If you use mind mapping software, you’re probably familiar with Liam Hughes, the founder of Biggerplate.com.
Biggerplate.com is the world’s largest online library of downloadable mind maps and mind map templates.
At Biggerplate, you can choose from thousands of free mind map templates and mind mapping examples to show you how real people around the world are using mind maps every day to improve their working and learning.
Looking for specific mind map examples and templates?
Biggerplate offers you several ways to search for mind maps. You can search by:
- Categories, such as business, education
- Topics, such as writing, marketing, or planning
- Popularity, the number of times a map has been viewed or downloaded
- Mind mapping software programs, such as MindManager, iMindMap, XMind, MindGenius, ConceptDraw, iMindQ, MindMeister, iThoughts, etc.
You can also search by specific terms, i.e., editorial calendar, bestselling business books, or best books for writers.
In response to the popularity of last year’s interview with Liam Hughes, I recently asked Liam for a 2015 update. Here are the highlights of our interview.
Ian’s story reflects an engaging combination of passion, entrepreneurial spirit, community building, and technology.
When did you first become involved with mind mapping?
The first version of the Biggerplate website was launched in 2008, but my first exposure to mind mapping was probably a year or so earlier.
My discovery of mind mapping software at university saved me from failing my degree!
Mind mapping made a profound difference by helping me retain more of what I read and learned, and helped me organize my thinking and go deeper into topics.
This profound experience fueled my desire to create the mind map library which came to be known as Biggerplate.com! But, let’s return to that later…
Why is mind mapping growing in popularity?
There are a number of factors at play in my opinion, but if I was choosing a top three, it would be the following:
- Mobile/tablet growth and the accessibility of relatively cheap mind mapping apps. The combination of new platforms and affordable apps has introduced more people to mind mapping. With the proliferation of iPads and similar devices over the last 5 years, I new people have been introduced to mind mapping– even if they don’t necessarily recognize that they are ‘mind mapping’, or identify themselves as ‘mind mappers’. Mobile mind mapping applications are becoming part and parcel of their daily working activity, regardless of what they, or anyone, calls it.
- Increasing appreciation and use of ‘visual’ working approaches. This can be seen through the growing popularity of infographics, and topics like sketch noting and visual facilitation. There seems to be a greater acceptance of the fact that we’ve maybe gone too far down the road of linear information. There’s increased recognition that non-visual working methods may be hampering our ability to connect up dots, make innovative associations between information, and generally stimulate our minds a little more. This paves the way for exploring mind mapping.
- Most importantly, I genuinely believe mind mapping has found it’s ‘time’ in terms of the problems and challenges people are facing at work in this current decade. There is a feeling of relief about the help mind mapping tools and applications can provide. I’ve talked a lot about mind mapping being the ‘missing link’, and I believe this is becoming more true every month.
There are people in all sorts of job roles who lack the right tools to help them organize and manage their ideas and information.
There are millions of people out there trying to organize their ideas and information in Word documents, or Powerpoint slides, or on scribbled notes, or in complex project management software. These are not the right tools for this job!
In many cases, the tool that should be employed first is a a mind mapping tool. You use this to do the up-front thinking work, and only once you reach clarity in your thinking do you switch to the other tools to produce the required outputs (presentations, proposal docs, project plans etc).
Regardless of the end format; if the up-front thinking work has been done using mind mapping, the end result will almost always be more organised, more succinct, and more effective.
What are some of the highlights of your research and your experiences working with mind mappers from around the world?
The highlight is quite simply the people themselves. There’s a shared mindset that I’ve spoken about many times before. It’s really quite extraordinary actually.
I’ve met and engaged with mind map users from so many different countries, job roles, industries, and cultures over the years, and (almost) all of them seem to share a mindset that is open, collaborative, innovative, and inquisitive.
It’s not to say that everyone thinks the same. Far from it. The mindset is one of:
Genuine interest and enthusiasm for learning, asking questions, exploring alternatives, and figuring things out. It’s genuinely infectious!
I certainly don’t think mind mapping caused this, but I think people with this mindset seem to be the early/natural adopters of mind mapping, which is a truly great thing. These are the type of people that will be most effective in communicating mind mapping to others, figuring out where exactly mind mapping fits in the modern era and then driving adoption worldwide based on that understanding.
