Article (October-2018)


Mind Mapping - Unlocking the potential

Tony Buzan

Designation : -   Inventor of Mind Maps and President

Organization : -  ThinkBuzan Reading, United Kingdom


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The Beginnings
My life has been and still is a life in the pursuit of answers to questions about: creativity; the brain and its potential; the revolutions of the mind; left and right cortical research; the multiple intelligences; the pioneers; the Mind Map Thinking Tool; modern education systems; and teachers/new definitions.
In the creativity test on first the uses, second the non-uses of a paperclip, the large majority have scored higher on the second test the non-use test. The reason for this higher score is that the second test is an easier test because there are theoretically an infinite number of non-uses for a paperclip, as opposed to the relatively small number of possible uses.
I would like you now to consider the best non-use ideas such as: you cannot in any way use a paperclip for carrying water, and see if there is any way in which you could use the paperclip for the purposes you have decided, initially, that you could not. When you discover those non-uses on which we can all unanimously agree, you will have a major insight into the function and potential of the human brain. In fact there is no unanimity on non-use and in my thousands of lectures over the decades there never has been.
Quelle horreur! Our survey shows that every single one of your best non-uses you now believe can be a use! Why this extraordinary and apparently contradictory result?
Let's explore creativity a little further, in order to shed light on the dilemma in which we currently find ourselves. Let me introduce this by using a metaphor to indicate the importance of the discussion in which we are becoming engaged. Imagine that you are an Olympian athlete, and that you get stuck in a swamp, and are beginning to sink. Imagine that you think that the correct way to get out of this swamp is to use your Olympian energy.
What will happen to you? Correct, you will sink and sink - how FAST!
And therein, as Shakespeare says, lies the rub. For what it indicates is that the more intelligent, focused, driven, educated, dedicated, kind, wonderful and loving you are, the faster you go down if you have the wrong formula. In education and in unlocking potential, we must find the correct formulae. Let me shed some more light on this, by reviewing generic studies on creativity with age. Psychologists gave different age groups problem-solving tests, in which the students were given overall percentage scores for the creativity with which they solved the given problems. They were judged on speed of solution, originality, number of ideas, flexibility of thought, ability to imagine, ability to make associations especially new ones, and elegance of solution. The five age groups were Kindergarten, Primary School, Secondary School, University and Adult. Predict the results! Kindergarten 95%+, Primary School 75%+, Secondary School 50%, University 25%, Adult 10%. The bad news, apart from the horrific results, is that globally these results are normal. To make this even worse, the average age of the average human is increasing, which means that the average per capita for creativity is decreasing. This explains the panicked front-page screamers on magazines such as the Harvard Business Review that there is a looming creativity crisis.
The good news is that in this, as in many other instances in our cognitive practices, normal is not Natural! Natural creativity is a creativity that flourishes and grows throughout life, as evidenced by most of the great writers, artists, poets and thinkers of all nations throughout history.
We simply need to unlock the creative potential that we have unwittingly locked in.
