A Guide to Creative Mind Mapping and Brainstorming

5 Exercises to inspire great ideas

Image by Andrey Popov on Adobe Stock

Why Use Mind Maps for Brainstorming?

These exercises can all be done with traditional pen and paper, or using a whiteboard. However, mind maps are suggested as a way to see all of the information from a new visual perspective.

First, Understand the Rules of Creative Mind Mapping

If you really want to make the most from your creative brainstorming sessions, then there are a few “ground-rules” to abide by. True, creativity shouldn’t be limited by rules — but have faith that these rules will actually help your creativity flourish.

  • No Multitasking: Studies have shown that multitasking actually hinders productivity. Not to mention the fact that keeping your mind fixed on too many tasks won’t give it much freedom to come up with creative ideas. Set aside a fixed time period for your creative mind mapping session — e.g., 30 minutes — and focus on nothing else until that time is up.
  • No Judging: Now is certainly not the time to judge your ideas. Some might seem completely random, some might seem stupid, others might seem dull, but none of that matters. Each idea — good or bad — may lead on to something else if you let it. So don’t judge them before you’ve seen the session through to the end.
  • Set a Time Limit: It’s important to set a time limit for every creative session. If you don’t, you might find yourself giving up before you’ve taken the idea to the limits. You might also find that having a relatively short time limit in place — say, 10 minutes per session — will force your mind to work quicker and to come up with more ideas than you would have otherwise.
  • Change Your Surroundings: If you find yourself struggling, then consider leaving your normal working space and going outside. Changing your surroundings can make a huge difference in the ideas you come up with!

Exercise 1: Mind Clearing

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  • It can be as mundane or as weird as you can think of in that moment. The key is not to stop and think about what you’re writing, and not to go back and edit it (for example, don’t go back and correct that spelling mistake as in the example).
  • My lunch tastes like… “elves massaging my taste buds”
  • My feet feel like… “a baby swaddled in a blanket”
  • To draw on sleeping people’s faces,
  • To cut through sealed boxes when you don’t have scissors,
  • To playfully poke people with,
  • As a spoon/ knife,
  • To reach something you’ve dropped,
  • As a ruler,
  • And so on.

Exercise 2: Inside the Box

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Why Is This Exercise Helpful?

Most of us are more than used to thinking inside our day-to-day boxes, but this task gets you to think inside a different kind of box. The limitations of that box will actually make your brain work harder to come up with more unusual ideas.

Exercise 3: Opposites

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Why Is This Exercise Helpful?

Logically, we all try to see why things will work, and choose the most logical answers. Or, if we do come up with a negative idea, we’re quick to question it. However, by doing the opposite of that in this exercise you’ll actually open your mind up in a way you’re not used to.

Exercise 4: To The End

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Why Is This Exercise Helpful?

When we come up with ideas, we often think we’ve thought them right through to the end. But there are usually further steps to be taken.

How to Adapt This Exercise for a Group of People

This exercise can work even better within a group of people. Take it in turns to go through the group — each person has to offer the next logical step should the current solution be seen through to its absolute conclusion. In other words, each person in the group will be adding another branch to the mind map. This is a great way to see how your own ideas can evolve into something new when seen by fresh eyes.

Exercise 5: Unusual Answers

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Why Is This Exercise Helpful?

Sometimes we’re so used to seeing things one way we forget that things don’t have to be that way.


As you can see, the point of these exercises is to get you thinking outside of your normal logical assumptions. Things don’t always have to be the way we’ve always done them, and recognizing this fact can lead to great things personally and in business.

I come from a land down under | Manners will take you where money won’t | HR Consultant | OHS Specialist | Personal Trainer

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