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The way we approach solving our organizations problems can vary in many ways. We can use different techniques in facilitating discussion, conducting an exercise, brainstorming, gathering data and presenting our analysis. The brainstorming techniques presented in this article are but three of the possible techniques that can be used to better assist organizations in generating innovative exercises, but also in creating solutions to general problems organizations face.
Innovation is not about thinking about new ideas, but rather it is about thinking about ideas differently. Using creative brainstorming techniques helps both the consultant and client “think about different ideas” through divergent and convergent thinking. Through divergent thinking, consultants look across all fields or disciplines in order to generate ideas to solve a problem. In contrast, convergent thinking involves defining a set of questions to address a main issue and then compiling all of the relevant information, research, and techniques to answer those questions. Divergent and convergent thinking aims to generate as many diverse ideas as possible during a non-judgmental and free-flowing open discussion. Then by sorting the ideas into categories summarizing key points, consultants can agree on which ideas work best to solve the problem. Brainstorming techniques provide the framework for productive thought process mapping amongst team members. Consultants should use these techniques to steer away from “single idea, single solution” thinking and toward a more expansive and diverse thought process. These techniques are applicable in a wide range of venues from understanding a problem better, determining a type of exercise to address a need, to even developing exercise scenarios.
The three techniques that can help drive this concept are Mind Mapping, the Lotus Blossom (a close rendition of mind mapping), and Six Thinking Hats. Each technique has its own method, purpose, and process to facilitate brainstorming better ideas.
“Innovation is not about thinking about new ideas, but rather it is about thinking about ideas differently.”
Mind Maps are simple yet powerful tools for creative problem solving. Mind Mapping is a non-linear technique of organizing information and capturing the natural flow of thoughts and ideas. The resultant maps, as shown in the example to the right, allow people to visualize the intricate relationships between ideas, issues, solutions, and applications.
The Lotus Blossom technique, created by Yasuo Matsumura, is a structured mind map. As shown on the right, the central idea, problem, or issue that is being discussed is written in the center of the lotus blossom diagram. Participants brainstorm related ideas, issues, solutions, and applications, which are captured in the surrounding eight circles. Each of these eight ideas then becomes the center of a new lotus blossom. This process continues until all participants are able to provide their input and the team is able to look at as many solutions, approaches, issues, and applications related to the initial idea as possible.
The final technique, Six Thinking Hats, was developed by Edward de Bono to represent six modes of thinking. The Six Thinking Hats are directions for how to think, rather than labels for thinking proactively. This method promotes more robust input from people by facilitating different ways of thinking about a topic while brainstorming. The key theoretical reason to use the Six Thinking Hats is to encourage parallel and full-spectrum thinking and to separate ego from performance.
When choosing which technique to use to help address a problem it is important to take into consideration the personalities and working relationships of the parties involved. Consider using one of these brainstorming techniques in your next meeting to maximize time and effort in generating innovative solutions.