In the fields of memory, learning and creativity, what percentage of our cognitive capabilities do you estimate we currently use? I note with interest that most quote figures of between 1% to 10%. It is interesting, isn't it, that in a body of educators, we rate the use so low? I am pleased to inform you that your estimates are optimistic! The actual use is less than 1%. Is this good news or bad news? Good news! Because it means that there is more than 99% remaining to access 99% of potential to unlock. In Memory we know this from the prediction in 1994 at the World Memory Championships in London, by the London University Psychology Department, that no one in the future history of the human race would be able to remember a spoken number of 30 digits or more. To realise this for yourself, read the following numbers only once, and the instant you finish, look away and try to recall each number.
3, 5, 9, 4,2
3, 4, 7, 1, 6,5, 8
2, 5, 6, 1, 9,3, 7, 1, 4, 6, 8, 5, 2, 3
As you will see, the task increases in difficulty exponentially with each added digit. Thus, the psychologists prediction of 30 being impossible becomes more understandable.
In the 17th World Memory Championships in Bahrain 2008 three competitors memorised a spoken number of 100 digits in length perfectly! The winner of the competition memorized a spoken number 202 digits in length. Ten hours later, at a celebratory dinner and after three subsequent competitions, he was asked if he could still remember it, and proceeded to repeat it without error. When he had finished his recitation, he asked would you like me to do it again, backwards?!
And he did!
Revolutions of the Mind
Since the recent dawn of civilisation, we have gone through a number of revolutions of mind. The first was the agricultural revolution in which we thought agriculturally, and in which the children were brought up as farm workers or labourers. This was superseded by the Industrial Revolution, in which we thought industrially, and in which the children were brought up to work in industry and the factories of industry. What revolution or age, are we in now?
I note with interest that almost unanimously we vote for the Information/Technological/Digital Age in which we learned to think informationally, technologically, and digitally, and in which our children were brought up to be information workers. You notice the past tense beginning to creep in here. This is because, as well as the wonders that this age brought us, it also brought us the global stress-producing syndrome of Information Overload and the delights of Death by PowerPoint!
Thus, the information age was recently superseded by the knowledge age, in which we learned to think knowledgably, and in which the proponents of this age were stating that children of the future would no longer be simply information workers; they would become knowledge workers. The briefly-lived knowledge age gave rise to the concept of the knowledge manager, and the director of knowledge management.
In 2008, in Singapore, at a meeting of the directors of knowledge management, they declared that knowledge management was not working. And why? Because there is something far more important that needs to be managed than knowledge.
And what is this? The answer is the Manager!
And, of course, the Manager of knowledge is the human brain with its cargo of cognitive skills and intelligences. We are, therefore, now at the dawning of the age of Intelligence, in which, finally, we will learn to think Intelligently!
On 25 June of 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, the Minister for Higher Education, Dr. Dato Nordin, in conjunction with the 14th International Conference on Thinking, its 2000 delegates, Dr. Edward De Bono, Dr. Howard Gardner, and myself, formally declared that we have now entered the age of intelligence. It is in this age that the astonishing potential of the human brain will be increasingly unlocked and unleashed.
The Brain
The Left and Right cortical research

