Posted by: wordsmithsuk | March 17, 2010

Create Mind Maps and become an outlier

I’ve just finished re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, having first skimmed through this book when it was first published in late 2008. It’s an interesting read, even though at times some of Gladwell’s conclusions are rather self-evident.

For Gladwell, outliers are truly exceptional individuals who, in their own field of expertise, are so superior that they define their own category of success. Bill Gates is an outlier and so are Steve Jobs, Robert Oppenheimer and the Beatles. In analysing such examples of high achievers, Gladwell seeks to offer a more complete understanding of how people can achieve success.

In the book, Gladwell claims that an important key to success in any field is the ‘10,000 hour rule’. This has been widely reported – a common example being the Beatles. It is estimated that this band had performed 1,200 times before hitting the big time in 1964. So, to achieve success, the rest of us have to practice a specific skill or task for a mere 20 hours a week for 10 years. We’d better get on with it then.

Gladwell also argues that being successful is about a lot more than having a high IQ . It involves being able to use ‘divergent thinking’ to generate creative ideas by exploring a huge range of possible solutions. According to Wikipedia, ‘divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion’. They could be talking about Mind Mapping.

Clearly, one of the many benefits of Mind Mapping is that it helps to maintain and encourage divergent thinking skills. This technique enables you to explore many possible solutions in a short amount of time, and to draw unexpected connections. Try using a Mind Map to carry out a classic test of divergent thinking: write down as many different uses as you can for 1) a brick and 2) a blanket. Let me know how you get on!

(Having issued this challenge, I thought I’d better have a go myself! Click on the thumbnail to see the result: uses of a blanket.)

If you’re interested in learning more about Mind Mapping, email me for the download link to our free ebook ‘Mind Mapping for Success’.



  1. Hi WordSmith,
    I haven’t read that book but it sounds like the way I think. I tend to come up with a lot of options to any problem or choice that needs to be made. (I think my wife is used to it now).
    I actually enjoy divergent thinking. But for some reason I never tried mind-mapping as a formal exercise. Except when I need to visually draw out a info-graphic or ‘visual business plan’. But I do like to know the connections, associations and relationships between things, ideas and concepts.
    But of course there isn’t any useful outcome in the creative process unless some convergent thinking isn’t applied towards the end.
    Thanks for your blog, Steve Supple

    • Hi Steve
      Thanks for your comment – some really useful points here.

  2. I often use this type of exercise to demonstrate how everyone can be creative and how we can always think of more ways or solving a problem or looking at an issue. The object chosen does not really matter everything works.

  3. Thanks for your comment. Yes lots of people think that they aren’t creative. But it’s just that thy have never tried, or don’t know how. Most find it fun and very productive once they get started!

  4. […] It measures divergent thinking, which he proposed was the primary attribute of creativity.  Mind mapping is the buzzword for this activity in the 21st […]

  5. Reblogged this on Open Source Occultism and commented:
    Interesting – Outliers is said to have some flaws though.

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