Are you a Concept Mapper or a Mind-Mapper ?

A Concept Map to illustrate the subject

Lay the foundation of the dilemma

Since I have been using this two knowledge vizualisation methods, I face with the partisan vision of the users of each community.

To distinguish them on this article, I propose to give them a specific name.

  • The Cmappers (Concept Maps Addict)
  • The Mind-Mappers (Mind-Mapping Addict)

In my activities, I contribute to the 2 communities and I use each method.

The Cmappers build on the work done in 1970’s by Joseph D. NOVAK, Professor and senior research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

Joseph D. NOVAK

Meanwhile, the Mind-Mappers rely on work done at about the same period by Tony BUZAN, psychologist graduated from the University of British-Colombia in Canada.


I do not know the reasons of this partisan positioning of each community. But never mind, my comments here will illustrate the differences between the 2 methods.

Keep on reading my fellows, and you will make your own opinion and maybe explore a new way.

Whatever are the proponents of each approach, no one is better than the other. Since I have been using them, I find them complementary.

In my opinion, The uses of Concept Map stop where the uses of Mind-Maps start !

The uses of a concept map

The concept map is totally adapted to describe a complex subject, an extensive organization, a new concept.

The fact that there is no central idea as in a mind-map opens the realm of the imagination.

All the links bring sense and cross-links are available between ideas and concepts.

I use concept maps :

  • To map Who-Do-What or Who-Know-What in a organization
  • To illustrate a deep change management (Digital transformation, new management methods, uberization, etc.)
  • To design new products or services
  • To animate a monthly Knowledge Café with my Canadian partners
  • To illustrate differences between approaches
  • And so on and so forth ..

The uses of a Mind-Map

Mind-Map is totally adapted to drill down a specific knowledge extracted from a concept map or another media.

The central idea limits the exploration scope but favours a deep analysis of the topic.

However, each branches of a mind-map can be enriched through a library of icons (flags, priority, special symbols, etc.); which is not the case in a concept map.

You can use crosslinks between ideas or branches but it does not match with a tree map representation.

For me, It’s the better solution to captalize and to share specific knowledge.

The best rules to design a mind-map, described on the concept map above, foster knowledge transfers.

The reader can access the main sources of knowledge he has to learn.

The circular representation promotes holistic view of the subject concerned.

I use Mind-Map :

  • To Capitalize knowledge
  • To take notes during an interview, a meeting or a conference
  • To organize and schedule a project
  • To summarize a book or an article I’ve just read
  • To organize writing of a book or an article
  • To gather ressources about a specific subject (articles, vidéos, Tedx conferences, key actors, etc)
  • And so on and so forth ..

The common points of the 2 methods

Concept Mapping and Mind-mapping are based on common elements like :

  • Key words
  • Ideas and concepts illustrations (pictures, videos, podcasts)
  • links to external ressources
  • notes

To complete this overview of the two approaches, I will summarize, with fun, the two communities:

The community of Cmappers is mostly made of right brains who wish to organize themselves
and the community of Mind-Mappers is mostly made of left brains who wish to become more creative.

You can imagine I don’t have a partisan vision of the 2 communities or I would not have quoted this dichotomy.

Nevertheless, I think there is a major missing element in the 2 methods.

The third track

For many years, I also added a third solution in my toolbox to map knowledge.

This is the social graph, a dynamic visualization approach to redraw the semantic network of a knowledge field by browsing the elements that constitute it.

This dynamic navigation gives an holistic view of existing semantic links in the studied field of knowledge.

I use social-graph :

  • To show the impacts and the consequences if you focus on a specific item of the graph (departure of an employee, deletion of a ressource, department organization, etc.)
  • To measure awareness of network of actors
  • To visualize timeline variations
  • And so on and so forth ..

The social-graph does not replace the 2 others methods described above; it is fully complementary and based on elements designed in the 2 other types of Mapping.

In my opinion, it will help leaders to make better decisions.

The exponential growth of information (Big data) force to use an easy dynamical visualization tool.

And you now, where do you stand ? Are you a Concept Mapper, a Mind-Mapper or a Social-Grapher ?
Exemple of Social Graph