Not all personal mind maps are created equal. That is, not all of them follow the pattern that people think is the standard, where ideas are written down on a piece of paper in a sort of radiating pattern around one central word or concept.

People would be correct, of course, in thinking that this method of construction is a mind map. It just isn’t the only kind. That radiating sort of pattern is called a spider map, and it is just one type of visual map among many.

Some mind maps are rather more linear, in fact. It’s not that they return the user to a linear mode of thinking; instead they take all the ideas that the person comes up with in their brainstorming and represents them in a way that shows how the ideas flow into or perhaps cause each other.

For example, a fishbone map is a central line leading to a final conclusion, with other lines angle into it on either side, in a fishbone pattern. Those are not always sequential, nor do they cause each other, so this type of map would picture them as branches that angle in toward a single line, which in turn leads to the event itself.

Other mind map examples might be those viewed as chains or circles. A chain might be just a series of loops, one after the other, showing events or causes that are connected to each other.

It might involve loops descending from each other in ever widening branches, like the roots of a tree, as a single event creates a cascade of repercussions. Another type of map displays itself as an actual circle, and would illustrate certain things that go in repeating cycles. These mind maps, especially the chains, can probably fall into the flow chart category as well.

Visual mapping allows people to find and illustrate relationships between all sorts of ideas. Whether you’re talking a spider map that encourages random brainstorming, a fishbone map that illustrates factors that contribute to an end result, or a flow chart that demonstrates a series of cause-and-effect chains, these many different kinds of mind maps rise to whatever the occasion demands.

Users of these maps are able to discover and organize important information in a visual way that can be grasped quickly and intuitively.