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Tony Buzan answers members’ questions


QuestionBefore Christmas in an interview with Tony Buzan we gave members a chance to ask him questions. You came up trumps - the breadth, depth and quality of the questions impressed the great man himself. But what of the answers? Here is Tony Buzan's first set of replies to your questions on creativity, mind mapping and more.

Question: Like many, I have used Mind Mapping for years and love the fluid nature of it. I have found that some really dislike it from a conceptual base. Do you think there is any alignment with a particular type of individual preferring mapping in light of preferences revealed through theories like Gardner's Multiple Intelligences or those revealed by any of the plethora of other learning style models? Or do you think those who prefer Mind Mapping over traditional, linear thinking models are just early adopters and it's a change management issue?
Jean Marrapodi, PhD, CPLP
Providence, RI, USA

Answer: It is my firm belief that every brain is, by nature, a Mind Mapper!

The fact that a baby learns a language is evidence confirming that it must learn by multi-sensual images and their radiating associations. I also believe that everyone contains the full set of Multiple Intelligences (I support Howard in this) and that the Mind Map, being a Multiple Intelligence Tool, is once again a natural extension of these theories.

The reason why some people 'really dislike it from a conceptual base' is the fear or panic reaction from those who have been so inculcated with the 'fact' that linear monochromatic and listing thinking is the 'proper way'.

To put it in the terms of Matthias Alexander, the inventor of the Alexander Technique, it is akin to 'Debauched Kinesthesia' in which the body, because it has been conditioned to adopt incorrect postural attitudes, believes that when it is bent it is straight and aligned, and that when it is straight and aligned, it is off-balance.

So I agree with your final comment/question: those who prefer Mind Mapping are the 'early adopters' and it is a change management issue.

Happily, it is now estimated that approaching half a billion people are using Mind Maps and that at any given second of any given day, at least five Mind Maps are being created somewhere in the world. Thank you for being one of their supporters! Please let me see some of your own Mind Maps.

I am planning to visit the USA in the first two weeks of November, and note that both Bill Gates and Al Gore are among that half billion! I have also heard it rumoured that President Obama is also a Mind Mapper – do you know if this is so?

Question: I have used Mind Mapping successfully to help me with my note-taking while studying and to come up with new ideas at work. I still prefer to do it freehand as I find it allows me to be more spontaneous. There are so many electronic versions of mind mapping software now though, which I am sure must have some benefits. What is your favoured approach - freehand or electronic and do you have any tips for making software work as well or better than freehand drawing?
Hannah Harris

Answer: Yes, like you, I prefer to do my Mind Maps freehand, as they are more spontaneous, and because I love the tactile feel of the paper and the pen/brush flowing. However, computers are catching up fast!

Ever since I invented Mind Maps, I have dreamed of matching the human brain with the computer brain, facilitating the computer brain to speak in the language of the human brain.

I worked on most of the major pre-Mind Map software, and although they slowly progressed, they were always fundamentally 'rough drafts'. They were too angular, too rigidly mechanical, not organic, not artistic, not aesthetically pleasing, and not really human. Apart from that they were fine!

In 2008, my dream actually came true. Chris Griffiths, a computer expert and educationalist, said he wanted to gather a team and, as in the Manhattan Project, laser-direct a group of incredible individuals to cracking an 'insoluble problem'.

He and his team succeeded. The product is new, is named iMindMap and allows you to produce Mind Maps that look as if they have been done by human hand. The unique features that computer Mind Maps have include:

  • massive storage capacity

  • instantaneous access

  • ability to move entire branches from place to place

  • ability to change the size and colour of any branch

  • ability to intricately cross-reference the Mind Maps in your database

You can download this new software, which for the very reason behind your questions is now my only approved software, at You can play with it free for seven days.

Please let me know your reactions, and let me see some of your Mind Maps.

Question: I regularly quote something from an article which you wrote in one of the Skandia Intellectual Capital Supplements a few years ago. This is:
"The potentially most revolutionary discovery is that humans in general do not use 40% of the brain's capacity, as we thought in the 1950s. Not even 10%, as we thought in the 1980s. Recent research has revealed that we do not even use one per cent of our brain's capacity."
I have always wondered what this research was, and would much like to know more about how and where this research was done and any further relevant details.
John Lorriman

Answer: Thank you for both reading and understanding the Skandia Intellectual Capital Supplement. Coincidentally, I had the full set of those issues beside me when I received your question, as I am using them as source material for my new book on Mind Maps in Business. To clarify the issues on the 'percentage use' of the human brain, the reference is specifically to memory, creativity and learning. The researches in the field are summarised quite regularly in both New Scientist magazine and Scientific American.

In 1995 New Scientist had a front page feature under the title 'The Universe in Your Head' in which it pointed out that a number of thoughts available to the average human brain was greater than the number of atoms in the sidereal universe.

Before that, Pyotra Anokhin, Russia's leading neuroscientist, had calculated that the minimum number of thoughts that the brain could physically make (he called them 'acts of intelligence') was the number one, followed by ten and one half a million kilometres of typewritten noughts.

More recently, in 2006, in the new magazine Scientific American Mind, the front cover feature on creativity quoted 'How Brilliance Arises in Every One of Us', going on to say that the untapped potential of the human brain was the world's greatest resource. As you might imagine, I thoroughly agree!

My own field researches have come up with similar results. One of my main reasons for forming the World Memory Championships was to demonstrate that the capacity of the average human brain to remember was minimally a hundred times greater than normal performance.

Psychologists at London University, in 1994, at the World Memory Championships held at Simpsons-in-the-Strand (the mecca of the mind) in London, predicted that no human being would ever in the future history of the human race, memorise a once-spoken number of 30 digits or longer. Each added digit to a spoken number compounds the difficulty and complexity of instantaneous recall.

In last year's World Memory Championship in Bahrain, Dr Gunter Karsten memorised a spoken number at twice the rate of that stipulated by the psychologists, of 202 digits, and he was able to recall it five hours later! This is an improvement in capacity of thousands of times.

Similarly in creativity, the average number of ideas that any individual can think of for the use of and/or associations with any given object runs out, despite them being given as much time as they wish, at less than 20. Any trained mind mapper/creative thinker can continue to generate such ideas for one object every minute of their waking lives for their entire life.

Look out for more of Tony Buzan's answers to members' questions next week - 9 February.

Tony Buzan has worked with governments, olympic athletes, global businesses, academics and high profile individuals to help them train their brains, improve their memories and unleash their mental capacities. The author of almost 100 books in over 30 languages and the creator of the World Memory Championships, he lectures on the techniques of Mind Mapping and thinking - all over the world. Visit


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