Mindmap of The Laws of Subtraction

I’m often asked about my creative process in writing a book. And I often asked artists and other authors about their unique process. I’m fascinated by the fact that I’ve never met two people with the same process. I just met Nathan Shedroff, experience designer par excellence and founder of the unique MBA in Design Strategy at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and he can’t imagine writing a book (of which he has several) without a writing partner/coauthor. My writing is so solitary, I can’t imagine coauthoring anything.

One of the questions I’m always asked is: “do you outline?” Short answer: nope. It’s too linear. And ever since I learned the art of the A3 report at Toyota, when it comes to creative ideation, I avoid ideas and concepts that can’t fit on one page. I like a one-shot visual that provides an at-a-glance framework for what I’m working on. I can see relationships more easily, I can envision the final product more easily, I can see how changes in one area affect others more easily.

Enter the tried-and-true mindmap. I used to draw them in a notebook. Then came the iPad. I now use software from ThinkBuzan.com, called iMindmap. (Point of reference: it’s been 40 years since Tony Buzan popularied mindmapping.) The app is a subscription product, worth every penny of the $20/year. I’m convinced that if more executives and organizations were adept at mindmapping, and thinking visually, their employees wouldn’t be so prone to walking the corridors scratching their heads, wondering why they’re working on whatever it is they’re working on.

The beauty of mindmaps, beyond the visual aspect, is that they more accurately depict the networky and nonlinear qualities of the mind. My brain doesn’t work in straight lines, Roman numerals and English letters. It works in a more right-brain, creatively expansive way. Maybe there’s something to the fact that, at a bit of a distance, mindmaps resemble the bundles of neurons and synapses that make up our gray matter.

At any rate, here’s the full sized mindmap for The Laws of Subtraction. If it looks warped, and you think my mind is warped, you’re probably right. Warpedness, I’ve discovered, is infinitely more interesting than predictable, straight-line thinking. If you don’t mindmap, if you’re stuck in memo mode, chained to Microsoft Word, I urge you to try it.

You won’t regret it.