Tony Buzan is the developer of mind maps, a popular visual thinking technique often called the “Swiss army knife of the brain.” In this interview, he talks about the growth of Mind Mapping, his company’s recent foray into Mind Mapping software and the future of this visual technique for representing ideas and information.

In the world of visual mapping, there is only one Tony Buzan. He invented Mind Mapping, and is now widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on the brain, learning and thinking skills. He has written 85 books that have sold over 5 million copies worldwide. He travels extensively, lecturing to leading international businesses, universities and schools. In this exclusive interview with Chuck Frey, Tony shares his thoughts on the evolution of Mind Mapping, his organization’s recent launch of Mind Mapping software that is uniquely built around his concepts and principles, and the exciting future of this visual mapping technique.

Frey: How has Mind Mapping evolved in the last decade or so?

Buzan: Up until the beginning of the 21st Century, Mind Mapping was primarily a hand-to-paper thinking tool. Interestingly, even at the end of the 20th Century, the world’s best computer brains were not capable, neither were their computers, of producing the organic and beautifully interconnected nature of real human thought.

This decade has seen the beginning of the first real marriage between the Electronic and Carbon brain. We are about to witness the explosion in creativity, innovation and all other forms of thought when these two massive forms of intelligence merge. The effects will be synergetic and explosive, and will create a Paradigm Shift in the development and manifestation of the infinite power of human thought.

Frey: How would you characterize the level of acceptance of Mind Maps in the worlds of business and education?

Buzan: Mind Mapping, which I developed in the 1960’s, has had equal acceptance in the worlds of business and education. In business it has been used particularly for presentations, meetings, human resource development, project planning, knowledge management and all forms of thinking, including analytical, strategic and creative.

In education, Mind Mapping has been used by students for taking notes in lectures and from books, for revision, for essay writing, for problem solving, and for examination question/answering.  By teachers it has been used for lesson preparation, day, week, month, and year long planning, lesson structuring, lesson presentation, and in all forms of assisting students with their own study skills development.

The growth-curve since the 1960’s has been exponential. It has now been confirmed that virtually all Fortune 500 companies use Mind Mapping, including:

  • IBM
  • Boeing Aircraft
  • Hewlett Packard
  • British Petroleum
  • UBS
  • General Motors
  • Oracle
  • BBC
  • Walt Disney and
  • Microsoft

Indeed, in a recent issue of News Week and NBC on the web, Bill Gates proclaimed that Mind Mappers were the “Road Ahead” and are “leading the way into the next stage of our new information democracy.”

Frey: Are there any particular parts of the world that are “hot spots” for Mind Mapping right now? If so, where? Why do you think that’s happening?

Buzan: The main “hot spots” are these:

China: The Government of China, in its current five year plan, has made education and creative thinking a prime platform. One of the Government’s publishing arms, FLTRP, has already published seven of my books, and plans another seven for this year. In the first 3 months they apologised for selling only 350,000 copies! A one-hour CCTV (China’s BBC) television documentary on me and my work, featuring Mind Maps, was seen by an estimated 350 million people.

Singapore: The Government of Singapore has decided that its prime national resource is the Intellectual Capital of its citizens. As such they have decided to devote their entire energies to this resource. Singapore has defined itself as a “learning nation” and is putting its full energy behind this initiative. My Buzan Centre in Singapore is working at all levels of society, and I myself, working with the Ministry of Manpower, have already taught over 3,000 of Singapore’s teachers in the art and science of Mind Mapping, and have taught thousands of delegates with the Singapore Institute of Management. We have just developed, with the University of the Singapore Institute of Management, an eighteen-hour Mind Mapping and Mental Literacy module for which students receive academic credits.

Malaysia: The former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has forged a Vision for Malaysia named 20:20. The Vision is to have all Malaysian citizens Mentally Literate, Mind Map-aware, and developed in all their cognitive skills, by the year 2020. In conjunction with the University of Utar, and Toon Dr Ling, we are involved in an ongoing initiative to teach every child and adult in Malaysia the art and science of thinking and Mind Mapping.

Australia: Australia has a very high percentage of both school and University students using Mind Mapping as their prime thinking tool, as a result of the work of Buzan Centres in Australia over 10 years. Australia was the first country to apply Mind Maps to the education of Autistic children, with astonishing results.

