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Tony Buzan has achieved the status of

'guru', an accolade accorded to very few.


He has worked with corporate entities
and businesses all over the world,
academics, Olympic athletes, children of
all ages, governments, and high profile
individuals in teaching them how to
maximize the use of their brain power.

He is the inventor of Mind Maps®, the most


powerful 'thinking tool' of our times. The
Chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates recognized
its importance in his article entitled 'The
Road Ahead – How Mind-Mappers are taking
our information democracy to the next stage'
which recently appeared in Newsweek Issues.

A prolific author, he has written – to date –


94 books, with sales in more than 150
countries; his books have been translated
into more than 33 languages. His latest titles
are Age-Proof Your Brain, published by
Harper Thorsons in 2007; and The Buzan
Study Skills Handbook, published by BBC
Active also in 2007.

One of his recent books, The Ultimate Book of


Mind Maps, published by Thorsons in 2005,
bears testimony to his universally famous
invention, and how their use can boost
creativity and change lives for the better.

The Pocket-sized Buzan Bites, published by


the BBC in 2006, is a series of three
distillations on Mind Maps, speed reading
and memory – perfect for busy people who
want to learn these exciting concepts and
techniques quickly.

Tony's techniques are also taught via a global


network of Buzan Licensed Instructors in
Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australasia.
Guru Interview: He is a familiar celebrity on Radio and TV,
both in the UK and globally, with a long list of
credits to his name. His name is synonymous

Tony Buzan with all things cerebral and his knowledge is


widely sought after by a media and public
perennially eager to learn practical advice on
how to improve brain function.
Widely recognized as the world's
Guru Interview | Human Resources

leading authority on how to use the


brain more effectively, Tony Buzan
speaks to Emerald Management First
about Mind Maps, mental literacy,
and intellectual capital.

Interview by Alistair Craven

Emerald Management First | © Emerald Group Publishing Limited

1
You developed the concept of the Mind Map in thinking, service and creative world. In business,
the late 1960s. How has your concept grown and the number of uses for Mind Maps is identical to,
developed over the years? and as multiple as, the uses for thinking. In
business, Mind Maps are being used for project
Tony Buzan: planning, brainstorming and creative thinking,
knowledge management, speech preparation and
The first explosive growth for Mind Maps occurred presentation, strategic thinking, negotiation,
in 1974. I had been teaching the new concept in continuing personal development (CPD), meeting
schools, Universities and businesses for six preparation, all forms of learning and problem
years, and the BBC, after investigating what I had solving. Indeed Bill Gates, in a recent NewsWeek
been doing, requested a half hour programme on feature, stated that Mind Maps were “the road
the topic. After Mind Mapping the contents for ahead – taking our information democracy to the
the programme, the Director of Higher Education next level”.
at the BBC said that the Mind Map made it look
more like a 10-part series than a simple half hour There are many examples, the most recent of
programme. I agreed! In 1974 the 10-part Use which is the May/June 07 issue of Time
Your Head Series came out, accompanied by the Magazine, which features Al Gore on the cover.
Use Your Head book. This series was repeated at In the contents of the feature article there is a
least twice a year from 1974 to 1989. The book, photograph of Al Gore with his project Mind Map
according to the BBC, became a “modern in front of him. The article points out that he uses
classic”, and now approaches sales worldwide of Mind Mapping to help him keep control of his
2 million. thoughts.

You claim that in virtually every Fortune 500


“Most current methods of company, there are a number of people who are
handling information are based either doing Mind Mapping or helping others do
it. In this setting it takes the form of a note-
on the 19th Century linear, taking technique. Can you explain a bit more
verbal and monotonic model. about this?

