On mind-mapping Cory’s talk

My last post was gleaned from these here notes. I don’t always do mind-maps but I do tend to for the talks attended, meetings joined, books read, etc that I think will produce lots of ideas I want to capture. I learnt the technique a long time ago in a very unlikely setting. When I finished my maths degree I wanted to work for charities. At a charity careers fair I attended at my University (York) one speaker said “we don’t need good intentions, we need rare skills like secretaries and accountants”. So I decided to become an accountant. Readers who know me will realise instantly what a mistake that was – I’m not cut out to make a good accountant, but I did spend a year with some very fun people at Clark Whitehill in Haywards Heath. On top of the day job helping audit local firms there was tons of study in the evenings so Clark Whitehill sent all its new recruits on a week long starter where one of the things we learnt was study skills. I wish I could remember the name of the guy teaching it, he was inspirational, and he taught us all how to mind-map. That was back in 1988 and I’ve been using it ever since. Not for everything – it’s awful for things that are inherently linear (e.g. the mathematical proofs in my doctorate), not good for sparse notes, etc. But for other things it’s great – not least because everyone who sees you taking notes this way assumes that you are very creative!

There are aspects of my mind-mapping that I’m dissatisfied with. Mine are too uniform, I don’t use enough pictures etc but I am a fan of the technique.

Cory’s talk gave me a few insights into mind-mapping. 

Firstly I was struck by how few people were taking notes. Why is this? How do people plan to remember and reflect if they don’t distill their responses immediately? As far as I could see I was the only person scribbling notes. And this wasn’t an illiterate audience of hoodlums, this was Cambridge!

Secondly it was very hard to mind-map. This was because of Cory’s style. When you draw a mind-map you need to decide which are the key themes, and their relative weight because, unlike linear note taking, you cannot expand an item indefinitely since the branch that lead to it will also, to some extent, prescribe how much of the page you have to work with for sub-items. Cory had a very engaging and entertaining style, and one facet of this was that when he gave an anecdote you were not sure if he was using it to illustrate a point, to close a section, to bridge between sections, or as the foundation of a new section. The style added drama to the talk but boy it made mind-mapping hard. It reminds me of a Motörhead concert Kate attended (and I’ll be in so much trouble if she finds out I’ve let that secret out of the bag) where each song was so loud and thrashed that she couldn’t tell when they changed song until they got to the chorus!

I’ll need to coalesce all these mind-mapping insights into some revision to the way I take notes, but for the moment I’ve at least experienced a talking style that pushed my mind-mapping beyond braking and made me think.


2 Responses to “On mind-mapping Cory’s talk”

  1. wingdisk Says:

    I have a friend back in L.A. that made his own guitars. Have a look. http://www.jeffhilbers.com/

  2. dumbledad Says:

    Fred that’s amazing. There’s actually a violin maker in town who offers courses too, though I think it would take me a long long time to make something unplayable!

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