This article has been contributed by Mike Gregson.
Being creative isn’t an easy task. You often hear that creativity is a muscle and you should never stop working it out. But what happens when this muscle gets sore? What happens when you hit a creative block?
Well, you’ve just got to get over it and sadly, that’s easier said than done.
Sure, there are a few tips and tricks to use when you need a creativity boost. For example, you can go outside, you can take a walk or even take a longer break from your work…
But sometimes, you might need those creative juices flowing as soon and as fast as possible. We’ve found that the best way to work fast through a creative block is by using a concept map.
Read on to find out how to get your creativity flowing again by using this amazing tool!
What is a Concept Map?
A concept map is a visual representation of information. They’re essentially used to break a complex concept into smaller chunks, allowing the user to make meaningful connections between ideas.
Concept maps allow the user to see the bigger picture, making the details more significant and easier to work on.
There are many shapes that a concept map can take, such as charts, tables, Venn Diagrams, flowcharts, timelines, tables and even T-charts.
Concept maps have long been strong learning and developing tools, especially for visual learners. But they are now being used by professionals and businesses of all types and sizes to get a better understanding of processes and concepts.
What Are Concept Mapping Tools?
Concept mapping tools take concept maps online. And that’s great because we all know how paper and notebooks tend to get lost. With an online concept mapping tool, you’ll be able to save everything into the cloud so you can never lose an idea.
On top of that, the canvas isn’t finite! With digital concept maps, you have an unlimited playground where you can unleash your creative ideas any time, anywhere.
When you’re hitting a creative block, browsing old ideas can be a huge help. So you definitely need something you can access whenever you want.
How To Create a Concept Map
There’s really no wrong or right way to create a concept map. But if you don’t know where to start, here are 3 key steps to get you started.
Keep in mind that although we refer to a digital concept map, a physical one follows the same steps, with just a few contextual differences.
1. Choose a template
Any online concept mapping tool will come with an initial section where you’ll be able to pick a template. Once you choose your template, you can use it as it is or you can customize it to your liking. Simply add the general idea you want to explore – this will be the starting point of your concept map.
2. Brainstorm related concepts
Remember how we told you to add a general idea or topic to your template? Well, now’s the time to build on that. During this step, you will be adding more notes and shapes to your map, notes that relate to your initial idea.
3. Connect the dots
You can then link all the elements together so you can better visualize how they all connect to each other. Make sure you keep the most important ones at the top.
How To Use Concept Maps To Maximise Creativity
Concept maps enable you to connect concepts and ideas you might have not thought about previously.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways a concept map can help you overcome your creative block and keep your creative juices flowing.
Concept Mapping for Reviewing Knowledge
When you’re stuck in a creative block, it’s often useful to go back to old information and ideas to draw inspiration. And because we, as people, are not very good at assessing the depth of our own understanding, this is where a concept map becomes crucial.
You see, “understanding” is an abstract concept and you can’t quite look at your own understanding to determine whether it’s complete or not.
In a way, you can think about concept mapping as taking a screenshot of your understanding of a certain concept or idea. And the best thing is that you can actually save this screenshot for later use and lay it in front of you to use it as needed.
When you use a concept mapping tool, you’re allowing yourself to see just how much you grasp a certain concept so you have a clearer idea of what you need to add or remove.
Concept Mapping for Learning & Retention
A concept map will help you learn more meaningfully. This means that you will retain knowledge by connecting it to what you already know.
Your brain will be forced to make connections between what you’ve just learned and what you knew. The diagrams you will use make it easier for you to actually retain new information – and then apply it in the case of a creative block.
Whether you’re a designer or a writer, you definitely know that some of the most complex aspects of your job are project planning, keeping up with new tech, strategizing your next move and keeping your creative juices constantly flowing. A concept map will help you simplify complicated issues and help you get a better understanding of next steps.
Concept mapping tools are so important nowadays that most managers and marketers use them. In fact, a recent survey revealed that more than 50% of the responders use concept mapping tools for knowledge management, while almost 40% of them use concept mapping tools to strategize.
Concept Mapping for Increased Productivity
After you’ve gotten over your creative block, it’s important you keep your energy going. And by that, we mean your productivity.
