Episode 60: Mind Mapping and Executive Functions in the Workplace

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Erica: Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer podcast. I'm Dr. Erica Warren.

Darius: And I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts. Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and explanations for everyday life. We explore executive function and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind.

Erica: Come learn to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals. This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

Darius: This podcast is sponsored by dyslexiaproductivitycoaching um.com. We give you a simple productivity system for your Apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your dyslexia.

Erica: This podcast is brought to you by goodsensorylearning.com, where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning. Finally, you can find Dr. Warren's many courses at, learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies. Hey, Darius, it's great to see you. I'm very pleased about this episode that you're going to be really leading us on a discussion on mind mapping. Can you tell me more about this?

Darius: Yeah, I really love mind mapping, and I'd really like to talk about mind mapping and, executive function. Now, a lot of people don't know what mind mapping is, so let me just explain what mind mapping is. So there's written notes where you take just handwritten notes in the list format, and then there's bullet points as notes, and then you've also got the visual end of it, which is mind mapping, where what you do is instead of doing a list of notes, you put your central idea in the middle, and you do a branch coming out of it with another keyword from that branch, and then another branches coming out and keywords on top of the branches, and you add in images, and it gradually grows like a tree of knowledge. So the advantage of this kind of visual way of taking notes is that it reduces the number of words you have to write, because the discipline requires you to write things in keywords rather than long sentences or bullet points. And instead of lots of words, using branches and images to create a flow of what the content is. Tony Buzan

 sort of created the word mind mapping in the 1970s and really popularized the sort of principles of mind mapping. Obviously, visual diagramming and concept mapping has been around for like 100 years, and you can look at Leonardo da Vinci's books and see all the sort of diagrammatical images that are very like mind maps in them. So basically, mind mapping has sort of consolidated that discipline into three key principles. Principle one is identify a keyword. Principle two is branches, and principle three is images. So it's this combination of keywords, branches, and images that all interconnect, so that you get a big picture of what you're learning or thinking.

Erica: So what that makes me think about is a very specific way of processing. In fact, mind mapping honors two very significant ways of processing in a big way. One, of course, is visual, because you can visually see your ideas. The other is that it really honors simultaneous processing, which is your ability to, again, see the big picture, as you were saying, but also to be able to organize and clump things by likeness, by categories. And the other thing that's interesting, I should add that it really honors sequential processing too. That although you see things simultaneously, there's usually some type of sequence within these mini branches, which helps people to organize their ideas in the two primary ways of organizing, or most popular ways of organizing, which is simultaneous and sequential. But then you've got that visual aspect. So you are really honoring three ways of processing in a very strong way, visual, sequential, and simultaneous. So it's one of my favorite ways of organizing information because it does, it accommodates so many different ways of processing because everybody has their own preferences on how they prefer to process.

Darius: So we're really going to focus in on this episode on how mind mapping affects executive function and how it can help. Executive function can definitely help with processing. It can help people who've got dysgraphia, and dyslexia, ADHD, all sorts of different ways of processing information. But just now we're going to focus in on executive function. And by the way, there's a few other names that mind mapping is known by. You maybe hear other people talk about them as concept diagrams or spider diagrams or visual organizers, what do you call them? Webs. You call them webs a lot. I think, in America, often they're talked about webs. Tony Buzan trademarked the name mind maps many years ago, and so people had to try and find alternative ways of describing the same thing. Now that trademark has lapsed on the whole and people understand mind map is allowed to be used. And mind mapping, the only other one.

Erica: That you had not mentioned that I can think of is concept map.

Darius: Concept map. Yeah. So this whole sort of world of mapping information is very relevant to executive function. Now there's two types of mind mapping. There's mind mapping by hand, and there's mind mapping by computer. And it's fascinating to me because over the last 35 years of mind mapping myself, teaching other people to mind map, I've had this love hate relationship with mind mapping by hand and mind mapping by computer. sometimes I really love mind mapping by computer, but then other times I get really frustrated by it and I've not understood why. And sometimes I really love hand drawing a mind map, and then I get frustrated by it. And one of the things I've realized is, having spent many years, I literally just hand drew mind maps with students and teachers, and I became a real expert worldwide on teaching that. A Udemy course on it and all the rest of it. It's the highest rated mind mapping course and it's just hand drawn. Now, what I realized was when I went to computer mind mapping is the difference is this hand drawing is really valuable for students and people who need to learn content. And computer mind maps are really good for the workplace and project management, where you don't need to learn it, you just need to control it and organize it. And those two different modes of mind mapping match different modes of operating in the world. One really suits students, and one really suits professionals. Sometimes there's a bit of an overlap, but that's what I've discovered. So whenever I want to go into sort of deep processing mode, I start drawing it by hand. Whenever I just want to just organize and rearrange, I go onto the computer, right?

