PROFILE INTERVIEW – can be
used in whole or part as required
MIND MAPPING THE WORLD
Can anyone be a genius? According to TONY
BUZAN everyone has the capacity for genius.
Forty years after he first introduced his
revolutionary learning and creative technique, the
MindMap®, Buzan is on a mission to make the
world ‘Mentally Literate’. But who is the man
behind the mission?
Google ‘Tony Buzan’ and more than half a million pages of information appear. For
‘Mind Map’ the results are an astonishing 1.2 million pages - but this is still no more
than a mere hint of the popularity and global reach of the Mind Map concept - and
the empire that Tony Buzan has created around his inspirational learning tool, which
has been seen by over two billion people worldwide, and which has already been
used by hundreds of millions. It has been calculated that every second of every day,
someone somewhere in the world is creating a Mind Map!
In schools, colleges, businesses and
homes from Chile to China, Canada to
Croatia, people of all ages,
backgrounds and ability now use Mind
Maps to learn, memorise, plan, think
and create. It is a mind-expanding
technique that, once learned, has the
capacity to change lives, Buzan says:
“People can be successful using only
10% of the cognitive potential of their brains. Mind Mapping is capable of unleashing
the power of the other 90% and tapping into latent genius. When people look back
on how they were operating before they learned to Mind Map, they say it is as if they
were working in the dark using the wrong tools.”
Who is Tony Buzan?
Regularly billed as ‘the world’s leading author on the brain and learning’, Buzan has
devoted most of his working life to promoting Mental Literacy - teaching people how
to learn and how to use their brains effectively. He has been called ‘the greatest
thinker since Aristotle’ by Chess Grand Master, Raymond Keene OBE, the London
Times Mind Sports journalist.
Revenues from his activities, global book sales and the Buzan Centres Worldwide,
where Mind Mapping and other learning techniques are taught by Licensed
Instructors, are estimated to be over £100 million.
Now in his super-energetic early sixties, Tony travels for at least eight months of the
year, and has already visited 73 countries. He is the author or co-author of over 90
books, now translated into 33 languages and sold in over 150 countries. His daily
diary is packed with back-to-back meetings, interviews and lectures, yet he has time
to conceptualise and write new books, develop new Mind Map products and host the
annual national and World Memory Championships, which he founded.
At an age when many are attempting to stave off a slow decline into mental fuzziness
by a daily dose of Sudoku, Buzan is stylish and energetic. His mind is obviously
sharp as a tack, his conversation focused, his recall startlingly clear. When asked
about his life and his life’s work, names and dates, facts and figures trip off his
tongue with a freshness that makes it seem as if it all happened just hours ago.
In spite of the many calls on his time and resources as the head of a global empire,
he remains calm, unfailingly charming and surprisingly modest, musing Zen-like on a
game of chess in which his opponent beat him with such exquisite play that he felt it
an honour to have been shown chess at another level.
Buzan lives and works in a quiet part of Buckinghamshire, just a few metres from the
river Thames. He finds being close to water necessary to his creativity.
His house is modern and comfortable but far from
ostentatious, the Mercedes in the drive is 18 years old – a
clue to the fact that what fuels Tony Buzan is not money.
The majority of his earnings are reinvested in the business,
furthering the cause of Mental Literacy throughout the world.
Several early experiences of great significance shaped this philosophy. He recounts
an often-told story of childhood which sparked his curiosity about learning and the
brain. At Whitstable Boys School in the 1950s, Buzan and his pal Barry were
inseparable, drawn together by a common love of nature and, in Barry’s case, an
encyclopaedic knowledge of animal species and their habits.
The boys were split up when streaming was introduced in the school, Tony in the top
level, Barry in the lowest. “I was bemused and angry. Barry was patently as clever as
I, and far better at anything to do with nature” he says. The slight was compounded
when Buzan got top marks in a test on nature. “It was about a subject I loved – the
questions were so easy they seemed irrelevant. But suddenly I was top of the top
set, having succeeded in a subject where I was patently aware that Barry knew far
more than me.”
A shock realisation hit him. He had succeeded in that test because he was able to put
over his passion for the subject. Mummery and Epps, the two top boys, were
succeeding because they loved all the subjects. Barry seemed as clever to Tony
because of his love of nature, but the shock of realising that he was Number One at
the expense of his best friend, who could not demonstrate that passion as well as he
could, was mortifying.
“Passion for the subject is the fundamental motivator in learning, I realised. You have
to have passion to concentrate and focus. Add that to a detailed knowledge of
different learning tools, and you have the capacity to unleash genius’ says Tony.