This worked comfortably for the Tony Buzan:


Industrial Age. It does not work
The Mind Map is the thinking tool that reflects the
comfortably in the age of internal thought processes of the human brain.
knowledge, creativity and When human thinking is externalized in its pure
form, this becomes a Mind Map, and is a note
intelligence.” that reflects the brain’s own thinking processes.
In the Fortune 500 companies, an increasing
I have continued to travel around the world number of individuals are using this technique
lecturing and appearing on radio and television, for all the purposes I mentioned in response to
it being recently estimated that more than 3 your first question. These thinking processes are
billion people globally are aware of the Mind Map now being greatly aided by the new Mind Map
Concept. In China, in 2005, I presented a one- software to which I shall return shortly.
hour television programme on the brain, Mind
Mapping and Memory which was viewed by an Is Mind Mapping particularly popular within
estimated 350 million people. Six weeks ago, in certain regions or cultures?
April 2007, a feature “Celebrity Talks” programme
on Vietnamese Television, addressing the same Tony Buzan:
question, was seen by 80 million people.
Yes. This is not so much regional or type; it is
A check last week by my webmaster on Google, attitudinal. Mind Mapping is popular in
unearthed 126 million pages referring to Mind companies or countries which are cutting edge,
Maps alone. The growth and the development at which are focusing much of their resources on
Guru Interview | Human Resources

the moment is, as you will have sensed, learning and thinking skills, and which have
meteoric! realized the significance of creative thinking and
innovation in gaining a competitive edge in the
How can Mind Mapping help in the world of modern world.
business? Can you provide us with a specific
example? These companies and countries, of which there
are an accelerating number, include Microsoft,
Tony Buzan: IBM, Oracle, HSBC, Con Edison, Reckitt
Benckiser, and Hewlett Packard etc. Among
Mind Mapping is especially useful in the modern countries: China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia,
business world, which is increasingly becoming a

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Korea, Australia, Germany, England, Scotland, Mental literacy refers to the knowledge of the
Mexico and the United States of America. brain’s physical and mental function, and to the
application of this knowledge to all aspects of
In the 1950s it was estimated that we used life. Put in another way, mental literacy refers to
around 50 per cent of our brain capacity. Some having the “correct formulae”, the proper
estimates today have reduced that figure to an operations manual for the brain. Historically we
incredible 1 per cent. Where do you stand on this have not known the correct formulas, and have
debate? Is the apparent under- utilization of our gone down many brain cul-de-sacs and wrong
brains indicative of a general failure somewhere turnings.
in our education systems?
One simple and recent example is the use of
Tony Buzan: lined paper for linear verbal note taking as a main
method for enhancing learning and memory.
I stand with the 1-per centers! Because the brain is based on imagination and
association, this method is diametrically
In answering, let me first clarify an area of public opposed to what the brain needs. Being
confusion. In daily life we are using much of our diametrically opposed, it creates many of the
brains much of the time. The “percentage learning problems and difficulties that virtually all
debate” is not simply about which brain cells are students experience today.
being used. The debate is fundamentally about
how efficiently we are using the equipment we One of your books, Head First, claims that every
have. This can be refined even further by linking one of us possesses “multiple natural
the efficiency to the vital cognitive processes of intelligences”. Can you elaborate on this?
learning, creativity, and memory. It is easy to
demonstrate, by measured difference, that Tony Buzan:
performance in these areas can be improved by a
factor of 100. In the beginning of the 20th Century a French
educationist, Alfred Binet, came up with the very
With reference to our education systems, it is clever and new idea of measuring human
important to realize that our formal education intelligence. It gave rise to the IQ (Intelligence
institutions are on average less than 150 years Quotient) test. At the time IQ was based, and
old. They are, in the context of the evolution of remained based for 90 years, on primarily words
the human race, babies! Until a mere 20 years and numbers. These intelligences do exist, and
ago, information on the brain was in very short are very important. In the last 20 years we have
supply, and therefore could not be properly discovered that there are other intelligences, and
integrated into educational systems. With the these are the intelligences that my book, Head
recent sudden explosion of brain information, we First, introduces and discusses. The additional
are already seeing a very rapid uptake and intelligences include:
application of this information in education
systems. Creative, spiritual, personal, social, physical,
spatial, and sensual.
As an example, in the last 8 weeks I have lectured
to educational groups fascinated by these new You have served as consultant to many
advances in countries as wide ranging as the multinational organizations, including Hewlett
Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Packard, IBM and BP. What has surprised you
Singapore and, most recently, in Scotland. I most about the way in which today’s
believe that within the next 10 years we will see a organizations deploy their Intellectual Capital?
global education shift in which all schools will
have a mental literacy module incorporating Tony Buzan:
information for the student on the brain, learning,
thinking, creativity, memory skills, speed reading Nothing!
and study skills, and the application of these
mental literacy skills to all subject-areas and to I had always thought that when the human brain
Guru Interview | Human Resources

all aspects of learning. acquired information appropriate to its more


successful use, it would make the best use of
This will bring about a tectonic shift in education that information. The appropriate use of
and the positive future of our planet. intellectual capital is an accelerating global
business trend and will lead, as John Naisbitt
You are quoted as claiming that the world is predicted in his book Mega Trends 2000, to the
“historically mentally illiterate”. How did you growing realization that economic growth will be
arrive at this opinion? seen as limitless. How is this possible? By the
simple equation:
Tony Buzan:

Emerald Management First | © Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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Business is becoming increasingly based on Maps on computer, each time getting closer, but
creativity; ideas are the ‘new products’; the brain never achieving “the real deal”. I was fortunate
has an infinite capacity to create; therefore, to make contact with an educational
business growth has an infinite future. businessman and computer expert, Chris
Griffiths, who, this year, finally, with his
Your Buzan Centres worldwide form part of a “Manhattan Project” Team, solved the insoluble!
global network organization designed to turn The result is Buzan’s iMindMap, software that I
blue chip companies into “Thinking and Learning predict will change the way in which the world
organizations”. How do you set out to achieve thinks.
this aim?
We often hear the term “information overload” in
Tony Buzan: business today. How can your methods help to
combat this problem?
My Buzan Centres help create thinking and
learning organizations in a number of ways: Tony Buzan:

Training Most current methods of handling information


Through a global network of Buzan Licensed are based on the 19th Century linear, verbal and
Instructors (BLI’s) we provide courses on monotonic model. This worked comfortably for
learning, thinking, memory, Mind Mapping on the Industrial Age. It does not work comfortably
computer, creativity and innovation, project in the age of knowledge, creativity and
management, and presentation and intelligence.
communication skills etc. These are done as
either public courses or in company courses. As one example: standard linear and verbal
organization techniques contain only 10 per cent
Books of information that is relevant for the brain in its
Buzan Centres have the full range of my own thinking processes. This means that they are 90
books, as well as training manuals based upon per cent inefficient. Using Mind Maps and other
those books. mental literacy techniques, all thinking becomes
more efficient, condensed, refined, rapid and
Special Events clear. One businessman said that before he had
Buzan Centres arrange conferences based around learned Mind Mapping and mental literacy skills
the concept of the brain, learning and creativity. it was as if he were driving through his life with
the windscreen caked with mud. When he
Memory Championships learned how to use his brain appropriately, he
These Memory Championships can be described said that it was as if a windscreen wiper had
as “decathlons of the mind” in which competitors suddenly, with one sweep, cleared away the
test their “memory muscles” in 10 memory mud, and for the first time in his life he could see
disciplines. These Memory Championships are clearly. Mind Maps and mental literacy
often accompanied by a Memory Festival. For techniques give you that new clarity. They also
further information see: give you a much greater control of your thinking
processes, and therefore a much greater control
http://www.worldmemorychampionships.com of your life.

Products Finally, what interests you outside of your


Buzan Centres worldwide provide and distribute professional life, and why?
a growing range of brain-friendly products,
including Mind Mapping materials, brain Tony Buzan:
exercising games and Mind Map Software.
My main interests include:
Can you tell us a little about your new
iMindMap™ software? • Art because it feeds my eyes, mind and
soul.
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Tony Buzan:
• Physical activity and sports, especially
Ever since I invented Mind Maps in the early rowing, swimming, running and the
1960s I have dreamed of a Mind Map software Japanese martial art of Aikido. Each of
that would allow anyone to produce a Mind Map these gives me extreme pleasure in the
on the computer that was indistinguishable from sheer activity and play of the sport, as
a Mind Map produced by hand. well as providing me, as a wonderful by-
product, robust muscular and aerobic
This turned out to be a task apparently as difficult health.
as splitting the atom! I worked with many
companies and many iterations of proto-Mind

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• Animals and animal intelligence. Ever
since I was a child I have been
enthralled by the astonishing
intelligences of our fellow travellers.
They provide me with constant
bemusement, entertainment,
amazement and awe.

• Astronomy. The beauty and dimensions


of our universe provide a feast for my
aesthetic sensitivities, and a constant
humbling perspective on my and our
place in that Universe.

• Friends. For every reason imaginable! □

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