Mind maps are a great way to jump-start your creativity. In case you’re not familiar with mind maps: basically, you write down a a central term and in a “branching” fashion write down every word that comes to mind on that subject. The new words in return lead to new words that fit to those, and so on. In the end, you have a structured and hierarchical presentation of all the ideas that come to your mind:
I’ve done this numerous times for projects, and it really helps to grasp the full potential of the subject matter. Often, you’ll come to ideas you may not have thought of before. Letting your mind wander is not a problem (on the contrary, it’s the point!), since you’ll be able to pick out the branches and ideas that you deem useful.
It’s all the more fruitful when you have a friend or team partner brainstorming along with you. Until now, I’ve been using FreeMind, which is a great and highly productive desktop tool, but has one flaw: you can’t collaborate unless you’re sitting at the same computer, and ideas tend to come so fast you may be fighting for the keyboard. What about those sessions where the only connection you have is online?
Well, a new project called Mindmeister promises to remedy this: they offer free online mind mapping that is (in my opinion) as intuitive and fast to use as FreeMind, with the additional advantage of collaborating with as many simultaneous users as you like. If you’re familiar with FreeMind, you’ll be glad to note that they’ve implemented the same keyboard controls that make the desktop client so easy to use (and on a side note, it’s prettier).