Posted by: pkab | 3 September 2008

Mind Maps: TM or not TM, That is the Question

By: Jonny Goldstein

Mind Twister

Mind Twister

Anyone who knows me at all well knows that I (Jonny) love Mind Mapping. I use this technique daily to brainstorm, plan, and manage projects. At one point, I was so obsessed by Mind Mapping that I flew to England to compete in the Mind Mapping competition at the Mind Sports Olympiad in London, where I won the Silver Medal.

I even paid a chunk of change to become a Buzan Licensed Instructor (this licensure has since lapsed, as I didn’t keep up with the paperwork and recertification requirements). Mind Maps have served me well. I used them to plan video art pieces that I projected in front of tens of thousands of people at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, I used them to get a full fellowship the prestigious and expensive Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, and I used them for lesson planning. I used them to write comedy. Heck, I’m even using them to plan my upcoming wedding. In short, I get tremendous benefit out of this technique. Mind Mapping is so versatile and powerful.

So what annoys me about Mind Maps? What annoys me is that the inventor of Mind Maps, Tony Buzan, an extremely nice fellow who I have had the pleasure of spending time with on a number of occasions, has trademarked the phrase Mind Map.

I can guess why he did so. First of all, if he holds the rights over the phrase, he can have the final word over the definition of what a Mind Map is. This way, people who say they are doing Mind Maps, but are not doing it correctly, can be brought to heel. There is a definite technique to making Mind Maps, and it is not arbitrary. Basically, by trademarking the word, he makes sure no one is out there hawking bastardized inferior versions of the technique, at least if they want to use the word Mind Map. I appreciate that.

The other reason, I imagine, that he has trademarked the phrase is that he sees it as a valuable economic resource. No one else can capitalize on his technique, in the public arena, without going through his organization by means of becoming a licensed instructor. For instance, if you were into Mind Mapping, you couldn’t just offer a class via Craig’s list about how to Mind Map, if you used the phrase Mind Map in your course title or course materials. Again, I think that this has a positive side. If only certified instructors teach Mind Mapping, then chances are these instructors are teaching correct Mind Mapping technique. That’s a good thing. And it means that at the very least people have to give credit to Tony Buzan, which probably makes him feel good and also helps him market himself and his products.

So what annoys me about the whole thing? It’s like this: I think Mind Mapping should be like writing. No one trademarks the word “writing.” I feel like by trade marking the phrase, Tony is impeding the adoption of his technique. I know that Tony has a whole organization that supports itself by spreading the gospel of his (terrific) learning and communication techniques. The people in this organization, many of whom I know and respect greatly, might resist removing the trademarked status of Mind Maps, as its continued trademarked status gives them leverage in the marketplace since they are the only people licensed to make money off of any teaching activity in which the phrase Mind Map is used.

So how does this impede the spread of the technique? Well, for one thing, I don’t feel like I can have a section of my web site in which I display images of Mind Maps that I have created. Well, I can, but I can’t call them Mind Maps. And that’s annoying, first of all, because I am proud of what I have created, second of all, because I want to spread the word about how powerful this technique is, and I would like to give credit where it is due. I just feel like the trademark thing gets in the way of me doing this.

I guess I just need to come up with a new name for what I make. Think Map? Mind Chart? Thought diagram? If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. And Tony, if you, or any other Buzan connected people read this, let me know your thoughts. Maybe I’ve got this all-wrong. Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think.

*Mind Map is a registered trademark of the Buzan Organization

Source: Jonny Goldstein


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