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Brainstorming & Mind Mapping


Brainstorming is spontaneous, random, nonjudgmental thoughts to generate a variety of potential ideas on a theme.

Mind Mapping is a visual brainstorming activity.

          Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique that may be helpful in determining ideas for topics and/or speeches. It begins with spontaneous, random, nonjudgmental thoughts to generate a variety of potential ideas on a theme, topic, or idea. To brainstorm, think of one idea or concept, and let your mind begin to associate other words, concepts, and ideas to the first. Continue this process as more and more concepts come to mind leading to a narrower idea or topic.

          Mind mapping is another approach to the brainstorming process. It is a visual brainstorming activity that can lead a topic to surface as one we want to examine more deeply.

          Let’s work through an example of a mind mapping brainstorming process together. But before we begin, let’s set a time limit for our session, let’s say five minutes. On a blank page or screen think of a concept or idea. Let’s start with a dog. Some ideas and related concepts could be breeds, shelters, dog food, dog parks, size, etc. Now, branching off the concept of dog parks, you could have free parks or paid parks, large parks, small parks, etc. Continuing to map out all the various ideas or words we have been thinking. In doing so, we may see a topic we feel is an interesting one for us to examine further. It may eventually lead to a topic that could be a speech: “requiring vaccines for dogs.” See the mind map example below to better understand mind mapping as a brainstorming process.

An example of mind mapping beginning with the concept of a dog.


Linear Listing is a brainstorming process where items are listed and then narrowed down.

          Another brainstorming activity is more linear in composition. You literally start with a topic and make a random nonjudgmental list of ideas that come to your mind very quickly. No order, no meaning to you, just list all the things related to that topic. Once you have completed your list, you can begin to narrow ideas down to ones that spark an interest in you as a potential topic to share with an audience. This can be an effective method when working with a group or team for deciding on a topic. Each team member can create their own list, and then the lists can be combined and the whole team can evaluate the list narrowing it down to 3 – 5 potential topics. At that point, the pros/cons of the topics can be discussed by the whole group until they reach a unified topic.

          The process of brainstorming, whether mind mapping or the linear approach may take a little time to find the result that you truly want to share with your audience, but it is very helpful and successful to identify what are the speaker’s true interests to share. See the mind map below to better understand linear listing as a brainstorming process.

An example of linear listing.


Review Questions

1) How are brainstorming and mind mapping different? How are they similar? 

2) Develop a linear list beginning with these items, go at least three steps deep: Pop Music, R&B Music, Classical Music, and Jazz Music. 

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