"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

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"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."
Showing posts with label Tony Buzan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Buzan. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


In continuation of an earlier post:
Here's a simple mind-map done on the fly by Tony Buzan, capturing the essence of his important meeting with my good buddy Dilip Mukerjea, during which the latter shares future-forward strategies on how to leave behind a memorable and powerful legacy, using the metaphor, "Life2Death and Death2Life"!


This is a nice snapshot of what I like to call Guru Meets Guru... in a nut shell, my good buddy Dilip Mukerjea, now more or less based in Mumbai, India, recently meets up with Tony Buzan in Singapore.

Monday, August 16, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: MIND MAPS FOR BUSINESS, by Chris Griffiths & Tony Buzan

From the standpoint of reading on the lines or among the lines, this 250+ page book looks visually appealing to me, because of the many colourful mind-maps – plus myriad interesting stories - coming from a broad spectrum of businesspeople across the globe.

Of all the stories, I reckon the one from Masanori Kanda stands out.

The book is generally well-structured, & also shows many business applications of mind-mapping from several luminaries as well as numerous diehards.

In this respect, I reckon kudos should go to Chris Griffiths for his entrepreneurial spirit in soliciting & collating all the relevant stuff from across the globe into the book.

However, reading between the lines as well as reading beyond the pages, I find a number of stuff that really irks me. I would even say that there are some fundamental flaws in the book.

I will run through all the irksome stuff with readers.

In the first place, at least from my perspective, mind-mapping is essentially a mind dump, so to speak, on paper, plus some fancy nodes & branches to denote radial bursts of information. In other words, it’s a great tool for capturing & organising ideas on the fly.

The real power in mind-mapping is actually the deep questioning process, as one constantly needs to ask “where does this lead to?” or “what else is there at this point?” or “what is the implication or consequence here?” at each node & branch.

I have noted this vital aspect is only perfunctorily addressed in the book, although for a handful of applications, e.g. sales, negotiations, the authors did go at some length, but not indepth.

The book gives a lot of static captures of information on their respective nodes or branches in the illustrated mind-maps, but did not go further. In fact, some of the mind maps in the book should have been rejected outright, as one needs a magnifying glass to read them.

For example, let’s take a look at the mind-map on page 119, pertaining to ‘Mind Mapping the Buzan Asia Project'. To me, it was frivolously drawn – a 12-year old would have done better than that. It shows no traces of “strategic thinking” at all, if that was what the author had intended to demonstrate to readers.

In any strategic thinking endeavour, it is the strategic questioning process that eventually leads to the crucial solutions.

The same problem exists in the mind-map on page 232.

Worst still, & to my chagrin, the mind-map on page 140 is a real laughing stock. It purports to illustrate the “8 Secrets of Leadership” from the mind-mapping guru. The contributing author from Down Under simply couldn’t differentiate a habitual routine like “daydream” or “associate” from a true leadership trait.

I reckon the basic problem lies in the fact that the author desperately wanted to fit her shallow understanding of leadership traits into the acronym, M-I-N-D-M-A-P.

Actually, as it stands, a larger over-arching problem exists with mind-mapping, where everything is required to fit into a centralised concept. That is to say, all ideas or observed facts must start - rigidly - at the centre.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in the real world, business or otherwise, since everything is connected to everything else.

I have one very important point to make though, to stand as a correction to what the contributing author/consultant from Down Under had talked about “Tony Buzan’s core work on leadership”.

It is well recognised that Tony Buzan’s apparent forte lies only in mind-mapping, speed reading & memory techniques, or “mental literacy" as he likes to call them collectively.

He might have given some official speeches or group presentations – from Dubai to Australia via Hongkong - where the term “leadership” had probably appeared.

Also, his name might have been listed on book titles to enhance the saleability of the books, like “The Brainsmart Leader” & “Grass Roots Leaders”. I would not be surprised that the real contributions in terms of thinking & writing actually came from the co-authors of the two books.

With due respect, I feel that the consultant from Down Under shouldn’t have trivialised the brilliant & pioneering work of leadership experts, like Jim Kouzes, Warren Bennis, Bill George, Noel Tichy, or even John Maxwell, by ranking the mind-mapping guru spuriously in the same league.

