Brainstorming vs. Mind Mapping: Which One Works Better?

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brainstorming vs mind mapping

Brainstorming is an effective way to help you create and develop ideas. It has become a stock phrase and it is easily confused with other words.

For example (and relevant to this article), mind mapping.

Brainstorming and mind mapping are easy to use when used together (and when mastered), and they improve the planning phase of your project.

Lucky you! In this article, I have everything you need to know about brainstorming and why and how you should use mind maps to improve your planning sessions.

Let’s get started!

What is Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a technique used to recall things you know about a topic and generate ideas that can be organized later.

People can brainstorm alone or by discussing it with all members of a group.

The ideas can be as random as they can be and you don’t need to evaluate, make judgments, or organize.

Usually, we leave that for later, when you start narrowing down your focus and organizing the ideas using mind maps.

writers brainstorming ideas for a writing project.
Writers brainstorm ideas for a writing project.

Benefits of brainstorming

  • Idea generation for future projects. When you write your ideas down during the brainstorming session, you can build off of the unused ideas in the future. Unused lists can spark creativity when revisited.
  • It offers a diverse choice of perspectives, especially when done in groups. Various participants come with a range of backgrounds, ages, and life experiences, improving the diversity.
  • Creates a suitable environment for cooperation and teamwork.
  • It is an effective way to deal with biased ideas.  Group brainstorming sessions offer a counterbalance to one-sided beliefs, opinions, and biases.

Disadvantages of brainstorming

  • Group brainstorming often takes on board some free-riders. Some participants contribute less and others ‘over-contribute’, thereby defeating the counterbalancing effect of group brainstorming.
  • If you have participants who take a bit longer to process the topics under discussion, it may take longer to finish the brainstorming sessions. Therefore, other contributors may find the brainstorming sessions stressful.
  • During brainstorming debates, participants may refuse to accept opposing ideas or drown out other ideas.

What is Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a technique used to visually organize information around a central point and establish/indicate relationships among subtopics and ideas.

The related points connect and branch out, forming a tree-like or radial structure with the central being the trunk.

Mind maps are an effective tool for finding linkages and building structures that reveal distinct patterns in the topic under review.

Once you brainstorm your ideas, mind maps can be used to organize, analyze, and devise an effective approach to your project.

sticky notes with written ideas glued on the board
Sticky notes with written ideas are affixed to the board.

Benefits of mind mapping

  • Breaks down complex ideas. Mind mapping is effective for strategic planning because it enables us to break down complex concepts that have lots of connected parts.
  • Great for collaborative problem-solving. Mind mapping has been proven to be helpful when planning essays and projects because it improves the quality, structure, and coherence of the work.
  • It helps in learning. Mind maps enable us to learn faster. Mind maps also add a bit of fun to the process of learning, so learning new concepts is far more engaging.
  • Mind maps improve our ability to recall information. This is especially important when we are presenting our work.
  • It improves creativity. The tree-like and radial shapes of mind maps ensure that you don’t have a restricted and monotonic flow of ideas. Instead of moving in a flat line, you can connect points that are not close to each other in a linear progression.
  • Improves productivity. With mind maps, you can brainstorm, learn, and present faster. So, mind mapping improves both your efficiency and the quality of your work.

Disadvantages of mind mapping

  • You risk complicating a simple concept. Simplicity should be the highest among your mind-mapping goals. You have to break down complex information using only short words and phrases.
  • It can be time-consuming. Sometimes, a good mind map takes time to create, and in a busy corporate environment time is usually a luxury.
  • Radial patterns of a mind can be tough to build for people who are strong left brain (linear) oriented.

Relationship between Brainstorming and Mind Mapping

Brainstorming and mind mapping are one in the same thing, you cannot disregard the power of mind mapping in creating an effective brainstorming session.

The visual organization of information when using mind maps helps us improve brainstorming sessions in terms of clarity, collaboration, communication, and—as a result—efficiency.

By helping us visualize our thoughts, concepts, and topics, mind maps make it easier for us to follow discussions and break down complex concepts into organized information.

