Figuring out what's related

When mind mapping it can be a challenge to figure out what's related to your central idea. For example, if you start with your question or challenge in the middle, the next step is to figure out what branches are relevant. It's a similar problem we face in testing - if you have a question about the product (for example: "How will it behave under stress?") you have to figure out what aspects of the product or your testing relate to that questions (for the stress example: performance, basic functionality, security, batch processing, realtime processing, etc...). This is why I know many testers who do mind mapping, it exercises the same muscles we use every day as testers.

So how do I figure out what's related to my central idea? I think I use the following guidelines:

  • What similar questions or problems have I solved in the past? (Might branch to other questions or problems...)

  • What might I need to know to answer the question or understand the problem? (Might branch to areas of study, specific books or websites, or abstract research topics...)

  • What tools or data might I need to be able to solve the problem or answer the question? (Might branch to software tools, sets of data, or other key resources I'll need access to...)

  • What might I need to do to answer the question or better understand the problem? (With this one I'll list verbs... these might be labels on branches to other items...)

  • What results will I need? How will I know I'm done answering the question or solving the problem? (Here I'll list out what success looks like, or completion criteria...)

  • How do various elements I've drawn affect other elements? (Here I'll draw connections and show positive or negative correlations between elements I've drawn... sometimes that helps me uncover something I've missed...)

How do you figure out what's related to your central idea?