Erica: And I imagine it's going to be a personal preference for everybody because there are going to be those people that just, they love to doodle. They find it relaxing, they find it helpful. It just helps them to process, to be, to actually having that tactile component, to creating it. And yet, when you're generating them on a computer, you lose that tactile intimacy with content. However, what I see the computer doing is it creates speed. For example, you could create a mind map and then bloop, it's there and then you can say, oh, can you move that over there and that over there? And then all of a sudden. Or you can just grab it and move it. Whereas if you had hand drawn it, that gets a lot more difficult, unless, which is almost a nice combination of the two, is using something like, I guess they have some of these mind mapping programs where you can draw things out, but oh, you know what? Good notes, good notes would be a really good one because you can hand draw it, but then you can reorganize it at the same time. Because you can just draw a circle around it and then move it.

Darius: I've been using good notes to mind map for the last five years on my iPad. it's not quite a halfway house. It's getting there. no one's quite created this hybrid of both, which would be great. I want to do that at some point in the future, and I'm beginning that journey, but no one's quite done it. Goodnotes has the edge on notability, for example, for mind mapping, because you can put your paper landscape, and when you select something, you can easily resize without an extra click and things like that, which notability doesn't have. So there's some small tweaks between good notes and notability, where I think GoodNotes has the edge on it. and a phenomenal functionality in good notes where you can listen to a talk and it's recording the talk, and then you're mapping out the talk. And then when you scrub through the talk afterwards, it, redraws your map for you to that exact point where you're at, and then you can add something else and listen to the audio again. So it's really great for visual and audio people who just need to visualize something and listen to something and scrub through to exactly the point you want without having to relisten to the whole thing.

Erica: That's brilliant. Brilliant.

Darius: So let's dial down, go deeper into executive functions, and this is where it's going to be an interesting conversation between us. Let's go through the three familiar areas of executive function. Working memory, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and see where mind mapping can contribute to each in someone's executive function. So, working memory, the interesting thing about working memory, we know that working memory has a phonological loop and a visual spatial loop where you're sort of repeating very quickly the same few words over and over again in your phonological loop until you find a place to put it. And it's the same with the visual spatial. You're imagining some sort of movement or space or something, and you keep looping around until very quickly you find somewhere it's to go. And if you don't, it just gets deleted and dropped. The, working memory is constantly deleting itself. That's its whole point. Now, m the interesting thing with mind mapping is when you do it with people and you actually get them to do the discipline of writing one key word on a branch rather than a sentence or a phrase, it's really good for your phonological loop because that phonological loop of what you're listening to. I saw the cat on the tree. What's this all about? It's the cat and then tree. So you write cat and then you write tree on another branch. And so you've got, it out of your working memory by focusing in on the keywords. So that phonological loop is helped by the principle of mind mapping, rather than, oh, I'll just write down the cat on the tree. The cat sat on the tree, and then you're not actually processing it, you're just capturing and dumping it.

Erica: And to add to that, another way that it supports working memory is it enables us to use multiple ways of processing to bring that information into our working memory. Because part of working memory is that sensory input. So we can use visualization, because whether we have visualized the mind map before we created it or during or even after, that is a sensory input. We also have the sensory input of the organizational piece, whether it's sequentially or simultaneously. If you are drawing it out yourself, there's a tactile component. So the more senses we use, the more we are filling our working memory. Anyway, when you combine ways of processing, it gets exponentially stronger.

Darius: Yes. And there's, that spatial aspect of mind mapping where instead of having written notes, which are going in, one direction down the way, you're deciding where you're positioning on the paper in relation to other things, what the shape of the branch was, where it is on the paper. So there's this spatial understanding that if you've got spatial strengths also, you're locating it spatially. So a lot of students that I teach, they'll go into an exam, and they go, oh, yeah, I remembered because it was up there at 09:00 and, slightly above, and there was this. And they can remember where it is on the map.

Erica: Well, yes, I find that my maps are incredibly beneficial when you really learn how to move through the map. Almost like memory palaces. Yes. memory palaces really offer a sequence of steps that you take from one location to the next. Your whole mind map can be conceptualized as having different locations that you travel through your mind map, almost like you would through a memory palace. So you could really equate the two very strongly. And that's one of the best strategies to improve memory, is using something like M memory palaces.