It was at the University of British Columbia in Canada, where his parents had
emigrated during the 50s, that Buzan first developed the Mind Map concept. Having
considered in turn – and dismissed as career choices - entomologist, vet, zoologist
and ethologist, he chose to study psychology and human behaviour. Struggling to
remember everything for exams, another realisation dawned. While assiduously
reading through copious lecture notes and underlining keywords, he perceived he
was picking out only about 10% of the information. The remaining 90% was
practically useless to him. By trying to learn everything, he was wasting 90% of his
It was an exciting journey from that light-bulb moment to developing a paper-and-
pen representation of each subject, each key point branching out from a central idea,
sub-divided and colour-coded to show logical associations, illustrated with images to
‘fix’ them in the memory. Pages of notes could be distilled on to a single sheet - and
he could remember everything that was relevant. The Mind Map was born.
A million million jabbering neurons…
The science behind Mind Maps is complex, even though the process of creating one
seems simple. Mind Maps work because they are expressed in the language of the
brain, as a sort of ‘explosion’ of thoughts, ideas and emotions that fill the mind day
and night. “Brains do not work in a straight line, monochromatic, verbal way,” says
Tony, “but that is usually how students are taught. The result is messy, difficult and
Buzan likens the Mind Map to a supernova, a bright star which explodes into new
patterns of visible light we can only see after the explosion has taken place. The
thought process is a series of similar explosions. Captured on paper using the rules
of Mind Mapping, the explosion becomes a snapshot of the brain’s thinking. However,
the information and ideas that have been generated are contained, ordered and
“This is the framework and the fundamental architecture of thought,” he explains.
“Each node in the Mind Map will contain a potential explosion of its own, so that one
branch with a keyword will trigger many others.”
With his brother Barry Buzan (now Professor of International Relations at the London
School of Economics) Tony devised the Mind Mapping rules that are taught today.
Together, they studied the Radiant Thinking processes of the brain, and the note-
taking techniques of the great philosophers and artists – da Vinci, Newton, Blake,
Darwin, and Einstein.
The first rule is the use of a central key idea and its associated image. Flowing lines
from the centre contain key words – each line has a single key word and the lines are
thicker near the central image, becoming thinner as they radiate out. The Mind Map
must be kept clear by the use of hierarchy, numerical order and outlines. Buzan
strongly advises that the rules must be followed. “If they’re not, you will restrict your
potential” he warns.
Crucially, a Mind Map must also have colour, symbols and images. “From birth,
humans think in images” explains Tony. ‘If I say the word ‘apple’, what comes to
mind? Not the word itself, but a picture of an apple. The brain associates ideas with
images and colours and remembers concepts better when these elements are
He has proved this theory many times through his mnemonic and image association
memory techniques. Indeed, the Grand Masters at the World Memory Championships
use an image ‘map’ to remember everything from the random sequence of a pack of
cards to Pi to over 20,000 places.
Education, education, education
Newcomers to Mind Mapping are often daunted at the requirement to draw images,
says Tony, but even the most hesitant will soon overcome their shyness and really
get into it. They rediscover a childlike fascination with pictures and colouring –
something they probably had bludgeoned out of them at primary school.
“In Mind Map terms, children can teach us a lot. They are persistent, energetic and
can solve problems with more originality and flexibility than adults.” Tony teaches
children the world over – in settings from schools to theatres to embassies.
Famously, during April 2005, he taught Mind Mapping to 9,000 children in two
sittings in the Royal Albert Hall.
He gained considerable credibility among his peers when he put his reputation on the
line in a recent programme for the BBC. In “In Search of Genius”, he went back to
his teaching roots to work with six ‘failing’ children in a south London school. Over
the course of just a few weeks, the children responded well to his one-to-one
attention. They started to achieve in class, gained self-esteem and turned their
behaviour from appalling to model. They also dramatically increased their mental
and intelligence skills.
“Humans are hard-wired to learn. Everyone wants to be bright, to be loved, to be
successful. The programme proved that no child is ever a lost cause.”
Indeed, as Vivian Hill, Director of Professional Education Psychology, Institute of
Education, University of London said, had she not known the process, she would have
assumed that the ‘before’ and ‘after’ cognitive profiles were those of completely
different children. The BBC declared this to be a unique social experiment.
Mind Mapping for everyone
Anyone can learn to Mind Map – men and women, children and adults, from any walk
of life. The Buzan Centres Worldwide run courses for the public, as well as in-house
training for businesses. There is an apparently insatiable appetite to learn the
technique - and courses are heavily subscribed.
“We have attracted everyone from housewives, professors, labourers, dentists, the
unemployed, creatives, mathematicians, dyslexics and autistic people. For some it is
their last hope, others have seen a work colleague move up as a result of learning
Mind Mapping and they want to do the same, children want to do better at school,
others are just overloaded with information and want help to manage it.”