A concept mapping tool is a great way to keep your productivity up and running. It’s so efficient in fact that it can save you hours of learning and planning per week. You can use this precious time to work on new ideas and concepts that will help you become a better professional.
As a creative person, you might get lost in your own thoughts sometimes. A concept mapping tool will help you sort through these thoughts and make purposeful connections during your creative projects, whether you’re a designer, a writer or a project manager.
Moreover, concept mapping will also allow you to materialize your ideas quickly so you can make note of emerging concepts before the creative moment fizzles out.
Concept Mapping for Better Presentations
At some point in your career, you’ve certainly had to put together a presentation. And as you know, even presentations require a healthy dose of creativity.
They have to look good, they have to sound good and they have to get the point across to your client in a quick and easy to understand manner.
A concept mapping tool will help you better organize your presentation so it follows logical steps. All the effort you’ve put into a concept map will pay off when you’re trying to make a great impression with a project or pitch presentation. It will serve as a guide for a concise and logical presentation that will surely wow your clients.
Concept Mapping for a Clear Hierarchy
You will come out of your creative block with plenty of ideas you can use. However, it’s important for you to know which ideas are better and which ones can be used at a later date.
With a concept map, you have them all laying in front of you, so you can easily sort through them and establish a clear hierarchy.
When you read a concept map, you will do it from the top down. Meaning that your best, most lucrative ideas will always be at the top.
You will usually begin with bigger pictures and concepts that will slowly trickle down into smaller details. A concept map will also allow you to draw better connections between all of these ideas and see how they relate to each other.
Concept Mapping for Visualizing Outcomes
Do you know those multiple-choice games? Your character is given a few options and the outcome is different depending on what you chose.
Well, in moments like those, your mind gets filled with questions. What would’ve happened if I’d done that? What outcome would I get for picking this?
This is very much like business and creativity. You always want to know how a concept would affect the rest or how a small detail could change the bigger picture. With a concept mapping tool, you’ll be able to add cross-links between different ideas, which will further help you make better judgements about the overall benefits of your initial idea.
Concept Mapping for Quick Interpretation
Once you’ve regained your creativity and came up with some ideas, you will most likely have to present your ideas to other people.
This is where a concept map will help, as it allows both you and the people in front of you to get a better understanding of your concepts and ideas. You’ll be able to quickly present your materials, in a manner that’s easy to grasp and understand.
Concept maps make it easy for people to skim through the whole concept map before getting a better idea of the entire system. And that’s thanks to a concept map’s shortness and underlining of key points. This is especially useful when time is an issue and you have to get your ideas out there as fast as you can.
Concept Mapping for Ongoing Professional Development
When you use a concept map, you’re able to easily and quickly organize any complex idea into a solid and clear concept.
A concept mapping tool will considerably increase your ability to visualize and communicate your ideas. And because there are really no rules when it comes to concept mapping, you’re free to take any approach you want.
In today’s business and professional environment, it’s important you always remain creative and up to date with the newest trends in your field. And when it comes to that, a concept map is a crucial learning tool that will allow you to quickly and efficiently learn new things and even recap the ones you already know.
The main idea you should be taking from this article is that a concept mapping tool is a great way to ignite that creative spark and keep yourself productive.
It’s a proven fact that concept mapping boosts your creativity because it allows you to get your ideas on “paper” as fast as possible, emptying out your mind when inspiration finally strikes.
Besides that, it will also help you improve your writing or designing capabilities. How so? Well, a concept map will allow you to better organize any relevant details and eventually connect them into full-fledged ideas that will turn you into a better professional.
And as a good professional, you always have to keep a collection of concepts and ideas that you can turn to whenever you hit a creative block.
A concept map will act like a diary of all your ideas and concepts, especially if you use a digital one. Everything is stored in the cloud, so you know that nothing is lost.
If you ever need a boost of inspiration, you can always go back to those ideas and connections you’ve made between them and draw new ideas from there. Moreover, you’re getting all of that information from a manageable, engaging and visually pleasing tool.
About the author: Mike Gregson is the founder of Royal Media Ltd. and a passionate digital marketer with over 10 years of experience. He has helped numerous companies all over the world, from small to large, always getting the right results.