Darius: Well, one of the biggest advocates for memory palaces was Tony Buzan. and he actually ran and created the world Memory Championships and the World mind mapping Championships at the same time. So, mind map is really a two-dimensional map of your memory palace. So you're looking down on your memory palace and you follow it in clockwise order. So you always go in clockwise order. So you always know what the sequence is. So the clockwise order applies to all the main branches and all the subbranches. And even once you get past 06:00, which is a bit counterintuitive, but all of the branches should continue on in a clockwise order, so you can see the continual sequence of all of the details. So the other thing about working memory and executive function and a mind map is what mind map is doing is its chunking information. It's teaching you to chunk information together, cluster them. And so when you've got working memory, working memory's kind of size isn't a question of the size of an idea or information coming in, it's more a question of the units of that information. So if you can cluster ideas together, then that becomes like a unit in your working memory, and then that can also be stored somewhere more usefully in your memory as well. Rather than thinking, oh, I've got five or ten things to sort out here, you cluster them together and chunk them.

Erica: I'll give an example of that. So if you had a working memory capacity of three, which is a very limited working memory, if you chunk it, take a phone number, nine, one, four, there's your area code, 693-0350 right? But what you've done is you've taken, what is that seven, 7810 digits? But by chunking them, now you're only remembering three chunks, so that now you're learning three chunks. So you can always expand your memory by chunking. And yes, mind mapping is excellent at that. Also, the color-coding capacity really helps you to chunk as well, because then you remember, oh, yeah, the first one was red, the second section was blue. And then it kind of chunks that information. And it's amazing when you chunk things, how things just come streaming back to you, even by categorizing, right? So if you had to memorize 20 items, but you could categorize them into, oh, these are all fruits, these are all animals, oh, these are all transportation. It's amazing how much more you can hold on to with that kind of chunking capacity.

Darius: And the interesting thing here is the difference between processing and executive function is that executive function is essentially about decision making. What you decide to focus your attention on inhibitory control, what you decide to allow through your working memory. These are cognitive flexibility, what you're deciding to adapt to or not adapt to this is the decision-making layer of our mind, the executive function, the processing layer is often a lot more unconscious and, more repetitive and just you need to digest that food, as it were. So when you're mind mapping, you're forced to make decisions as to what's important and what's not so important. And so that idea of importance, important ideas get pushed towards the center of the map with central branches, and smaller details get pushed towards the edges. And so you have to make these decisions all the time as your mind mapping. And sometimes it's a little bit nerve wracking for people, oh, am I going to miss something? Oh, have I got that right? And so on. But even that process of, questioning, is this the right priority?

Erica: I've put?

Darius: Is this the main point here? Is this the main keyword? I don't know, is it? It actually activates your mind to search out what is the key idea. Rather than going into the passive mode of just writing down long hand notes, you're activating this executive function of deciding what's important and, what's more important and what's not important.

Erica: Yeah, absolutely.

Darius: In effect, mind mapping is a visual representation of executive functions. In many ways, you're deciding what's important, what's less important, what you're going to focus in on. Even the idea of having a central image on your mind map is about focus, inhibitory control. We are focusing in on this concept and idea. Not absolutely everything. This is our main focus, and everything has to tie into that central idea.

Erica: Well, the bottom line is you can do a mind map of executive functioning and you can do a mind map and go in deeper into working memory. And in fact, we don't usually do this. Sometimes we have some loose notes or a loose outline of where we want to go. But you actually created a mind map to talk about mind mapping.

Darius: Yeah, I've got one right now that I'm just using as a general sort of scaffold to talk. It's not that pretty, but it works for me. you'll probably see the pattern and, ah, that's another interesting thing. One of the things when I'm teaching mind mapping is people really get hung up on how pretty it is and how beautiful it is, how presentable their notes are. And I'm really passionate about a mind map is not about how beautiful it is, it's about how functional is, how helpful it gets you to your goal. Now, if your goal is to create some sort of visual diagram for everyone in the world, to understand and see, then that's one that needs some artistic and clarity. But if it's just to help you remember a cat, and you've drawn a face and you've done some little spikes coming out of it, that's whiskers, and it's not even got eyes or mouth or anything, but, you know, it's a cat, someone else will just think, is that a porcupine? Or what is that? They wouldn't understand it. But for you, you remember that moment, that idea, that position, and you drawing it, so it makes sense, and that's good enough, and that's a good mind map. So how about we move on to inhibitory control? How does mind mapping affect inhibitory control?

Erica: Well, it definitely can focus our attention, and I know you've got some thoughts on that.

