How to use mind maps to “zoom in” and solve your creative challenges

Mind mapping attributes for creative problem solving

I recently came across an article that suggests that to be creative, we must get good at deconstructing challenges and situations into their elements. In so doing, we will reveal the bits and pieces that may be turned to creative advantage. Here’s how the author explains it:

“To get good at creativity, you’re going to have to cultivate the ability to pay attention to details. We talk about ‘close reading’ frequently in literature, art history, and architectural criticism—it’s the process of looking at a single work incredibly carefully. Imagine looking at a few hundred words of a novel and examining it for context, tone, literary references, structure, intent, etc. In a way, for the moment, we treat those few hundred words as more valuable and with more intensity than the entire novel itself. We treat details of problems with the same level of regard and intensity when we’re being creative.”

It’s sort of like peeling away the layers of an onion. And this kind of deconstruction is exactly the kind of thing that mind mapping – by hand or with software – is incredibly good at. One way to do this is by dividing your creative problem or challenge into its attributes and arranging them in a mind map, similar to the one shown above. Once you’ve done this you can think about each one separately, and think of ways to change or improve it. One advantage of utilizing a mind map for listing attributes is its strength in the area of word association. As you record the attributes of your challenge, you’ll discover that your brain is generating other related keywords. Record those, too.

Once you have finished recording and organizing the attributes of your problem or challenge, think about each one separately, and think of ways to change or improve it. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • How else can this be accomplished?
  • Why does this have to be this way?

The article describes this process of deconstruction as “zooming in” on your challenge, and usually helps you to generate the ideas and insights you need to solve the problem:

“Creativity is hinged on a cultivated ability to examine the components of any problem or information set. A close reading of all the details of a situation is what ultimately yields the creative connection that offers a solution or new insight. Are you dismissing seemingly ho-hum details, those seemingly single strands that are actually made up of thousands of layers, and missing the ultimate creative connection you’re seeking?”

The next time you’re faced with a creative challenge, instead of just jumping into generating potential solutions, why not invest some time deconstructing it – to ensure that you have an accurate understanding of the problem you need to solve, first of all, but also to reveal the elements that will ultimately lead to even better ideas and solutions?


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