The creativity technique which has survived millennia

(& how we can use it in the modern-day)

6 min readOct 10, 2019


What makes us human?

Life relies on evolution. It is the earth’s unique ability to grow and adapt which makes it the only planet in the solar system flourishing with the effervescent glow of life.

As a species, we humans have taken control of the world with many tools, but one ability reigns supreme. This is a skill more powerful than the most basic of nature’s resources (better than power, strength, instinct); the invisible force by which humans have conquered the globe. That is: ideas.

Unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, humans not only respond well to change, they actively seek it. This is because we are full of wonder and questions. We are restless, ever-moving, ever-growing, and (most importantly) ever-creative.

Our curiosity has sent us to the furthest corner of the map and beyond. People have explored the deepest recesses of the ocean, rocketed beyond the ostensible limits of our own sky. So, with such creative ability buzzing about our brains, it’s of little surprise that innovators throughout history have sought ways of harnessing that creative superpower.

humans not only respond well to change, they actively seek it…

Let’s do the timewarp

Let’s go, for a moment, back to the third century. Allow me to introduce Porphyry of Tyros, a noted thinker and philosopher of the time.

He is known for producing (what many describe as) the first documented Mind Map. He used a distinctly graphical representation, with radiating branches, to organize the expansive works of Aristotle.

Porphyry capitalized on the power of visuals to make complex information more digestible — and in a way, he also created the first infographic. Porphyry may have provided the first existing example of this, but he certainly wasn’t the last to employ the technique.

Many distinguished historical figures — including Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill — all used the power of graphical representation to help fire up creative thought and boost comprehension.

Porphyry capitalized on the power of visuals to make complex information more digestible

Under the hood

It’s clear that visual expression is linked to creative and cognitive ability — but the question remains, why? To understand this, we have to look at the neurophysiology of the brain (don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds).

Most of us have a rough idea of what the brain looks like — pinkish and covered in lots of wiggly lines. For all intents and purposes, our brain is a connection-making machine.

There are many aspects of our life which run in a linear fashion — from the unraveling of time to the clockwork of routine, but if there is one thing about human life that does not function in a linear way, it’s the brain.

Our minds don’t think up and down, but side to side and all around. Our thoughts radiate out — we make associations, one thought prompting another. This is the very reason we have ideas in the first place. As noted by Steve Jobs, creativity is all about connecting things. When we ideate, we fuse existing bits of knowledge together to create new knowledge.

All this considered, it seems unsurprising that Mind Maps are such a good way of capturing ideas. If you look at a Mind Map with its radiating branches, lines of connection and ideas grown from ideas, it holds a mirror to the inner workings of the brain.

This isn’t to mention the visual aspect; the brain is capable of absorbing 36,000 visual images every hour. Hence, using a visual format to express ideas allows your brain to work faster and discern ideas fully.

Our minds don’t think up and down, but side to side and all around

21st Century thinkin’

How has the Mind Map been brought into the modern-day? It actually started last century, in the 1970s to be precise. This is when British psychologist and researcher, Tony Buzan, repopularised the concept of the “Mind Map” (though the concept has, of course, existed under many other names).

Tony Buzan established Mind Mapping principles that were very hard to replicate within software. These included having a visual central idea, curved radiating branches, and added visual elements such as different colors and pictures to boost the visual powers of the Mind Map.

Even today, people know Mind Maps under different names such as ‘concept maps’, ‘brainstorms’ and ‘spider diagrams’. However, regardless of the descriptor, the importance lies in the function itself. Today, students of all ages, all around the world, use Mind Maps to learn, think and retain new knowledge. Savvy business execs and creatives alike use visuals to brainstorm ideas and utilize the combined power of ideating in a group.

In recent history, the hand-drawn Mind Map has reigned supreme — and it’s not hard to see why, as it offers far more flexibility. When Chris Griffiths — a multi-time entrepreneur and bestselling author on creativity and innovation — joined forces with Tony Buzan, they set about refining the key points of Mind Mapping to show how it could be used around the world to enhance creativity.

During the process, they established a global network of professional Mind Mapping creatives, teaching others how to use the Mind Map to get the best out of their own ideas.

Savvy business execs and creatives alike use visuals to brainstorm ideas

Tech enhanced

Though the Mind Map has existed for many years in the software realm, for a lot of fans a major blocker has been that no app offers a digital version that genuinely replicates the organic hand-drawn style. Though this format isn’t essential for all Mind Maps, it is a key element that unlocks creative potential.

It’s good news, then, that the release of the first-ever cloud-based organic Mind Map feature is finally here. Released this month by Ayoa — the creativity and innovation app created by Chris Griffiths — this new arrival means users can finally take this enhanced form of Mind Mapping into the digital realm.

It’s an advancement which is big news for individuals and businesses worldwide — being able to produce Mind Maps which operate in the same way as ones created by hand is a massive step forward in making innovation and creative thinking a seamless part of our everyday lives.

All the elements of flexibility are there — and then some. Branches can be moved, ideas tweaked, and the whole look customized. From a business perspective, users can more easily share, interact and collaborate — no matter where they’re located.

Users can finally take this enhanced form of Mind Mapping into the digital realm

The Mind Map has been on a long journey since those ancient days back in 300 A.D. It’s like I said: evolution is the heart of human invention and development. Just as writing has transitioned through the stages of quill, pencil, pen, typewriter and keyboard, this historic creativity technique has officially entered the modern realm.

With more developments sure to come, and access to organic Mind Maps now available to anyone with an internet connection, what remains to be seen is the ideas. With technology to enhance the world’s most famous creativity technique, the floodgates are bound to be opened.

Read more about digital Organic Mind Mapping here.