Darius: Well, one of the things that I've noticed teaching people about mind mapping is that it's really hard for people to let go of what I call the packaging, all the words, the ands and the ofs and the does and the thens and the so on and distill it down to a keyword. One of the biggest advantages for your executive function in mind mapping is to learn to delete information. Delete, delete, delete. When I'm going through someone's mind map, there might be a paragraph here and some, two or three words there, and you think, oh, they're really important. I go, could you delete one or two of those words and still remember the meaning? Oh, well, yeah, I could delete that one. Okay. Delete, delete, delete, delete. It's like Elon Musk is saying, delete, delete, delete, all the time in his business. And if you haven't deleted enough, then if you're not adding stuff back in, then you're not deleting enough. And there's this principle. Often, our, brains are actually deletion machines. We're always deleting information, but sometimes we're deleting information we shouldn't, and it's prioritizing unimportant information. And executive function is where you start deciding, with inhibitory control, this is important, I'm going to keep this. I'm going to remove that information. It's like editing a video, editing a piece of writing. Mind mapping is the same. You need to delete branches and words to distill it. So that whole deleting process, I think, is one of the great gifts of mind mapping, and it's actually a challenge to learn how to do that. And to build up that confidence.

Erica: Yeah, I agree with you. It's really, really nice to condense it. That's the word. You're condensing it down to the essence, because, again, the more we chunk, the more we can hold in our working memory. But what's also so great about mind mapping is that it really helps us with metacognition. It enables us to think through our thinking, and we're letting go of all of this content that we're holding in our working memory, and we're mapping it down, and then we can think about it and we can massage it and we can move it, and we can play with it in a way that we can really enhance our metacognitive skills, which means thinking about your thinking, that mind mapping is all about thinking about your thinking and reorganizing and reshaping so that you can improve your memory and the color coding and everything. The color coding is like, all right, how do I clump this in ways that makes the most sense? And, my goodness, I can do it this way, I can do it this way. But it's just such a wonderful way to exercise that ability.

Darius: I love how you said massage. And this concept of, it's like clay, it's like sculpting, and you plonk the bits in there, and then you move them together and you shape them into a landscape, and then you move things around. So there's this balance between structure and flexibility that the mind map is giving you because you've got the structure of the branches and the keywords and so on, but then you've got the flexibility of moving things around. So it's this sort of midway point between the rigidity of lists of words and then the fluidity of just speaking your thoughts out. And sometimes people need that middle space where they can just capture some of that fluidity of speaking and, capture some structure, and it's a middle ground.

Erica: And I love the way that it can build confidence in a person because you've got these anchors to hold you and to help you remember. It goes right back to the kind of memory palace idea, and it will minimize your anxiety. And by minimizing your anxiety, you're going to be more likely to present whatever you're doing in your best possible way, because anxiety absolutely gets in the way of memory, gets in the way of execution. It just is very disabling. So this is just such a wonderful way to anchor you in a confident way so that you can move through whatever you're moving through. It could be a speech; it could be an essay. You can use mind mapping for so many different things. Organizing it goes on and on.

Darius: Yeah, and I think that, it would be useful just to itemize some of those. So the first thing mind mapping most people use it for is brainstorming, just getting stuff out their head and getting it on a piece of paper. But actually, one of the more powerful ideas are, once you brainstorm, taking that and structuring it into a plan, clustering it into something, and then making that into a task list. So just seeing the sequence, being able to move things around into the right order, sometimes it's quite hard to do that. So when you're with a task manager, you're sometimes just moving one task around, and maybe you want to move all chunk of things around and reorder it. So there's this hierarchy of importance in the branch you, like, got a big level one branch, and then the level two, and then the level three, small, and then the level four is even smaller. And so you can move a whole chunk around at a time, which is very helpful before you commit to the order you want to do that project into, and then turn it into a task list.

Erica: Brilliant.

Darius: And it's the same for everything. If you've got an essay and you want to structure that essay, you've got your main topics, and then you realize, actually, I need to rearrange them. And then you've got subtopics, and you rearrange them and delete and so on. And you're not having to commit to that. Writing in text first, although you can do that sometimes I write something in text, and then I turn that text into a mind map so I can actually see what I've written. You can plan a holiday together with your family with a mind map. You can plan the week ahead with a mind map. A lot of children do this like.

Erica: A party event or party, absolutely.

