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Aug 12, 2015

Rediscovering the Webbing Technique


You may have heard about a visual thinking technique called "Webbing", also called "Clustering". 
This technique is not derived from Mind Mapping. The first uses of the Webbing technique bring us back to the 18th century in Europe. As shown in the image below about mythology dating from 1741. 

This technique involves entering key words or short phrases in bubbles. They are connected to one another around a center, which is the main subject.
No, or very few, colors or images. The tool is simple, it helps to organize ideas in a visual way and to get a synthetic map
The first publication explaining how to use this technique, "Writing the natural way" was written by Dr. Gabriele Rico, a professor of English and Creative Arts during the eighties. Focusing on creativity, split-brain research, and the writing process, she developed clustering in her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University in 1976. 
A tool used recently for culinary innovation
More recently, in Spain, "El Bulli", one of the world most famous restaurants, has implemented the Webbing technique.  For several years, the chef Ferran Adriá and product designer Luki Hubber encouraged the use of Webbing. A large amount of Web Maps were created  to explore new recipes, flavors... in a collaborative way.  The technique was part of the innovation process of the restaurant.    
The result of these experiment is a new  methodology called "Manual Thinking", where the bubbles are materialized by removable labels we can place on a foldable blank map.  Manual Thinking allows all members of a team to be at work at once, writing and drawing their ideas and opinions on these labels. The maps offer a large support to organize the labels and visualize the content in its context.  
Here are below a Web map I built using this method:
Click on image to enlarge
 The Webbing technique is intuitive and less restrictive than mind mapping but also poorer in its visual rendering.
It is used by the largest number in multiple situations: brainstorming, note taking, meeting, team work, learning ...


We can also discover the use of Web maps with the famous Canadian sommelier François Chartier in his book "Taste Buds and Molecules" , as shown in the Web map below.



This is a simple way to represent the ideas in a non-linear and divergent manner. In  my opinion, the Webbing technique represents also a useful step to then access to more complex tools such as Mind Mapping or Concept Mapping. For these reasons we make us of the Webbing Technique during the first part of our Visual Mapping workshops in Paris and Madrid.

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