Professor Roger Sperry of the University of California won the Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking research in the area of the cognitive skills possessed by the cerebral cortex. Professor Sperry's research showed that the left hemisphere was dominantly active in the areas of words, numbers, lines, lists, logic and analysis, whereas the right hemisphere was dominantly active in the areas of rhythm, colour, shapes, maps (Gestalt), imagination and daydreaming.
This research has been transformative in terms of our thinking about education and potential, and has also been widely misinterpreted.
Which side of the brain is the business side? Which the artistic side? Which the academic? Which musical? Which the creative?
The vast majority of people answer that the academic and business side is the left, and the artistic, musical and creative the right. These assumptions are dangerous, and dangerously into-the-swamp wrong! If you examine the cortical skills carefully, you will realise that all areas of activity contain the whole range of cortical skills. Only by combining them in this way, can we experience the beneficial effect of the synergetic relationship between the two sides. Only in this way can we unlock an infinite potential that has so far been trapped in a self-destructive, either-or inappropriate method of thinking. We have to synchronise the activities of the entire cerebral cortex and, thus, to benefit from the release of an infinite creative and cognitive potential.
The multiple intelligences
The age of Intelligence will include, in addition to the unleashing of the extraordinary powers of the cerebral cortex, the discovery, nurturing and application of the multiple intelligences. It is important to emphasise at the outset that these intelligences initially and formally introduced to the world by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, are all like muscles that can be trained and honed, and that everyone possesses the potential to develop every intelligence to a high degree.
The intelligences include :
Verbal : The development of word power and the ability to juggle with the infinite manifestations of the alphabet.
Numerical : The development of number power and the ability to juggle with the infinite manifestations of numbers. The numerical also includes the ability to think logically.
Spatial : The ability to negotiate three-dimensional space and to handle objects in three dimensions. These three intelligences constitute the bulk of the traditional IQ test.
But there are more to come!
Personal Intelligence is your self-awareness and ability to love yourself to be your own best friend and best coach.
Social Intelligence is your ability to be successful in groups.
This intelligence also includes the ability to establish enduring relationships.
Physical Intelligence includes your general medical health as well as your muscular strength, bodily flexibility, and cardiovascular physical fitness.
Sensual Intelligence is your ability to use, as Leonard Da Vinci entreated us to, the Multiple Senses to the ultimate of their power and potential.
Creative Intelligence is the ability to think with the full range of the cortical skills, and to think abundantly, originally, imaginatively, flexibly, speedily, and connectively.
Ethical/Spiritual Intelligence concerns your compassion and love for other living things and the environment, your charitability, your understanding, your big-picture-thinking, your positivity and your generosity.
Envisioning a world in which every human being was educated to develop these vast resources has been the dream of educators and philosophers for millennia.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, and at the beginning of the dawn of The Age of Intelligence, we have the opportunity to make this dream, finally, come true!
Fortunately the first shoots of this final revolution are already with us.
I have already mentioned Dr. Seldon's Wellington College, where everything.
I have been discussing is now part of the curriculum for every student. In Singapore, the Ministry of Education has thinking, learning and intelligence as its major focus and communicates with its 28,000 teachers via Mind Maps. Malaysia has declared that by 2020, every citizen will be aware of the brain, learning how to learn, and all the benefits of a mentally Literate society.
In the business world, most of the Fortune 500 companies are now incorporating forms of brain training in their human resource activities, and Bill Gates recently stated :
“... intelligence agents and mind mappers are taking our information democracy to the next stage...a new generation of mind mapping software can also be used as a digital blank slate to help connect and synthesise ideas and data and ultimately create new knowledge...”
Universities are rapidly endeavouring to lead this trend. At the London School of Economics (LSE), a new course LSE 100 is specifically devoted to teaching the students in social sciences to think and learn. In Mexico, the Tec De Monterrey, a University with 33 campuses and 39,000 students, has made the 100-hour Mental Literacy, Mind Mapping and Learning How to learn course mandatory for every student. Japan has recently had Mind Mapping software and books on the brain and learning at the top of its Amazon list and China has declared creativity and innovation to be a national priority. The revolution has begun. The brain's potential is beginning to be unlocked and unleashed!
The Mind Map an egalitarian thinking tool
The Mind Map is the tool that uses each of the cognitive skills in synchrony, and which allows the individual to explore and develop each of the multiple intelligences. Placed in perspective, the current debate in England over the class system and privilege is inappropriate, out of place and irrelevant. What education needs for its present and its future are tools that allow each brain to mine its own potential and then to manifest it. The Mind Map is such an egalitarian thinking tool.
Education systems and teachers
Our current education systems are becoming dangerously akin to factory farming, producing conveyor belt kids who are still being designed for the industrial and information ages. What the world needs now are schools and universities that focus not from the outside in (agriculture, industry, information, technology and knowledge); we need education systems that focus from the inside outwards (the cognitive skills and the multiple intelligence), allowing us finally to think intelligently and creatively about knowledge, technology, information, industry, and agriculture. And who is going to lead this final educational revolution?
The Teacher - a new position of priority with new definitions.
If we look at the original root of education, it is the word Educere.
This word from which Duke also arises, means not, as it has been primarily interpreted, to draw out. It means to Guide; to Head; and to Lead.
As such, the teacher (and I include here all parents) must become the most important individual in the world. The teacher of the future will no longer be simply a specialist in a given subject area. The teacher of the future will be a leader, a mentor, a custodian of intelligence, a facilitator, an advisor, a guide, a coach, a guardian, and a beacon for all those incredibly beautiful and potential-filled minds of the future.