Guest Post – How To Build A ‘Genius Mechanism’ With MindManager

Filed Under Mindjet


April 5, 2010

thumbnailI can imagine the question going through your mind right now is, ‘what in the world is a Genius Mechanism?’

Well, despite its name, it’s not a physical thing, it’s not a recently unearthed discovery from the ancient past, and it’s not a genetic trait that only a few people possess.

So, what is it?

In a nutshell, a Genius Mechanism is a simple, ever-growing, and incredibly useful mind map that is built using a system to collect and review information about a topic, any topic, that you want to learn and master.

Now, I know that’s a mouthful, and maybe not that easy to picture in your mind right away, but in moment, it’ll become clearer to you when I reveal how to create a Genius Mechanism, step-by-step, from scratch. It’s simple, but so awesomely powerful! But first, I’d like to discuss with you some reasons why the ‘system’ you and 98% of the population are probably using right now is, well, so ungenius-like.

Are You Using The Chaos Contraption?

Does this sound like your current method of collecting information:

  • When you read a book, do you underline points, write things in the margin, or maybe dog-ear pages you want to reference?
  • When you attend a seminar, or some other learning event, do you end up with pages and pages of notes that get filed away once you get back home or to the office?
  • When you surf the Web, and you discover some useful information, do you bookmark the page so you can return to it later?

Let me ask you a question: are you familiar with the word chaos?

Well, if you answered yes to most of the questions above, I would say you’re not only familiar with it, but you live it regularly. Yikes!

Here’s what I mean…

If you do a quick search on Google for the meaning of chaos, you’ll find a definition that reads, “a state of extreme confusion and disorder.”

In context of what we’re discussing here, would it be fair to say that all this information you have collected is largely disordered, with pieces over here, and bits over there? As a result, are you really benefiting from it, or do you look at your bookshelf, notebooks, and browser bookmarks and feel a sense of overwhelm and confusion from time-to-time? Especially when you realize that you’re not putting to good use the many, many useful things you’ve learned in the past?

It’s not your fault, really. Unfortunately and ironically, this disjointed, chaotic approach to learning is what most of us were taught in school. But if you want better results for the time you spend learning, you’re going to have to do things a little differently.

The key to changing this nightmare is simple, you need to begin centralizing your collection and organization of information.

Let me show you how to do this; let me show you how to flip the switch and quickly go from chaos to genius.

Introducing The Genius Mechanism

In reality, a Genius Mechanism is the result of two important elements: it’s part mind map, and part mindset. The mind map is the collection and organizing tool that you’re probably familiar with (MindManager), while the mindset is something that is likely new to you.

To help you understand how these two elements come together, let’s build a simple Genius Mechanism right now, based on a fun topic, like owning a dog.

We’ll start by doing a few things you’re probably familiar with doing already. We’ll begin a new mind map in MindManager, save it as Guide To Dogs.mmap, and at the center map, we’ll enter Guide To Dogs, which represents the core idea or topic of this Genius Mechanism:

The next step is to do some simple brainstorming, and add some branches off the central topic that represent some of the major categories of information you think you’ll come across as you continue to build this Genius Mechanism:


You’ll see that some of the initial branches/categories I’ve added include:

  • Choosing
  • General Care
  • Living With
  • Training & Behavior
  • Health
  • Grooming

It’s not important if these aren’t perfect right off the bat. MindManager allows you to easily add, delete, and rearrange them in the future, as needed. All you need initially is a good foundation.

Building Your Genius Mechanism – The Mindset

I’m going to assume that what we’ve done so far isn’t really that new, or earth-shattering to you, especially if you’re an experienced MindManager user. That’s OK, because as I mentioned earlier, the most important part of this process that you need to learn is the mindset.

Here’s what I mean…

Now that you have the basic structure of your Genius Mechanism in place, as you consume information about owning a dog, no matter what the source (books, articles, seminars, etc.) while you can still underline and take notes, your objective should ALWAYS be to recognize and capture any new ideas you discover and add them to your Genius Mechanism mind map about that topic as soon as you can.

