¡Hello! Today, and as the title has it, in our post at hand we want to go through one of every Testers’ most valuable assets, and that is actively working with our mind, and particularly, working with our mind building maps.

MT 101 - Figure 1

First things first - So, what is a Mind Map?

It is commonly known as a visual thinking tool, which you can apply to all cognitive functions such as learning, for your creative processes, analysis, and memory workouts.

The term itself was popularised by the popular British psychologist Tony Buzan, although the usage of diagrams and radial maps to visually map information is an old practice.

Creating a Mind Map is a process which involves combining colours, visual spatial arrangement, as well as images, and all of those are for us to use to map our thoughts using keywords that work as triggers in our minds recalling knowledge, and sparking brand new ideas.

Are Mind Maps and Concept Maps the same?

No, they might look alike at times, but they are not the same. Let’s see here, just very briefly put, we have that:

  • Mind Maps, which focus on one or a few words/ideas, and they are based either on radial hierarchies, or tree structures to denote relationships connected to a governing concept;
  • On the other hand, we have Concept Maps, which connect multiple words/ideas, and also, they typically have text labels on the connecting lines.

How can I create a mind map?

Well, Mind Maps may be either created using software, and there are plenty of applications for mind mapping on the internet, or you may create it drawing the Mind Map by hand on a piece of paper, whiteboard, etc.

The steps I have followed and have helped me to create a mind map have been the following ones:

1. Establishing the central idea

It is the starting point, and it also represents the subject/topic we are going to go through with our Mind Map.

Usually, it is convenient locating the central idea in the centre of the page, or any other surface used while creating it. Furthermore, it is convenient including an image that relates to the topic. Basically, the idea of including images is for easily triggering associations, as our brains have a better response to visual stimuli and thus, the connection to our content strengthens.

2. Add branches to the Mind Map

The first set of branches which flow from the central idea, are the key ideas we want to strengthen, and that we will deepen in greater depth by adding more branches.

One thing to take into account here, in our mind maps we can add as many branches as we see fit, therefore, we are not restricted to using just a few ones, besides, the main purpose of a mind map is to let us map our ideas, our thinking, so it’s natural that more ideas will come to mind, as our brains freely analyse the situation(s) and associations we are mind mapping.

3. Make sure to include Keywords

One other characteristic that differentiates Mind Maps from Concept Maps, it’s that with the first we use as little significant words as possible (one and only one significant word if possible) to represent a key idea. Basically, the idea after using one significant word is that of sparking a greater number of associations.

Additionally, using one word only it’s also useful for putting the information into core topics, triggering connections in our brains, allowing us to easily remember more information.

In my experience, building mind maps for several testing activities has been very useful, I have used them to explore test items, while working with Session Based Exploratory Testing, and a couple of extra examples:

  • Building a plan and/or a strategy for my testing,
  • Writing down test ideas,
  • Recognising and prioritising risks,
  • Etc., etc.

4. A picture is worth a thousand words - Using images

Last, yet most certainly not least, as the sub-title already mentions it, a picture (or an image) may convey a lot of information, and more often than not, they convey more information than a collection of words.

What is the reason? Simply put, the brain processes images instantly whilst also acting as a visual stimuli for recalling information. Furthermore, using images for visual stimuli is a means for using more brain power, than for example, trying to learn something by endlessly repeating it. Usually, a mind map will look like this:

MT 101 - Figure 2

All in all, we wanted to first share with you a glimpse of what Mind Maps “are” and “what they can do”. In future posts, we will work on giving you further details of how we have used them in our professional practice.

MT 101 - Figure 3

For the time being, have you used mind maps before? If so, how and when have you used them? What were the challenges you faced while learning how to use mind maps? Did you find your first mind map to be complicated? Let us know about your thoughts and experiences :)