Darius: And one of the beauties of a mind map, let's say you're all going on holiday, and you all say, what does everyone want to do? The nature of a mind map, because you're radiating from the center, it creates this space on the outside where you can insert things. And sometimes it's the quiet people or the quiet ideas that you've got to pay a lot of attention to because they're often the most potent and they often don't get included until close to the end of a discussion. Let's just take a quiet person and equate them to a quiet idea. That's the whole point of brainstorming, is you get all the big, loud ideas out of your head so that all the quiet, powerful ideas can then have space to make themselves heard. Now, if you're looking at the radial nature of a mind map, there's space to slot them into the right place, rather than if you've got a bullet point list, there's no space to squeeze them in. They just become tiny again, whereas because of the radial nature, you can slot things in. So there's this ability to grow, and it's kind of more welcoming to new ideas.

Erica: I agree. It's funny. Yeah. It's just the idea that there's just so much space around a circle. And the farther you go out, the more space you're creating. And that's what's great about some of these devices, like working on GoodNotes, because you can always zoom in, zoom, out, add more space. Makes it even easier because sometimes you run off a piece of paper, but you won't have to worry about that using a digital device.

Darius: Well, let's tie up inhibitory control. Final thing on inhibitory control is that what you're doing in mind mapping that relates to inhibitory control is you are creating structure hierarchies of information, okay? And inhibitory control is about focus. And sometimes when you've got a bunch of ideas and you chunk them together, maybe you've got 30 different ideas people have shared. You chunk them together and they emerge to being about four or five main ideas. you've chunked them, but even within chunking them, you're creating a hierarchy as well. So there's this ring of hierarchy happening. And this process of creating the hierarchy, again, is a decision-making process where you basically saying, is this more important than that? Or is that a bigger category than that? And this process for children, for adults, for business, it's this inhibitory control being expressed in the smallest of decisions, and they all add up together until you've got something that really represents proper inhibitory control. This is a plan. This is a process that we are going to do.

Erica: Right? So how about cognitive flexibility?

Darius: That's when you hit the real world, isn't it? And, every plan, when it hits the real world has to adapt, and that's what cognitive flexibility is all about. And again, that flexibility of the map, the moment you commit to turning it into text or a document or something like that, it starts to become less flexible, doesn't it? You have to work really hard, but when it's still in that conceptual, bigger picture mapping phase. If, for example, let's take a scenario, let's take the child scenario. In an adult scenario, the child goes to the teacher and says, I've, mapped out my story. Here's a map of all the things I'm thinking about putting in my story, shows it to the teacher, talks them through it, because the map probably won't make much sense to the teacher, but they talk through it and the teacher goes, oh, that's really very interesting. Well structured. At, that point over there, down there, I would make that earlier on in the story. And then you can just drag it over or rewrite it, or you're missing something about the character over here, so you can write it in there so you're not flicking through lots of pages that you've typed out and finding the feedback. You've got it in that decision making phase before you commit lots of energy to writing it out. That's cognitive flexibility because it gives you that opportunity to be flexible. Whereas if you've written it all out and you show it to someone, you're like, no, why didn't you tell me that 3 hours ago?

Erica: And I had a thought that would be a really fun activity that you could do to enhance your cognitive flexibility. You can use mind mapping that way because you can take a mind map, and in essence, if you think of it as like a clock, you can break it into quarters, right? And each quarter could be a different perspective.

Erica: So you could take a problem or somewhere where you're stuck, and each quarter could be a little mind map of, okay, this is one perspective of the problem, and this is another perspective of the problem. Here's another perspective of the problem. And here's another perspective. So you can really guide your mind maps to really enhance your cognitive flexibility. If you use them in a way to look at different perspectives, that ties.

Darius: Makes, me think of Edward Debono's hats. Have you heard of Debono's hats? So Edward de bono put forward this way of taking different perspectives in a meeting. So he said, there's a white hat, there's a blue hat, there's a red hat, there's a yellow hat. So a white hat thinking is right. Let's put our white hats on. What are all the facts? Okay. And then it's like black hat thinking. What are all the problems here? Let's yellow hat thinking. What are all the possibilities? Like the sunshine blue hat thinking, what are all the decisions and the structure that we've got to create and so you go into different modes, and you look at it from different perspectives. He's got, I think, seven hats. It reminds me of that kind of approach, but that is the ultimate, really. Structure for cognitive flexibility in a meeting is deciding. Everyone says, right, let's put our white hats on. And that's how it's kind of structured. It's a management consultant tool.

Erica: Yeah, I use it a lot in my coaching, and it's really helpful to do something like that. But I had never thought about using it in a mind mapping way, and I think it'd be a fun way to explore.

