On May 7, 2012 I wrote a post about Idea Mapping Guidelines vs. Mind Mapping Laws. Although idea mapping has a rich heritage in mind mapping, the mind map laws are sometimes restrictive, squelch creativity and/or do not enhance the purpose for creating your map.

The least realistic mind mapping law is that each branch can only have one word. Let me share the thought behind this law and then talk in practical terms.

  1. Ideally we want as few words as possible in our maps yet still be able to remember or communicate the ideas behind the thoughts we are putting on the branches. This helps clarity.
  2. A single word can generate more thoughts than a phrase. This is true but impractical for most purposes. Let me explain…

Whether your map is for personal or business purposes, how often is your central topic a single word? If you are like most it is either a picture that represents many thoughts or a description of the project, decision, presentation, plan, etc. you are mapping. Sometimes it will be a combination of an image and words.

I’ve shared just two of many idea mapping examples that would not have been able to communicate the necessary information if the creator had been restricted to one word per line. The first one details the keynote and breakout sessions for a VizThink Conference schedule and the second one compiles the thoughts from Bill Lavery’s friends for a retirement gift. Don’t let yourself be boxed into a corner by this law.