The days of underline things, taking notes, and bookmarking Web pages, and then forgetting about them, are over!

From now on, you’re not just casually consuming information, but you’re consciously looking for new thoughts and ideas, and thinking about how to capture them in a short, concise little nugget. Then, it’s off to add them to your mind map.

Let me give you an example.

I just read an article about taking a dog to a dog park and it recommended that I get my dog through the entrance as quickly as possible, because dog park entrances tend to be a prime location for dog fights. Who knew, right?

When I think about this bit of info, especially in relation to my Owning A Dog Genius Mechanism, I realize that this has to do with living with a dog. So I open my mind map file, find the Living With branch, and decide a sub-branch of At The Dog Park would be a good idea, so I add it:


Next, I select this new branch, open the Notes section, and begin a new bulleted list, adding this new thing I’ve learned. I keep it short and sweet:


Now, anytime I learn something new about going to the dog park, I simply add a new bullet point. Or, if I learn something about nail trimming, I’ll add a sub-branch called Nail Trimming to the main Grooming branch, and begin a new bulleted list there:


In this case, I prefer using Notes with bullet points as opposed to more sub-branches because they keep the overall map uncluttered. This way, you can quickly glance at it without being overwhelmed with information, yet click the branch of your choice to review what notes you’ve captured so far.

What you DON’T want to do in this process is copy and paste entire articles or large chunks of paragraphs. You want to keep things simple and concise within a bulleted list. This is a must!

Experiencing The Benefits Of Your Genius Mechanism

Every time you discover a new piece of information to add to your Genius Mechanism, you begin to experience the benefits of having and building it:

  • Instead of mindlessly underlining stuff in a book, writing notes, or bookmarking pages online, you begin to collect information and specific ideas with a well-defined purpose in mind – that of adding it to your mind map.
  • You pause and think about how that new information fits into the ‘bigger picture’ of what you already know – you have to do this in order to know where to plug it into your Genius Mechanism. This simple act is one of the more powerful aspects to this system.
  • Upon opening your Genius Mechanism (mind map file) to add the new information, you instantly see everything you’ve already collected and how it all fits together – it’s like a quick review that you don’t even realize most of the time.
  • The act of manually adding the new information to your Genius Mechanism further burns it into your brain, making it easier to remember and use.

Yes, creating a Genius Mechanism takes a little more effort than what you might be used to, but think about this: is your goal to simply have a large collection of underlined books, notes, etc. all over the place that you can reference at some time in the future, or are you more interested in getting real results from what you learn?

I believe that most people would get 10 times greater results if they spent less time constantly consuming more and more information (as if that’s going to make them smarter), and spent more time doing something useful and purposeful with what they’ve already learned and know (like capturing and organizing it). In other words, choosing quality learning over quantity learning.

On a final note, you’ll notice that this is a slightly different approach than just creating a mind map from a single book or seminar. It’s my opinion that it’s better to have a single, growing, central mind map about a topic that you can regularly add knowledge to, than it is to create separate mind maps of single sources of information, like a book or seminar. in other words, instead of creating a mind map for a book on giving presentations, create a mind map about presentations and add useful ideas from that book to it, along with any other new things you learn about giving presentations in the future. Once again, it’s about choosing quality (a single resource) over quantity (many resources).

So, start your own collection of Genius Mechanisms, beginning today. In just a very short time, I think you’ll be amazed at how much smarter you’ve become! :)

Derek Franklin is a best-selling author, copywriter, consultant, and all-around creative thinker. In addition to using MindManager, Derek has discovered a simple, but effective system for getting things done. Visit the Action Machine page, were he reveals the 3-step process you can begin using immediately to start taking massive action every single day.

