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Using spider diagrams for brainstorming, planning and more

Michael Deutch is a brand ambassador for MindManager software. After 12 years of working on the MindManager portfolio as VP of Product and, previously, Director of Product and Marketing Solutions, Michael’s extensive product experience makes him an ideal ambassador.

Although he will be out chasing adventures in his new life of semi-retirement, Michael will continue to stay engaged and active within the mind mapping community. He will be contributing regularly to the MindManager Blog, and our many other online platforms.


Work and life, at times, can be chaotic and unclear. Often it’s difficult to see a path forward, create a plan, or come up with viable solutions to the problems you face. One solution to create clarity and actionable insights from the chaos is a spider diagram.

What is a Spider Diagram?

A business spider diagram is a visual way of organizing your work, information, and ideas in which the concepts are laid out in branches that extend out from an overriding concept. Each branch forms a logical grouping (that you determine) and contains additional supporting details. The diagram gets its name because the branches radiating out from the main concept resembling the legs of a spider.

Here’s a spider diagram example:

When to use Spider Diagrams?

Spider diagrams provide a birds eye view of any subject that can be leveraged to increase understanding of a situation and help identify a path forward, whether that’s a plan of action, a brainstorm of potential solutions, or identifying the right arguments for a presentation or paper.

The act of creating a spider diagram is active and supports deeper understanding of any subject. Creating the diagram requires you to sift through ideas and possibly research, understand and summarize knowledge, make connections and identify missing pieces of information. The non-linear layout allows you to consume the content quickly and focus on any relevant area of interest. The process leads to deeper understanding and greater retention.

Here are a few common applications of spider diagrams:

Writing

A spider diagram is a good method to create an overview of your subject matter. Creating one helps you sort through, organize and pick out your best ideas while also identifying gaps and facilitating the discovery of new ideas. Use the diagram to focus and streamline your writing process.

Note Taking & Studying

Studying for a certification or need to learn some new concepts for work? Creating a spider diagram helps you organize what you’re learning and also identify gaps in your knowledge. The process of creating the diagram will also help you recall the information later on.

Planning & Brainstorming

Spider diagrams are great for getting ideas out of your head and supercharging your creative juices. Ideate, organize and then turn the prioritized results into actionable plans!

How to create a Spider Diagram in MindManager?

Spider diagrams are quick and easy to make in MindManager. They are also very easy for our brains to grok and understand because, unlike typical linear notes, the diagrams closely reflect how our brains are structured and associate ideas.

  1. Create a radial map in MindManager and enter what the topic/concept of the brainstorm is in the central topic.
  2. Next, enter one or more subideas.
  3. Add more details to your subideas as new subtopics under each relevant concept.
  4. Continue adding ideas and details. Rearrange topics as needed to bring greater clarity to your diagram.

Key MindManager features to use with your Spider Diagrams

There is no one single ‘right’ way to create a spider diagram. The right way is the way that works best for you. With that said, here’s a list of 15 ways to apply some of MindManager’s features to transform an ordinary diagram into a powerful application to visualize and empower your work.

  1. Use color (fonts, topic fill color) to categorize different ideas.
  2. Change fonts characteristics to emphasize different ideas (e.g. bold, larger fonts, different font types, etc.).
  3. Adjust topic shapes to highlight certain ideas.
  4. Use topic images to add greater context and enhance the visualizations.
  5. Write topic notes for more in-depth details related to each idea.
  6. Apply icons and tags to categorize ideas, add priorities, % complete, etc.
  7. Hyperlink or add attachments to more details.
  8. Draw relationship lines between different connected ideas throughout the diagram.
  9. Place numbers on a topic’s branch to keep track of lists of items/topics within the branch.
  10. Assign resources to any tasks that you have identified. As mentioned in #5, you can also track progress, priority, key milestones and more.
  11. Collapse branches for a quick overview or drill down into all the details.
  12. View the diagram through multiple lenses. For instance, you are not confined to the layout of the spider diagram. Switch views to see the diagram as an outline, or dive in the Schedule, Icon or Tag views to see your content in groupings based on your assigned categories or due dates.
  13. Filter content to either show or hide topics that you have annotated with tags or icon markers. For instance, filter on all the top priority items or hide all the completed items.
  14. Navigate the diagram using the Walk Through mode to view the diagram one step at a time.
  15. Share your diagram by either publishing it onto the web (and sharing a link) where anyone can open and view the spider diagram interactively in their browser or export the diagram into a variety of different formats (e.g. Microsoft Word, HTML5, Microsoft Project, etc.).

Get started with this Spider Diagram template

Want to try your hand a Spider Diagramming with MindManager? Get started with a FREE, 30-day trial. And, use the Spider Diagram template below to build out your map.

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed or have too many ideas flowing through you, open up MindManager and weave your own business spider diagram to organize your thoughts and brainstorms into action.

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