Darius: Those are the basic executive functions, the three basics. But really, what mind mapping is about is this higher-level executive function, the metacognition, the planning, strategic thinking, which is why it appeals often to people with dyslexia or ADHD, because the world of words doesn’t get in the way of thinking strategically and big picture, you can get everything onto one page, and you're not forgetting things, and so on. So it's that one page thinking, get everyone on the same page. Often, leaders are really good at getting everyone on the same page. And when you have a mind map, that's the discipline. Can we get all the information onto one page? And that's part of the joy of mind mapping, is often instead of writing seven pages of notes in a lecture, you can do it all on one page. Might be a bigger a three page. If it's a three-hour lecture, like I used to do, or one page used to do me 1 hour. Even when I went into an exam, I would have the whole of a law curriculum for contract law on one mind map, the entire thing, and I could redraw it in the exam itself from memory, and I'd have my notes in there with me. But that's the advantage of getting everything on one page. So with the realm of metacognition, it's all about planning. Have you got the big picture? Keep the big picture and make decisions according to the big picture. And basically, there's nothing like a map to have the big picture.

Erica: Absolutely. maps are incredibly important. If you go back in history, they've been used for everything. How would we navigate through the world without a map? They're such a valuable tool. And that's really what you're doing, is you're creating your own personal maps.

Darius: And when I'm teaching adults in the workplace, workplace strategy coaching, executive function coaching for adults in the workplace, my kind of mantra is take notes, make maps, and set goals. Because often, whenever you're feeling stressed. Making notes normally relates to working memory. Get it out. Your head empty, your working memory, just get it out and take a note. Then I think of making maps as an aspect of cognitive flexibility. Just getting everything in one place and just seeing the big picture, seeing the world as it is. And then inhibitory control is goal setting. And I think mind mapping isn't the only way of making maps. There are some people who don't want to do a mind map. They don't like them. That's absolutely fine. My wife doesn't like them, love them. But everyone, in some way, I think, needs to create their own kind of map, whether it's like a flowchart or an organization chart or a sequence that's mapping. When your kind of sequencing things and so on, and you're creating a flow diagram or whatever, even a diagram is a map. If you do a diagram of a science experiment, that's a map of sort, because you're positioning everything deliberately in certain places. This is the sort of impulse human beings to have to map. Get everything into one page or a timeline.

Erica: I've often that if I was ever taught a history course, that I would give my students one and only one assignment. I'd give them a huge, long roll of paper and say, your assignment is to create a timeline with as many details as you want. And when the class is over, I want you to give it to me. And that's your whole class grade, because, goodness, can you imagine? And that's ultimately a mind map that goes on and on and on.

Darius: If you imagine a mind map going around the circle at, the center as a ribbon, your timeline is like that, except you're stretching it out horizontally, right? But the beauty of the timeline is it preserves that sort of open nature of the mind map, because if you draw a line up and you put something in it, there's still space to squeeze another event and so on. It's not fixed.

Erica: You've got like a half circle, above and below it.

Darius: Yes. So I think one of the things I wanted to encourage people to do was to really think about mind mapping in the workplace. Now, if you got a child who's got difficulties in school dealing with dyslexia, adhd, all lots of words, dysgraphia, for example, lots of writing, mind mapping is really helpful for them. But actually what I've learned is because schools don't actually think in this sort of visual, structural way. They're much more linear thinkers. They just follow a process and a sequence. It's not modeled to the children very well. That's where you as a parent, if you learn to do it in your workplace, to map things out, learn to do it. We're going on a holiday, let's draw it on the whiteboard and decide what we're going to do and slot different things in. And you model it for children, then they feel aspirational towards it, they see the function of it. So I highly recommend people use mind mapping in the workplace as much as they can. It's incredibly useful for just bringing clarity and focus.

Erica: Absolutely. And I have to ask you this question, because I know that you are developing a mind mapping platform. Will you please tell us a little bit about that when you think it might be coming out?

Darius: Well, it's kind of in stealth mode right now where we're raising, investment funds for it from investors. If you're an investor, get in touch with me. There's a potential here. Basically, I think AI is going to solve the challenges of dyslexia and amplify the advantages. One of the challenges in the workplace, especially, is meetings and taking notes in meetings. You can be really dynamic in a meeting, really good at facilitating it, but then at the end of the meeting, you've got to remember what you need to do and what the key points were and so on. Now, AI is helping by creating these transcripts and bullet point summaries and so on. But do you know what? They're not really up to par for visual people, because we don't want to read more words, we don't want to read a transcript, we don't want to read more bullet points. We just want to see the big picture. So what I've done is I've created this company a couple of years ago. It's called Ivy, and basically it will automatically mind map what it hears. So it's basically, when you speak to it, Ivy will be your ultimate mind mapping agent, and it will turn what you say into a mind map.