I would strongly recommend her - for her own leadership education - to read & digest ‘Conversations on Leadership: Wisdom from Global Management Gurus’, by researcher Lan Liu of Beijing University.

Nonetheless, the authors of ‘Mind Maps for Business’ have cleverly added in various proven strategic thinking & decision making models to dovetail with mind-mapping, e.g. Scenario Planning, PEST Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces, SWOT Analysis, Balance Scorecard, BCG Matrix, Porter’s Value Chain, McKinsey 7-S Framework, The 4Ps, & Product Life Cycle.

Frankly, I feel that they didn’t do a good job, other than highlighting those processes. This segment of the book contains only the authors' suppositions, in both narrative forms & skeleton mind-maps.

More surprisingly, out of the supposedly 200+ million mind-mapping users in the world, they couldn’t bring about a single business case to illustrate each of them. That would have been great – for readers’ sake - if they had done so.

Worst still, the deep questioning process as I have emphasised earlier, was not incorporated at all.

Let me take an example from the book.

In the PEST Analysis, the authors have given readers some really good indicators of information to be gathered, but stop short of advising readers to go beyond the information gathering process. That is to say, information processing - to be more precise, insight generation - is missing. The latter step necessitates the fishing out of implications &/or consequences from each of those indicators… starting with first order… then, second order… finally, third order, if necessary.

The critical stage of insight generation, as I see it, holds the vital key to effective analysis, not just static captures of information on a node or branch.

Another example: SWOT Analysis.

It certainly looks good when you have gathered all the pertinent information on “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Opportunities” & “Threats”.

The harsh reality is that the effectiveness & efficiency of SWOT Analysis lie in the next stage of intellectual work, i.e. to identify the implications &/or consequences of the gathered information, just like in the PEST Analysis I have highlighted earlier. [These are the “unintended consequences” which futurist/filmmaker/author Joel Arthur Barker talks about.]

In fact, I would encourage readers to ask pertinent & powerful questions, like “how can I amplify or build on “Strengths?”; “how can I eliminate or reduce “Weaknesses”?; “how can I maximise or leverage on “Opportunities”?; “how can I mitigate or contain “Threats?” to help generate valuable ideas.

I would even go one step further: “how can I combine “Strengths” & “Opportunities” to deal with “Threats”? &/or “How can I convert “Weaknesses” &/or “Threats” into “Opportunities”?

Like I said earlier, it is the deep questioning process that make mind-mapping powerful.

So, it seems that the authors just wanted to throw in some credibility to entice the business world by highlighting all those strategy models in their book.

I like to qualify what the authors (or the publisher?) have written on the back cover: “The Mind Map is the most effective thinking, organisational & productivity tool of our time…. [my addition] provided that the deep questioning process is put in place rigorously & vigorously.

I think it is also very bad taste on the part of the authors to belittle other visual tools, like concept mapping [on page 50].

As a matter of fact, concept mapping, which has a lot of empirical research to back it, is far more superior than mind–mapping, especially when it comes to reading & navigating through very complex texts, as in scientific subjects.

One last point: the authors keep on directing readers to their corporate website at every chapter, but I couldn’t get new information other than what’s already in the book.

Interestingly, on their corporate website, some of the user testimonials came from their collaborators as well as from their own licensed instructors - with vested interests of course. What a sham!

Judging from their corporate website, & from their constant exhortations via incessant email shots, it seems that the authors are more interested in getting readers to become their licensed instructors.

Imagine becoming a licensed instructor with only one single tool to work on. Think about it, if you have only a screwdriver in your toolbox, how does everything look to you?

Juxtaposing mind-mapping as a Swiss Army Knife is more of a misnomer. The latter is a truly multi-gadget, multi-function tool. Mind-mapping is not. Period.

So, in the end analysis, I reckon that the ‘Mind Maps for Business’ book has been written primarily as a marketing promotional tool for pushing their 'iMindMap' software to the world at large.

