Mind Maps

January 22, 2014

Figure 1 – “The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man”, Alesha Sivartha

A pencil and a piece of paper can go a long way when outlining projects and ideas. But digital tools can contribute to taking a step further into the effective mapping of simple or complex plans. For example, you can’t link to an image, document, or webpage by using only a whiteboard or a notepad. People have been mapping their minds for a long while now, and relatively new software products have evolved with the information age to better address this need.

(R. Gomes de Oliveira, January 17, 2014) Mind maps have several applications that include problem-solving, outline design, presenting ideas to others, project collaboration, and creating a holistic view of the topics under study that can help find gaps inside the line of thinking. I personally find it very useful for mapping organizational structures and systems. I work with city performance indicators in the city of Curitiba, Brazil, and it helps me a great deal to be able to create a mind map of the city and attribute information about transportation, health, education, culture, infrastructure, public safety, etc. The mind mapping tools give me a much more integrated perspective on how the city is performing. And the same applies to corporate and project structures. Mind maps give you a big picture view of whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish or understand. When you have this broader view, you can better explore how different aspects of the system are related and make more informed decisions based on this outsight. You can even use it to track and manage your skills as you develop as a student and as a professional.


A poll of the most popular mind mapping software products was conducted last year by Lifehacker. XMind, my favorite mind mapping tool, was the winner with 32% of the votes, followed by FreeMind. My recommendation would be for you to try a few of them and see if you find them useful and fun to use.

As a side note, a very interesting mapping project of the world called Future ICT is being done, and it will in many ways be analogous to ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Instead of only mapping infrastructure performance in the United States, it will display information on many other social and economic areas around the world.

The life which is unexamined is not worth living. – Socrates

Being able to visualize and interact with key points and their relationships can be a significant advantage for understanding how systems, plans, and projects work, and will also allow for information to be shared in a way where everyone can literally be on the same page. Use these tools to enhance your life examination!

Rafael Gomes de Oliveira is a frequent contributor to the Emerging Engineer. After receiving his college education in the United States, Rafael returned home to Brazil. He is currently helping Thornton Tomasetti grow a new office in Sao Paulo.

Leave a Reply

— required *

— required *