Idea Mapping has a rich heritage in mind mapping. However I often get this question, “What is the difference between idea mapping and mind mapping?” I use the term “Idea Mapping” rather than “Mind Mapping” for several reasons.

  1. First I use the term idea mapping out of respect for the mappers who map strictly by the mind mapping laws. (Although many mind mappers probably don’t realize they are breaking them anyway.)
  2. Although the laws can have a time and place, I’ve had many a frustrated client who nearly threw out the tool because they felt their creativity was being hampered (especially by the one-word-per-line law).
  3. The use of the laws should be determined by the application and purpose for creating the map — not because of a set of rules.
  4. I think idea mapping is actually a nice descriptor of the tool and what it does.

I do share these laws with my workshop participants, but I call them guidelines and talk about a variety of situations where keeping these guidelines just doesn’t make sense. Here are a few examples:

This idea map was created by Daniel Pace during a live meeting, and you can read his full story here. My point in this example is that the purpose was speed and capturing as much detail as possible. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to waste time switching pen colors or worrying about lots of images (although he did get a few in). I’m a huge fan of color and imagery, but not when it is counterproductive. Also notice that using a single word per line does not make sense in many real-world scenarios.

Here’s another example that breaks the law that says everything must radiate from a central word and/or image.  This one was created by Matt McKibbin and you can read the full story here. Matt’s message was best communicated without a single central focus.

I have lots of other examples that break other official mind mapping laws (using lined or colored paper, leaving the paper portrait rather than turning it landscape, etc.), but I think you can hear the message. Idea mapping gives the mapper a hybrid that combines the best of both worlds to free the mind to be creative and purposeful in how to map in a way that reflects the individual’s or team’s need.

(See the squidoo idea mapping group and main squidoo lenses, and flickr photos for more idea mapping examples.)