To be fair to the authors: if you are longing to read many interesting stories from around the globe with regard to varied mind-mapping applications, this book can readily serve as a valuable memento.

Beyond that, I don’t think readers will miss much.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Dilip Mukerjea has been publicly acclaimed as “phenomenally creative and easily one of the world’s top ten Master Mind Mappers” by Tony Buzan himself.

As a matter of fact, Tony Buzan, one of the world’s leading thinkers, states:

“What better introduction and guide could you have than Dilip Mukerjea? In his beautiful and artistically conceived books, Dilip introduces you to the wonder of your brain’s workings, and guides you to improved performances in memory, thinking, reading, studying, creative thinking, and learning.

In other words, Dilip opens up the latent genius within you and allows it to flower. Dilip is exceptionally well-qualified to lead you on this exciting adventure, as he himself has developed many aspects of his own genius, following Leonardo da Vinci’s example, in that he is already an accomplished engineer, artist, writer, linguist, and athlete. He is also a superb teacher, as you will find when you join him on this exciting exploration, and if you ever have the privilege of attending one of his Brain Developing courses.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I find it intriguing as well as amusing to read that the Buzan Organisation has claimed that

"... 250 million people already 'mindmap'..."

on their newly created ThinkBuzan website.

Is this a fact or pure hyperbole? Or, did they just pluck the figure from the sky or is it an audited figure?

Likewise, in the corporate website of the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), which offers professional programs to the corporate world as well as to the general public, I have noted that Tony Buzan has claimed that he is

"the owner of the world's highest Creativity IQ".

I like to know who is the ranking or rating authority.

Interestingly & also amusingly, Tony Buzan also claimed

"he has been consistently ranked as one of the top international speakers at all levels & to groups from 1-15,000..."

"... rated as the top international lecturer in 15 national & international management associations."

In the first instance, any young kid can tell you that 1 is definitely not a group.

More importantly, I like to know the respective ranking or rating authority in the two instances.

Did the relevant people in SIM bothered to conduct due diligence on the "accolades"?

Hopefully, the relevant people at SIM, being a premier management training institution, are not entrenched in colonial mentality. Layman calls it the 'Ang Moh Factor'.

['Ang Moh' is a widely accepted & used as a simple term to describe a Causasian. You will hear the term in local TV & movie productions, radio shows, & also read it in the magazines or books.

By the way, readers can pop into this AngryAngMo website for elaboration on the term. The website is run by a German expatriate.]

Monday, August 24, 2009


Dilip has sent me an email about consultant Dr Scott Simmerman making an observation to the effect that Evelyn Wood (of Reading Dynamics) was the originator of 'mind-mapping'.

I wrote back to highlight that Dr Simmerman had probably echoed - if I recall correctly - what an earlier old-timer consultant/trainer Bob Pike had said - in writing - about Evelyn Wood, having invented 'mind-mapping'.

I also mentioned to Dilip about another school of thought:

Gabriele Rico, a professor of English & Creative Arts, invented 'clustering' (sometimes known as Rico Clusters), based on her doctoral dissertatuion at Stanford University during the mid-70's.

Personally, I have always subscribed to the fact that 'clustering' is the precursor to 'mind-mapping'.

It is quite possible that Evelyn Wood may have come up during the 50's with a rudimentary graphical outline, resembling some sort of "a radiating spoke with truncated lines" as a keyword-based approach to organise info after speed reading, but I can't verify it.

Nonetheless, I have seen many variations with fancy names like 'patterned notes', 'spidergrams', etc.

There are also ramblings from some quarters that Leonardo da vinci was the true progenitor, but I have yet to see any of his sketches or drawings with the effect.

Obviously all these pot shots - I believe probably sparked off by Bok Pike in the 80's - boil down to the fact that Americans just can't accept a Brit for the discovery or invention of 'mind-mapping'.

For me, it's fair to say - in fact I hold this view - that Tony Buzan had certainly taken a very brave stance by sticking his neck out to formalise what is now known to the world as 'mind-mapping', with some refined rules, starting in the seventies or so.

Frankly speaking, any further deliberation in this area is likely to end up as an academic exercise.

