Monday, October 31, 2011

The Lotus Blossom

No, I am not getting poetic on you, nor am I looking to share with you the benefits of yoga poses.  The Lotus Blossom is a Japanese Brainstorming Technique.  This was a technique originally developed by Yasuo Matsumura of Clover Management Research in Japan, and described by Michael Michalko, author of Creative Thinkering and Thinkertoys.
Lotus Blossom Diagram

This technique allows you to organize your thinking around specific themes, which allow you to keep your thinking fluid, allowing shifts in your thinking patterns.  All too often we attempt to brainstorm in far too linear patterns, not keeping ourselves open to alternative directions of thought.  Certainly the benefit of brainstorming in groups is to open yourself to the various possibilities that different minds bring to the table.  But when you are working with the benefits of just one mind, your own, how do you ensure that you are not missing potential pathways of thought by not fully exploring all options?  Yep... the Lotus Blossom.

Like Bubble Diagrams, you start with a central subject and expand it out into different ideas/themes.  In this technique, each of these core themes, representing various petals in the blossom, are expanded themselves to reveal key components or sub themes.  This continues to expand outward, in ever widening circles until each has been fully explored.  By expanding outward in such a way, you ensure that each theme becomes developed fully enough that all alternative possibilities are clear, allowing you to abandon or accept each.

How to:
1.  Write the central problem in the center
2.  List the main themes in the surrounding circles (A to H).  The optimal number of themes for a diagram that doesn't drive you crazy is between 6 and 8.  Consider what your specific objectives are, what the dimensions of the problem are... even... if your subject were a book, what would the chapters headings be?
3.  Each of these ideas in turn break out into forming new petals, generating eight new ideas or applications.
4.  Continue to expanding outward until no other expansion is possible.

The diagram itself allows you to begin to recognise emerging patterns and relationships between themes.  Sometimes, features not previously identified or recognised will emerge, offering new opportunities.  This technique can be applied to any area in which you need to generate new ideas, whether for a project, business issue, job search, or personal dilemma.  If your current brainstorming techniques seem to have stalled, give this one a try, or check out one of Michael's books for some alternative ways of approaching your problems.  It just might be that you just need a new way of approaching your problems to uncover new solutions and answers.

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