Tell us more about Biggerplate’s origins.
At university, I had not been a very diligent or engaged student, and was therefore very behind in my studies ahead of the key exams that determined whether you could stay at the university, or get politely asked to leave!
I’d been very easily distracted by all the non-academic things that I was doing, and as result, found myself two weeks away from these critical exams, with very little knowledge of the subject matter required.
Purely by chance, and totally outside my university, I was introduced to mind mapping software, and immediately got it. As a last roll of the dice, I decided to mind map all the different modules I was (supposedly) studying, and surprisingly managed to scrape through the exams, and eventually earn a degree.
As far as I’m concerned, mind mapping software was entirely responsible for me getting that degree, and off the back of that experience, I had the idea to create an academic resource for students, where they could get academic content, but in a mind map format that they could then edit and adapt to their own needs.
Once we got the first site up and running in 2008, it quickly became clear that business users were actually our main audience/user, and the site has taken on a strong ‘business’ focus ever since.
I still have a strong personal desire to take mind mapping further into higher education as I originally intended, as I still think it’s a tool that young adults really need at that stage of life. We still want to put something together to do this, but for the moment it’s a bit beyond our resources.
What has been Biggerplate’s guiding vision?
Our aim is simply to be the best source of mind mapping content, learning, and community in the world.
Everything we do has to support moving closer to that goal, otherwise we don’t do it.
We have certainly not reached that goal yet, but we have made some really positive steps towards it over the last couple of years in particular.
What have been Biggerplate’s signature achievements during the past 12 months?
Probably the construction and launch of our own API has been the major achievement over the last 12 months, although it won’t mean much to many people, at least not until they start seeing “Upload to Biggerplate” buttons appearing in their favorite mind mapping software!
The API will enable direct and seamless integration between mind mapping software applications and the mind map library at Biggerplate.com, enabling upload and download activity to happen directly within your software. This will be a powerful and desirable value-add for software users.
This has been a big investment for us as a small business, and a real challenge in terms of our technical team resources. We’re very lucky to have two great guys driving the technical development who figured their way through this, but it was certainly a big challenge.
However, the initial feedback from our software partners has been extremely positive, and this really points to a very exciting 12 months ahead, and some great possibilities for mind map software users and Biggerplate members!
(Any developers out there… take a look at http://developers.biggerplate.com/ to learn more)
Did you ever imagine Biggerplate would emerge as the world’s largest mind map sharing community?
Well it of course sounds very arrogant, but yes actually!
After we’d been going at it for a couple of years, we started to feel pretty confident about what we were doing, and the way we were doing it.
Building the site was one thing, but engaging with the individual users, and I mean really getting to know and understand them has really been the secret to the success to far. As a result, for a long time we have viewed the ‘best in the world’ goal as something perfectly achievable, rather than some lofty, unrealistic, or eg-driven ‘mission statement’.
What are some recently introduced Biggerplate features?
We’re really excited with the launch of our new Biggerplate Blog, which was really long overdue! The new blog is really now part of the Biggerplate site, and gives us far more scope to gather, share, and showcase how our members are using mind mapping around the world, which is a very exciting prospect.
A relatively new section of the site is our Community Marketplace, which is a very simple area that we built to try and support some of the great small businesses that make up our community.
We previously had a section of the site for people who provided mind map training to list their services, but we realized that this was perhaps too restrictive, as many people use mind maps to deliver their business services, or to run their business, but they may not provide training as such.
The new Marketplace enables any Biggerplate member (who has uploaded a mind map) to list their business on our site, and hopefully gives them some great visibility to a worldwide audience.
We like this sort of thing. As a small business (we have just 6 people) we know that getting visibility can be a real challenge, and every little helps!
Why are so many mind mappers eager to share mind maps on Biggerplate?
I think those who share on Biggerplate do so because they recognize that we’ve built something that’s really for mind mappers, and almost obsessively so.
There’s no mixed message when it comes to Biggerplate: we’re 100% focused on mind mapping.