After all, the most important thing about it is what works & what doesn't.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


[Extracted & adapted from the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.]

Undoubtedly, Tony Buzan should be credited for starting the ball rolling for Mind-Mapping in the late seventies/early eighties. He certainly took a brave stance.

Whether he originated the idea is still debatable, because I strongly believe that the clustering technique (as originally envisaged by Gabrielle Rico in her debut book, 'Writing the Natural Way', in the early eighties) is the precursor to the Mind-Mapping technique.

I still owned the original releases of two books written by Tony Buzan, in which he introduced Mind-Mapping during those days:

- 'Make the Most of Your Mind';

- 'Use Both Sides of Your Brain';

Going back into these two books & comparing them with the current book under review, I am very surprised to note that there are not much differences from the the intellectual standpoint.

Despite the fact that more than three decades had already transpired, there are no new enhancements for readers, except, may be readers now get to see Mind-Maps in colour.

Surprisingly, Tony Buzan is still pursuing the dogmatic approach of putting every issue from a centralised position, & viewing all the connected issues in a radially-outward perspective.

Beyond this singular aspect, he doesn't have any new ideas to share with readers. Sad to say, Tony Buzan is clearly running out of steam. All his new & subsequent books still follow doggedly the same old formula.

In fact, most of his new books are often rehashed &/or mildly expanded from the foregoing two books.

Many of his disciples who have written similar books even follow the master's footsteps, with the exception of Dilip Mukerjea, who has in recent years leaped away to create Splash Maps, Lifescapes (in the form of a Question Mark & Journalist's Questions) & adaptations of Storyboarding, & Story Grid.

I am not saying Mind-Mapping is obsolete. It still works, & has its merits, but it has severe limitations.

In today's chaotic business world, not every issue can be centralised in perspective.

Even in the educational arena, Mind-Mapping has its fair share of problems in application.

Let me share with readers a true case in Singapore, as reported in the 'Straits Times', a local newspaper, a few years ago.

According to the then-principal of Raffles Girls' School, a top-ranked secondary school, the school invested heavily in getting students to learn & apply Mind-Mapping in their studies. Every teacher & student was very excited. Every student was proud of her colourful Mind-Maps.

However, when the final exams came, all the girls just abandoned Mind-Mapping & went back to the old habit of note-making. To them, Mind-Mapping seemed more like a luxury, & to their chagrin, they didn't work as expected.

My own analysis is this:

You can only apply Mind-Mapping to some subjects in the academic curriculum, but not all.

For example, Fish-Bone Diagramming & Time Lines (or Transitive-Order Diagramming, an expanded variation) would be more effective for history lessons.

A Story Grid would serve English Literature more effectively.

Concept Maps & Vee-Diagramming would be more ideal for navigating science subjects.

Coming back to the current book under review, I wish to say this: Mind-Mapping alone is not going to help you solve all your problems, whether gathering/organising information or generating ideas. The Mind-Maps just look good on paper in most instances.

You need a smorgasbord of visual tools!

Just imagine you only have a screw driver in your tool-box!

For readers who are keen to explore beyond traditional Mind-Mapping, they should take a look at the following resources:

- 'Thinking Visually: Business Applications of Fourteen Core Diagrams', by Malcolm Craig;

- 'Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes', by David Straker;

- 'The Power of 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2 x 2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems', by Alex Lowly & Phil Hood;

- 'Visible Thinking: Unlocking Causal Mapping for Practical Business Results', by John Bryson;

- 'Beyond Words', by Milli Sonneman;

- 'The Marketer's Visual Toolkit', by Terry Richey;

In the realm of strategic planning, I reckon 'Reinventing Communication: A Guide to Using Visual Language for Planning' by Larry Raymond would be an excellent resource.

Even Nancy Margulies' Mind-scapes as envisaged in her 'Mapping InnerSpace' &/or 'Visual Thinking: Tools for Mapping Ideas' can help you deliberately move away from Tony Buzan's standard routines. In other words, you can start your idea from anywhere you like.

For readers who just want a quick & broad understanding of visual thinking perspectives, I would recommend Robert Horn's 'Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century'.