Background

Make an outline for how to make a ham sandwich. Go ahead and try it. Finished? O.K. Your outline may look something like this: I. Get out ham.

II. Get knife.

a. Hold ham securely.

III. Open package of bread.

a. Remove two pieces.

b. Put bread on plate.

IV. Place slice of ham on one piece of bread.

V. Get out mustard.

c. Stick knife in jar.

VI. Spread mustard on second piece of bread.

VII. Place second piece on top of ham slice.

VIII. Cut sandwich in two. IX. Eat sandwich.

Now think through your experience. You probably spent a lot of time thinking about the order of each activity. For instance, you may have started with "Open a package of bread" and then remembered you would need a ham. What to put next probably occupied most of your time and effort. Thus, outlines often force us to spend more time thinking about sequence than about content. They also disrupt our thinking because we have to alternate focusing on sequence and on content.

Outlines are based on a "left brain" process. To improve on this situation, we need a "right brain" process. We have two brain hemispheres: a logical, sequential, analytical left brain and an intuitive, holistic, creative right brain. Every time we solve a problem we use both sides of our brains. Sometimes we use the left a little more and sometimes the right.

Tony Buzan (1976) developed Brain Mapping to capitalize on the strengths of our right brains. He originally conceived of this technique as a tool to help students take notes. He soon found, however, that Brain Mapping was useful for a variety of activities, including idea generation.

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