If you’re into mind mapping, and you discover Biggerplate, our hope is that you instantly recognize that this is the place for you.
If you’re naturally inclined to share what you’re doing with mind maps, then discovering Biggerplate should feel like you’ve found somewhere that was built just for you!
However, that being said, if you look at the number of Biggerplate members who actually upload maps to the library, as a percentage of the total community, it’s probably less than 1%.
Most people who use our site, do lots more downloading of maps than uploading. So in fact, many mind mappers are somewhat reluctant to share their mind maps, sometimes because their maps contain private or client-specific information, but often because they (incorrectly) assume that nobody out there would be interested in their maps, and/or that their maps are ‘not very good’.
It’s really important that we constantly communicate to users that there is always someone out there who will find your mind map useful, either as a source of inspiration (i.e., “I’d never thought of using a mind map to do that…”) or as a direct time-saving start point (“I’ll download and use this map as a starting point rather than creating my own from scratch”).
Equally important is the fact that Biggerplate has no interest in telling anyone that their mind map is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and neither do 99.99% of the mind mapping community. Share what you’ve got. Someone will get something out of it, I can promise you that!
Anything you’d like to hint at coming down the pike?
E-learning is a big focus at the moment, and there should be some visible outputs in this area within the next few weeks, which we think could be very interesting. Other things include, but not limited to:
- More integrations with leading mind mapping applications.
- Full translation of the website into several languages (long overdue).
- Mobile optimisation of the site (also long overdue).
And more features and functionality specifically designed for those members who are sharing lots of maps. 2016 is going to be busy…!
What some of the cities where you’ve hosted Biggerplate Conferences and training programs?
The Biggerplate Unplugged conference has so far been held in London (twice), Paris, Utrecht, San Francisco, and Berlin.
The next stop is New York in March 2016, which is already shaping up to be a fantastic gathering of Biggerplate members and the wider mind mapping community!
Our training workshops are starting to expand further, and we’ll be focusing largely on what we have identified as our key cities over the next year or so as we try to grow this part of the business.
The cities of focus for us for several reasons are London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. For now…!
Where are events being held during 2016?
The big one our annual Biggerplate Unplugged Conference, which is taking place in a fabulous venue in New York on 10 March 2016. The conference is a great opportunity to connect with others from the mind mapping world.
It’s a great place to pick up a wealth of tips and insights into how mind mapping can be used and maximised in a range of contexts across business, education, government, charity sector etc.
Who attends events like Biggerplate Unplugged?
These events are really enjoyable, partly because they attract a mix of mind mapping novices and experts. This creates a great learning environment, and a really lively day of discussion and collaboration!
Further to this will be the continuation of our Brunch Club meetings, which are small meetings (10 people max) in those key cities identified earlier, where we are engaging with members of the local mind mapping communities in order to learn, discuss, and explore ways that we can grow the regional engagement with Biggerplate and mind mapping in general.
These have already proven extremely beneficial to us in terms of gathering ideas and feedback from our members, and we’re confident that these meetings are going to be really influential in how we drive greater mind mapping adoption in certain regions! Plus…. everyone loves brunch!
What is the role that mind mapping will play in the 21st Century?
Well, I’m not sure we’ve got the definitive answer yet, but it’s certainly the definitive question that we’re trying to answer. We’ve been saying for a long time that mind mapping is the missing link, and must have tool for modern workers in business and education. But that’s not enough; we’ve got to figure out exactly where it fits, and how.
We’ve got to identify those missing links that are most suitably filled by mind mapping, and equally, we have to recognise the areas in which mind mapping may not be the best tool for the job.
I think we’re getting ever closer to improving our understanding around this, and in fact, this will be the central theme of Biggerplate Unplugged in New York next year, so if anyone out there has the answer, or at least a perspective to share, I hope they’ll book a seat at the conference!
How much does it cost to access Biggerplate’s mind map archives?
Biggerplate is free to use if you are participating as an active member (meaning you’re uploading content onto the site, and not just downloading).
Basic users can download up to 5 maps a month, but this can be unlocked either by uploading a map of your own, or by upgrading to a Biggerplate Plus account for unlimited downloads for the year. This upgrade costs $19.99 for the entire year.