26 Responses to “Guest Post – How To Build A ‘Genius Mechanism’ With MindManager”

  1. Ann Ludford Garvey

    I was drawn to this article by another person who was using mind maps. I liked the introduction of mind maps as a “curating” tool. I’ve been using one now thought at “TheBrain” Mind Maps and I am simply loving the concept … It’s helping make sense of my world. Any direction toward using mind maps is good with me. I’ve also tried working through the concept alongside David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” (GTD) It helped me operationalize my/our thinking. We’re going through Google searches and blogs of other people with dissociative identity disorders – not meaning to scare anyone, but by using a mind map – we can start to trace and follow peers so that from my perspective we’re growing in the field together. Takes some time, but thinking it’s a life-long project and worth every moment it takes “figuring” stuff out. Good luck to those here too at Minjet!

  2. cimengse

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  7. DailyGoalSoftware


    As always, a well thought out and well written article.

    I have to confess that I'm not yet a user of MindJet (I still use FreeMind), but this technique may be what makes me go for the more professional product.


  8. Graham Wilson

    Indeed – a nice piece of prose and excellent promotional material for both mindmaps and for your own business. Well done.

    Maurice has, of course though, subtly put his finger on a little glitch, when he suggests that it is valuable to incorporate one's references in such a mindmap and thus be able to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

    Any resemblance between this article and the material that appeared in the 1991 book by Lana Israel entitled “Brain Power for Kids: How to Become an Instant Genius” (ISBN: 9781862992238) will, of course, be purely coincidental.

    Lana Israel, a protege of Tony Buzan when she was 13, went on to gain a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Harvard University and then a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford.

  9. Poopy

    Preaching to the choir, here at

    The “i” in the sentence “in other words, instead of creating a mind map for a book on giving..” needs to be upper-cased.

  10. natehaby

    Great article Derek. I've been wrestling with how to organize ideas I hear or read and to this point have created disjointed lists under a theme or topic–useful in an manner of speaking but definitely not maximizing my learning potential and knowledge retention, whew! This genius mechinism is what I'm looking for, brilliant, thanks man!

  11. Sydney Johnston

    You couldn't have picked anyone better than Derek to write about mindmapping. I'm a sucker for mindmaps and he is, too – which means I've bought several of his products. Mindmapping suits a particular type of mind. It's so much easier to visualize what we're trying to do if we can see it laid out in a visual form. I use mind maps every single day and the Net has made them so easy – unlike the 'old' days of drawing them on paper. Thank you, Tony Buzan!

  12. mauricepoole

    Great advice, Derek, and all so true. I suggest that if possible the raw information should be put on the hard disk, perhaps by scanning in copy, and files attached or reference linked. If the former is possible the bundle can be put together on a different machine. The main essential addition I would make is to include citation, i.e. as part of the Genius Mechanism to record where the information was found. This helps one to check context as well as to extract more information, but if the ultimate result is publication it helps to avoid charges of plagiarism.

  13. ajwilcox

    Derek, a great simple process.

    Adding information in notes has another potential benefit. If you want to share the information with others or even create a personal document which does not need MindManager to view it. Export to Word and the Topics become headings with Notes as paragraphs. Or Export to the Web and the Topics become page titles and the Notes the web page content. If there are no images in the notes the Mindjet Player export will also be useful.

  14. Derek Franklin

    Wow, I really appreciate all the tweets and comments about my little ol' article here. :)

    I can't stress enough how using this simple approach can up the value of virtually every new thing you learn.

    Thanks again to Mindjet for giving me this opportunity, and for creating some rockin' software!

    • Garrett

      We are happy to give you a platform to share these great ideas and techniques. We are in the business of making peoples lives easier through mapping and this is a great example of how to do that.

  15. Doug

    This is classic Derek. Everything he does is always top notch. Wait until you try out The Action Machine — very, very effective yet so simple.

  16. Pete

    Great article! I feel so guilty having all those underlined books & Seminar notes, but I'm beginning to work the way Derek suggests and I'm sure that will be so valuable, especially with learning the info.

  17. Mark McCoid

    I have purchased Derek's Copy writing ‘Genius Mechanism’ and must say that it is very impressive. What a great way to take information and actually make it useful.

    • Garrett

      This was my first introduction to the concept and everyone here at Mindjet who has read it agrees it is a very useful technique.



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