Erica: How do you spell Ivy?

Darius: I vi? Intelligent visual verbal interface, or ivy? Ivy app is our URL. So what I really want people to experience is this modeling of good diagrams, good visuals, because there's so many people in a meeting or in life, it's just like, just give me a picture, give me a diagram to explain what you're saying, rather than tons of words. Just distill it down for me. But it actually takes quite a bit of effort for people to create diagrams, because it's a cognitive effort to decide what goes where. It's much easier to just blurt out what you're saying in a meeting or whatever and hope everyone's got it. But the discipline of creating a diagram brings a lot of focus. So ivy is going to create them instantly, in real time, during a meeting, so people can see, a mind map being built in front of their eyes. But more than that, I've taught a mind map to take a whole 7000 words, and mind map it as good as I can. Now, taught an AI how to do that, but I want to take it to the next level instead of it suddenly becoming a magic trick. And you've got the mind map. I want it to create the mind map in real time, selecting keywords, arranging them, promoting them, demoting words, and so forth, so that you can start seeing the decision-making process that the ivy is doing, and then you can step in and say, no, I don't agree with that. I'm going to change that around and reprioritize things. And so it becomes collaborative. And then also, ivy will be completely manual as well, so you can just use it as a regular classical mind mapping app. But you've also got that copilot function of just map it for me. I don't have a time to spend half an hour or an hour mapping this out. Just do it in, 5 seconds, and then you can leapfrog to that point where you've got everything in one page, and then you can reorganize it. So it's sort of bridging that gap from m take all these 7000 words from a 1-hour meeting, map it onto one page for me, and then I'll organize the big ideas, and then I'll have my head around it. That's where I want to get to.

Erica: What I'm really excited about that is seeing how it organizes it, because it may not have been a way that I had thought of organizing it, but I also like the idea of being able to say to it, oh, I didn't organize it that way. I organized it in these different categories. Can you reorganize it for me in these categories? Will it be able to do that?

Darius: Oh, yeah.

Erica: So you could actually have it, reorganize it six different ways, and then you could pick which one resonates with you the most, which, again, is developing more cognitive flexibility. M because it helps, you to look at it from look through different lenses at the same content, which always allows you to digest it in different ways.

Darius: Yeah. So, like, on one side, you'll have the full transcript of the meeting. So for the very literal, systematic, minute taker type person, they'll have the full transcript with some keywords and so on. They can go to the exact wording and do a quote or whatever if they need to. But for the bigger picture thinker, the manager, the strategist, they might only need to look at the first two, three layers of the key chunks of the idea and not get distracted by the minutiae. But then there's another way of thinking. Sometimes you might have the structure of the map of the meeting organized in the way it was said, but then you might say, actually, I want to see only the tasks, and I want to see the people assigned to those tasks. So I want you to rearrange the whole map, and the main branches are person one, two, three, and four, and then all of their, tasks off of it according to their particular project. And that's not the original mind map, but it preserves the original structure. And you create a filter on top. So when you go into sort, of task management mode, you can see it without destroying the mind map underneath. So it becomes this visual database that you can interrogate with different filters on top. Might be you decide, I want to reflect on the ideas that were generated in this go, into yellow hat mode, as it were. What were all the great ideas? Or what were the things that were the risks or the concerns? And maybe you're the HR or the risk assessor or whatever, and you go, and you filter it through risks so the AI will be able to tag each phrase that someone said according to that's what that person said. That was probably a task that has a time deadline on it. You can turn it into a timeline that has a particular sentiment, et cetera, and someone can filter the map according to what view they want to take of it and save that view. Right.

Erica: M I'm curious, do you have any kind of timeline of when iv might be available for beta testing or out to the public?

Darius: We're going to beta test in, what is this? We're in February, March 1, May. We'll release the first beta test to our personal clients. So I coach clients one to one who have got dyslexia or adhd in the UK and America, and then I give them the mind mapping software, ivy, that we've got, and they test it, and I see them in real life using it, and they tell me what they like or don't like. I'm not guessing. I'm actually learning from real people. I need this bigger. I need this button moved over there. And why is this here? I don't understand it. All right, so we'll do all of that for about a month and a month and a half in May. And then, June will be like the public beta, where people can register for the list and wait in the waitlist for the public beta. And then 1 July we'll release the full thing. Because ultimately, I want someone to be able to open up their phone and just hit the record button and it will just transcribe what you're saying and turn it into a map on your phone while you're watching.

