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Solo Vs Group Brainstorming

In our recent 60 Second Survey, it was revealed that over 70% of respondents had used mind mapping software for "solo brainstorming" within the last week but only 28% said they had used it for brainstorming with colleagues...

While we (and others) often extol the virtues of collaboration and group brainstorming using maps, we are sometimes less vocal about how it can help an individual to brainstorm, possibly because the process for an individual can be highly personal and difficult to articulate in broad terms.

My earliest maps were essentially brainstorming maps, where I simply dumped everything I knew about my university subject matter into a map, and (only when I thought I had got everything out) did I start to manoeuvre and shape the map into a more coherent form. That is a very loose approach to brainstorming, and a very personal one that worked incredibly well for me. In fact, it saved my degree! However, others may start an individual brainstorm with a set of questions that enables them to approach the idea/problem more systematically. The popularity of "Five Wives" maps on Biggerplate, or De Bono Thinking maps is a good indication that many people (both individuals and groups) like to approach things more methodically.

But I'm interested in the original statistics, and the fact that over 70% have done brainstorming by themselves within the last 7 days. It suggests that a huge portion of our work is related to tasks, ideas, or problems that are not the responsibility of a group, but rather the responsibility of an individual, and it is therefore the individual that needs the right tools to help them think things through.

'Collaboration' and 'social' are just a few business buzzwords from the last few years that put much of the emphasis on teams/groups of people working together, and it has therefore become very trendy to market anything and everything from the 'team' and 'collaboration' perspective, and this does not just apply to mind mapping. While people and businesses may like to push team working and collaboration (it does make work sound more social and fun), perhaps we are guilty of forgetting the reality that many of us have to do a huge amount of work alone! Given what our survey says, perhaps the mapping world is as guilty as others in forgetting that people do not perform every task within a group setting. For most of us, there are several occasions every day where we find ourselves facing a challenge or task that is entirely our own, and it's up to us to deal with it. Clearly the mapping tools that we recommend for group settings are also equally relevant and powerful in a solo setting, but given that 70% are using it for solo brainstorming (compared to 28% collaborative brainstorming), perhaps we need to get a bit better at articulating the features and benefits that are relevant to an individual brainstorm, rather than always assuming (and marketing to) people as if they have a 24 hour 'team' to work with!

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Liam is the founder of, and tries (with varying success) to write about key projects and progress at Biggerplate, as well as the wider world of mind mapping and our place within it.
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