Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 120 - August 2015 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,157 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book ‘Brilliant Speed Reading’.

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Welcome to the August issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we consider the use of colour in Mind Maps. Also in this issue, News on the upcoming UK Open Memory Championships and our regular features of Mind Map Tip, Quote of the month and What I’m up to.


August's Quote of the Month

"With colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft."

~ Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

More quotes here


Mind Map Tips of the Month

Use at least three colours for your central image. This draws attention to it and aids recall and creativity.

“101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps” is now available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon and in ePub format on Apple iBooks (Search for Phil Chambers).

What's Phil Up To?

New York Delegates

I am back from a hectic two weeks. Training new instructors in Mind Mapping in New York solo and in Henley-on-Thames with Tony Buzan. It is always rewarding to see people ‘get it’ and improve their skills over the course of four days.

I am currently preparing the materials for the UK Open Memory Championships that I will be co-running at the end of the month see preview below.

In the first week of September I am off to Frankfurt to present a Speed Reading seminar for the European Central Bank.



UK Open Memory Championships Preview


Competitors from 12 countries will gather at London’s premier French Restaurant, L’Escargot on 27th and 28th August for the 9th UK Open Memory Championships. Based on World Rankings Ben Pridmore (above) is favourite to retain the title of UK Memory Champion although Marlo Knight is also a serious contender, especially given Ben’s poor form in the 2014 World Championships (30th place). In the open competition Germany’s Simon Reinhard is most likely to win but Yanja Altansuh from Sweden and Nelson Dellis from USA are in with a chance. It promises to be an exciting competition.

If you would like to attend as a volunteer Arbiter and get a behind the scenes view of the competition please contact me.


What's The Point Of Colour?

blue ensign flag

As I was sitting admiring the river Thames at Henley Business school on my ‘day off’ before co-presenting the ThinkBuzan Mind Map Licensed instructor course with Tony Buzan. I noticed that most of the river cruisers were flying the familiar red ensign (a Union flag in the upper corner on a red background). However some had a blue background instead. It turns out red is for conventional civilian vessels and blue is reserved by the Admiralty for masters of vessels in possession of a warrant issued by the Director of Naval Reserves, and for members of certain long-established clubs, such as the Royal Thames Yacht Club. This led me to think about the topic of this article – The reasons for using colour in Mind Maps.

Our eyes and brains have evolved to recognise certain frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum that we call colours. This is not ubiquitous in the animal kingdom. Bees can see ultra-violet light whilst most cats can only detect a little colour. Cats have better night vision than humans and superb depth perception for hunting. There must therefore be some evolutionary advantage conferred on humans to have retained and developed colour vision.

It is a common misconception that colour is simply used on Mind Maps to make them look pretty. It us an unnecessary frivolity for kids and has no place in serious business. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are myriad reasons to use colour. Here are my top five:

1) It aids clarity and conveys meaning.

Colour helps us to discern differences and thus extract meaning. Try to navigate the London Underground using a black and white map and you will struggle. Using a different colour for each tube line makes it far easier to see the interconnections and simply follow what is a very complex diagram.

2) It promotes creativity.

Colour stimulates the right side of the brain. Creativity is born form the interplay between right and left. A single colour (or mono-tone) leads to monotony and boredom. What does your brain do when it is bored? It shuts down, tunes out and goes to sleep. Even if you manage to stay awake your mind wonders off in search of stimulation elsewhere.

3) It can be used to code extra information.

Colour-coding is very useful as it allows you to add extra information without the need for additional words that could potentially clutter a complex Mind Map. Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” In a meeting context you could make all action points red or assign each person a colour to track their contribution. Edward deBono uses colours to segment types of thinking with his ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique listed below. The same approach can be used on a Mind Map.

Red = Emotion / gut feel,
White = Data,
Green = Lateral or creative ideas,
Yellow = Positive reasons why something will work,
Black = Potential problems,
Blue = Summary for action.

4) It helps to chunk related ideas.

Chunking is a natural memory system. Ask anyone a phone number and they will nearly always give it to you in blocks of three or four digits. These are ‘chunks’ of information. Our working memory can hold between five and nine pieces of data concurrently before we get overloaded. A phone number typically consists of 11 digits. Considered one-at-a-time this is far too many to remember. By grouping the digits together the number only takes up three or four ‘slots’ and is much more manageable. If you have less than nine main branches on your mind map, typically 7, and use one colour per set of branches you are achieving the same strategy of grouping data into manageable chunks.

5) It can be used to highlight important points.

Using a different colour from that which predominates on a branch is a great way of drawing attention to salient points. This also improves memory by creating a “von Resforff effect” (named after the female, German psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff 1906–1962). This predicts that an item which stands out from its surrounding context (called distinctive encoding) is more likely to be remembered than other items. It is a bias in favour of remembering the unusual or imaginative.

That’s all for this month. Watch out for the next issue in September.

Best Wishes