Mexico: The first democratically elected President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, is a Mind Mapper. He and his entire cabinet use Mind Maps to forge their original election campaign, and to help them define and implement their policies during their six years of Government. When they won a second six-year term in recent Mexican elections, Mind Maps were used to guide them through the always difficult transition process. Buzan Centres Worldwide Mexico/Latin America were appointed as the Senior NGO advisors throughout this processs. Plans are already in place for massive distribution of Mental Literacy and Learning How to Learn techniques throughout the Mexican Education System. Buzan Centres Worldwide were recently given, in front of an audience of 15,000 delegates, a special award for six years of service to Mexico, its Government and its citizens for helping develop creativity, innovation and quality in Government, and for assisting the Mexican people in their development of Mind Mapping and Thinking and Learning Skills.

Scotland: A foundation in Scotland, Tapestry, provided Scotland with a vision of “creating a Learning Society”. Within a few years Tapestry had gathered the official support of all major educational bodies and societies, including the educational, professional, political, religious and business communities. Under their banner I, and they, have taught thousands of Scottish Head Teachers in the application of Mind Maps to the development of their students’ learning and thinking skills. International Organisations, including Harvard University, are also giving their full official support. The coming years are blossoming with Mind Map activity in Scotland!

Brussels/Europe: A critical mass is suddenly being reached; Europe is exploding with interest and requests concerning Mind Maps and Learning How to Learn. Our Buzan Worldwide Centre in Brussels is at the moment being bombarded with requests from around Europe for Teacher Training, with particular emphasis on Mind Mapping. Computer Mind Maps will be a major part of this new teaching initiative.

Frey: Where do you see Mind Maps evolving in the near future?

Buzan: Mind Mapping will find its home in many nests throughout the world wide web. I predict that Mind Maps will pop up on an increasing number of websites, and that computer technology will allow movement of images and words, increasing three dimensional possibilities, the development of holographic Mind Maps, and the use throughout the world of Mind Maps for every form of human thinking. I predict that Mind Maps will become the ultimate tool for Knowledge-Management and for the development of human intelligence. They will help form a truly Global Brain.

Frey: What do you wish people understood about Mind Maps?

  • Firstly, how wonderful a thinking tool Mind Maps are.
  • That Mind Maps use the entire range of cortical skills, and are therefore much more effective as well as much more satisfying than 19th Century linear methodologies.
  • That Mind Maps physically engage more of your brain cells while you are Mind Mapping. This means that more of your million million workers (your brain cells) are engaged.
  • That the one-word-per-line guide-line, rather than being a restriction, actually gives your mind more freedom. Each word has its own supernova of radiating possibilities. The more you put these supernovaes in phrases and sentences, the more they are trapped. The more you free them, by giving each its appropriate line, the more the multiple universes of your mind can integrate with each other.
  • That Mind Mapping is a natural reflection of your brain’s internal thinking processes; that Mind Mapping is therefore easy.
  • That Mind Mapping, while improving all your mental functions, is actually Fun!

Frey: What is your opinion on the emergence of Mind Mapping software?

Buzan: (It’s) about time!

Frey: What do you hope to accomplish with the launch of iMindMap, your company’s new Mind Mapping software?

Buzan: The development of iMindMap I liken to the Manhattan Project. In the Manhattan Project, the world’s leading brains had to work out ways to “do the impossible” – to split the atom. In the iMindMap Project, a selection of the World’s best brains had to do what also to that time had been impossible – to design a perfect marriage between the computer and the infinitely associative organic nature of natural human thought.

The object, which many had said would always be, and up until that time had been, impossible, was to blend the two worlds so that the human brain could, with an infinitely explosive tool, more easily and naturally explore the limitless possibilities of human thinking.

iMindMap is the first software in history to accomplish this goal. I believe that the team who accomplished this will go down in history alongside Gutenberg, and the inventors of the radio, television, the telephone and the computer itself.

The simple goal is Freedom – the freedom of the human mind to express itself in the infinite ways of which it is capable.

Frey: What else would you like to share with InnovationTools readers about the power and usefulness of Mind Mapping?

Buzan: All branches of science are now confirming the same conclusion: The human brain, once set free, has No Limits. Professor Pyotr Anokhin, of Moscow University, estimated that the number of thoughts available to the average human brain was the number 1 followed by ten and a half million kilometers of typewritten 0’s.

Mind Maps, which have been described as the “Swiss Army Knife of the Brain,” allow each individual, and any group with whom that individual wishes to think learn and create, to explore those universes in a manner which reflects their natural form of thinking.

As a recent IT article said, if you are not interested in thinking, creativity, learning, communication, analysing, negotiation, innovation, or mental development and self enhancement, then Mind Maps are not for you!

Mind Maps can be applied to the improvement of every form of thinking; and the forms of thinking are themselves infinite.

When you use Mind Maps you will be commencing a journey that will transform and amaze you! The amazement will be the realisation of just how magnificent your mind truly is.