Used together, brainstorming and mind mapping are effective methods to come up with new ideas and explore them.

a group of writers brainstorms ideas and posts them on a glass wall.
A group of writers brainstorms ideas and posts them on a glass wall.

Difference between Brainstorming and Mind Mapping


By looking at the definitions, Brainstorming is a method that involves coming up with new ideas by identifying all sorts of thoughts and opinions, usually with no restrictions on the practicality of the concepts.

Although both brainstorming and mind mapping can help solve a problem individually or by discussing it with all members of a group, the Mind mapping method is concerned with grouping those thoughts into broad categories and trying to find connections between the categories, look at feasibility, and order.

So, the function of brainstorming is to formulate multiple ideas, whereas mind mapping identifies relationships between them.

Structure and Nature

Another difference between brainstorming and mind mapping is that a mind map has structure.

Since brainstorming involves random thoughts, mind maps offer an effective way to structure those brainstormed ideas and present them in a neat and readable chart.

A Mind map is a visual Map that captures our thoughts. Brainstorming without mind maps is a raw part of the thought process in the planning phase of the project, but to make them real or concrete and orchestrated we need the mechanics and chassis of a mind map.

a group of writers exchanges creative ideas.
A group of writers exchanges creative ideas.

Creativity and Effort

Mind mapping often stimulates more creativity/inventiveness. When you brainstorm (raw brainstorming without mind maps), you are free to throw in whatever comes to your mind without worrying much about creativity.

During the thought process, apart from creativity, there is little effort given to the interconnectedness of the ideas.

Someone once said there the supreme rule of brainstorming is, “there are no bad ideas.”

This means that you are free to include any thoughts and refine your ideas later. Since there are fewer limitations in brainstorming, you have a lot of possibilities.


Even though I have severally said that brainstorming is more fluid (less structured), I wouldn’t say that it is easy.

Even when you brainstorm without using mind maps, you still have to find a way to solidify your thoughts. You still have to sort out the ideas to have useful concepts.

If not done right, brainstorming will leave you with ideas that don’t make sense at all, even after using mind maps.

The Mind Mapping Approach to Brainstorming

Mind mapping offers a lot of creative potential to brainstorming. The intuitive, structured, non-linear presentation of ideas makes it easier for us to link the ideas and generate new ones from the connections.

Brainstorming with mind maps is always a creative process and you should always look for ways to approach this sort of creative thinking exercise.

Here is a suggested method that I call “The Diverge, Explore, and Synthesize Process.”

the mind mapping approach to brainstorming

1. Diverge

During the first phase of your brainstorming, you have to generate as many ideas as you can. If it is a collaborative project, the ‘divergent stage involves every participant generating their ideas on their own.  

The emphasis isn’t on the fully-fledged ideas, but the quantity and diversity of ideas that can be further developed.

Divergent time should always be treated as quiet time, where everyone is working on individual ideas and isn’t disrupted by ‘loud thinkers.’

2. Converge

The second step in the process involves determining which items are useful and sorting out tangible actions and next steps.

This stage of the process ensures that participants who would be out-voiced in a typical discussion get to present their views.

Convergent should always be treated as talking time, but words such as ‘no’ and ‘but’ are discouraged when ‘converging.’

3. Synthesize

The last step of the process involves consolidating the input of multiple participants into a single collective output.

This is where the mind maps are fully developed by exploring all the ideas presented during the last step.

Drawings, images, or icons are used in creating the minds.


Brainstorming and mind mapping are both useful approaches for generating and exploring new ideas.

The main difference between brainstorming and mind mapping is that brainstorming aids in generating new ideas, whereas mind mapping helps create linkages between ideas.

However, the two go hand in hand in the planning stage of a project, be it an academic assignment, a science project, research, etc.

Although brainstorming may be done using other methods, when the mind maps are used to brainstorm, there are a lot of benefits.

Improved productivity, enhanced creativity, and inclusive strategies are a few of the benefits of these methods.

Brainstorming and mind mapping help us find new solutions to new problems or offer us a new outlook on old problems.

Photo of author


Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.