Erica: So you could take a walk.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: You could go on a hike, organize your ideas. So when you got home, you'd just have this beautiful mind map. Or you could do some work, say you needed to write a letter to somebody. It could mind map your thoughts and organize them so that then when you got home, you could write it.

Darius: Yeah. And even more fun is we're going to create a clipping tool. So I'm sharing all the secrets here with you.

Erica: Yeah.

Darius: A clipping tool that if you're on chat, GBT or AI perplexity or whatever, you can copy it over to your map to Ivy. So you say, oh, I like that. Send that to Ivy. And then Ivy will turn it into a mind map for you. When you open Ivy back up, you can see that saved note with the mind map saved for you. So you know how sometimes you have a chat conversation that just goes on and on and on and on? Well, Ivy will distill that down into chunks that you can expand and distill down, and you can go all the way down to the detail of exactly what it said per phrase, per branch. So you can go to whatever depth you want, expand, or collapse your conversations with AI as well.

Erica: That's beautiful.

Darius: And do you know what's going to be even better is let's say you've got a PDF or a document, you paste that into Ivy. Ivy will read out the document to you and turn it into a mind map while you're listening. So you can be listening to something and it's creating a picture. Oh, yeah. And it's not just creating the keywords of the branches, it's also generating unique art onto the branches related to what your content is. So you can visually position everything, in the map. When you come back to it, it's not just a whole bunch of words, it's, that picture of the car.

Erica: Or the cat you use, like little icons that could be attached to the ideas on each branch.

Darius: Yes, icons, but also AI art. It'll create unique art for you inside of your mind. Map on a branch.

Erica: Wow, that's amazing. I cannot wait to see this.

Darius: Basically every AI tool that people that are visual thinkers, I'm going to pull into this one app. Whether it's speech to text, you want to voice type, you can voice type, you want to type, you can type, you want to have it read out to you, it will read it out to you. You want it turned into a visual map? It'll turn into a visual map. Do you want to create a picture on that map? It'll create a picture on that map. Every one of these multisensory things go into it. You want to do a voice note into the map and just have the voice or the sound? Yes, you can. So you've got this big picture always in one page, huh?

Erica: It's like a multisensory mind map. Yeah, well, and also you can input information through many different modalities, which is really exciting.

Darius: Yeah. my hope is that you can start, maybe you start some thoughts while you're out on your walk and it's mapped that out and then you go onto Chat GPT and carry on that thought or have a thought that relates to it. You copy it and you share it to that thought on that mind map, and it gets added as a piece of text and then added as a little mini map and you decide where it fits into your overall map later when you've got the big screen, I want manageable visual chunks where I can connect things visually. A visual interface. I don't want a chat interface. I want a visual interface. So Ivy is an intelligent visual and verbal interface. I do not interface with things by typing very comfortably. I do it because I have to. But if I could visually move things around and speak to it, then I'm happy. And that's what Ivy will do over the next five years.

Erica: I love how you can add to it. So if you wanted to write a book, you can just add a new chapter, add it to your image. It's going to be such a great way to manage large projects.

Darius: Yeah, we have to build the infrastructure for that because this is not an easy technical challenge, because it's straightforward to integrate the AI, but to create the actual platform, to hold all of these ideas and make it all work without it just breaking is quite hard. We've got some amazing mind mapping software that will be the foundation for that, but we'll start properly coding in four days’ time. Three days’ time.

Erica: Very exciting. You have to keep us posted.

Darius: I will.

Erica: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for this really thorough reflection on mind mapping and the, many benefits that it has for executive functions.

Darius: Yeah, I would just as a final note is to take the visual aspect of your mind really seriously and take time to learn to map. Go back to your school, university days, or your childhood days. Start, doodling. Start sketching ideas out. Start visualizing things. When you close your eyes and you hear something, visualize it. Try drawing that down. Or open up a mind mapping software and start typing into it. And try a trial of one. Ivy is going to be free to use, for light users as well. So try Ivy or any other mind mapping software. There's lots of them out there. Just get mapping, and it does something to your soul, and it just frees a lot of anxiety out of your mind when you get everything onto one.

Erica: Yeah. Yeah. And really can help to develop your executive functioning skills on a profound level.

Darius: Yeah.

Erica: Thanks again, Darius. I really appreciate it.

Darius: Thank you, Erica, for your great questions and, insights.

Erica: Thank you for joining our conversation here at the Personal Brain trainer podcast. This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran

Darius: Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media until next time. Bye.