solvers. It makes their thoughts tangible on paper or on screen - that's really powerful and empowers children to use their imaginations.  

You are a marketer. How do you think a marketing staff can use mind maps to make their career stand out. (This question may relatively large. Do you have some examples and experiences you can share?)

  Mind mapping is really important as a thinking and planning tool for marketers. From brainstorming and organizing marketing plans to outlining bigger pieces of content, such as reports, presentations and videos, it's a very useful and versatile tool.   I think it can help marketers make their career stand out by helping them to be better creative thinkers and problem solvers. I'm only as successful as the quality of my thinking. Mind maps help me to be the best thinker I can be!  

Mind mapping software can help you think more clearly and creatively but it can’t think for you after all. So how can we go beyond a productivity tool and think better?

  I've been studying and writing about creativity for over 20 years. What I've learned is that we're all very habitual thinkers. Our brains tend to follow the same comfortable paths most of the time. That means we need to push harder to think in new, creative directions. One of the ways I do that is to use brainstorming tools, which provide my brain with a wider range of stimuli. That jump-starts my brain to think in new directions. I'm also a big believer in creative problem-solving techniques for the same reason - new stimuli, new thinking, new ideas.   Yes, tools can't think FOR us. But they can extend the capabilities of our brains  - in much the same way that a hammer helps you pound in a nail faster (and less painfully!) than you could do so with your fist. Recognizing HOW the tool you're using can extend your thinking is very important. Like I said earlier, mind maps help you transmute your ideas from your brain to paper or a computer screen. Once they're in a more tangible form, you can think about them, add to them, improve them, reorganize them and manipulate them in many powerful and creative ways.   That's why I call mind mapping software "the savvy executive's secret weapon" - because it gives you a powerful edge in the way you think and plan. That's not just my opinion, either. The surveys I do with the readers of my blog back that up. They say it helps them be 20-30% more productive, 20-30% more creative and the majority of respondents say that it enables them to tackle complex projects that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do.   So, to summarize, better thinking, supported by better tools, is the key to success.

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