Through a rapidly-growing network, Buzan Centres Worldwide is, through its licensed
instructors, teaching millions of people Buzan’s Mind Mapping and Mental Literacy
techniques. The teaching is rigorously monitored to maintain its high standards.
Teachers have also to show that they have accomplished something in their lives
before becoming a Buzan Centre Instructor – for example, gained a degree, won a
senior sports medal, or done something amazing for charity. Buzan is clear about this
stricture: “We are giving people an operations manual for the brain, teaching them
how the brain learns rapidly and naturally. We need to rely on our teachers to get it
right. Otherwise, it would be like asking someone to fly Concorde who has never
qualified as a pilot.
The world’s major corporations engage Buzan himself to teach Mind Mapping and
brain enhancement techniques to their executives. IBM and BP were amongst the
first to realise the potential of the learning technique. Now Buzan counts among his
clients Oracle, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Apple, Reckitt Benckiser and many of the
world’s leading banks.
iMindMap – the world’s only official Mind Mapping software
The natural progression for Mind Map is undoubtedly the internet. Cue iMindMap, the
downloadable programme that creates Mind Maps on screen, colour coded and fully
illustrated. Since it was announced on the Buzan World website
(www.buzanworld.com) in December 2006, over 100,000 visitors from 120 countries
have sampled the trial package – with many users giving useful feedback. The
downloadable software ‘launched’ officially in May of this year – with an ‘over-the-
counter’ version planned for introduction pre-Christmas 2007.
The programme was developed by Tony in collaboration with educationalist, Chris
Griffiths - no stranger to technology himself, having set up his first software company
aged just 16. He and his team of specialists from all over the world have spent years
perfecting, with The Buzan Organisation, the iMindMap software which they knew had
to be as intuitive and as user-friendly as Tony’s original, paper-based Mind Map.
Indeed, the online Mind Map is easy to
create and develop, in exactly the same
way as the paper version is. Each Mind Map
can be saved and revisited, expanded and
changed – it’s a fantastic way for students
to remember lecture notes, or for
businesses to brainstorm new concepts, for
Tony’s proven theories have been recognised by no less a thinker and innovator than
Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, who in his article The Road Ahead – How Mind
Mappers are taking our information democracy to the next stage (Newsweek Issues, 2006)
states: "A new generation of Mind Mapping software can also be used as a digital
'blank slate' to help connect and synthesize ideas and data – and ultimately create
The never-ending story
There are no limits to how Mind Mapping can be applied. Tony himself Mind Maps
each element of his day first thing in the morning. He utilises the technique to plan
meetings (and uses it again for the minutes, afterwards) – plus his lectures, books,
media interviews, dinner parties, shopping lists – the possibilities for anyone’s
personal use are many and varied.
Tony even uses Mind Maps when writing poetry, a life-long pursuit that has seen the
publication of four volumes, the most recent being a paean to Concorde, and the
other a requiem to one of his best friends, the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes OBE.
“The Mind Map allows me to see the whole poem structurally, then I can drill down
into the precise expression of ideas” he explains.
Art is also a passion. The floor of his living room is
scattered with brightly-coloured paintings and etchings
by the highly acclaimed Australian artist, Lorraine Gill,
for whom he is mounting a major exhibition. In the
adjoining room - lined with scatter-cushions - chess, Go
and dama boards are laid out ready to play.
Buzan also rows, runs and swims long distance. He is an
expert in Aikido, and was awarded an honorary black
belt for his knowledge and application of the martial art
to life and philosophy.
And just when you think he has exhausted his list of achievements, he reveals that
he was once a dance teacher (ballroom, rock and roll and freestyle), and that he
loves all forms of music, from classical and world music to the latest pop bands.
Tony Buzan lives his philosophy. Mental Literacy is more than just a marketing
challenge (or, indeed, a marketing tool). It is his life’s work. And the boy who loved
nature and agonised over his friend Barry is never far from the surface. “I’m not
confused any more, but I’m still angry about what happened to him and others like
him. I’ll keep fighting for the right of every child and adult to learn how to learn -
and to have the proper ‘operations manual’ - for the use and development of their
own remarkable brains.”
WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU!
For more information on any aspect of The Buzan Organisation, for high res.
versions of the illustrations included in this release, to organise an EMAIL Q&A,
quotes or an INTERVIEW with Tony Buzan…
Or for a REVIEW COPY of either of Tony’s latest books - Age-proof Your Brain
(£12.99 from Harper Thorsons) or The Study Skills Handbook (£12.99 from BBC
Active), please contact: Ms Ray Hodges at HPS-PR
Direct Line: 01628 894793
You can also download (for free trial) Tony’s new iMindMap software
(launched May) by visiting the www.buzanworld.com site