Chic Thompson, in his new book, What a Great Idea 2.0: Unlocking Your Creativity in Business and in Life, devotes an entire chapter to idea mapping and how to get more out of it. One of the techniques he highlights is utilizing a series of trigger words or phrases to help you improve your effectiveness using mind maps for problem solving. Because mind mapping is based upon leveraging the mind’s powerful associative capabilities, I think this technique is particularly useful.
In Thompson’s vernacular, a trigger word is the central word or concept that the middle of your mind map. He encourages the reader to generate several mind maps utilizing the following trigger words or phrases:
When solved… This phrase refers to a desirable future state, and helps your mind to a picture what your situation will look like when the problem is solved. You can then make some inferences about the steps that you need to take to get there.
Comes from… This phrase is designed to help you to get to the root of your problem by identifying symptoms, which are the result of underlying causes. Don’t be surprised if this map doesn’t generate a lot of killer ideas, warns Thompson. But it should give you a better understanding of your problem, challenge or current situation. And that is indeed a valuable thing!
Metaphorical trigger word: To gain a different perspective on your problem, Thompson recommends utilizing a metaphor or simile to reframe your thinking. To select an appropriate metaphor or simile, ask yourself, “my current challenge is like…” This should help your mind to break loose some fresh ideas and insights.
Opposite trigger word: As Thompson points out, you can often figure out what something is by exploring what it is not. Instead of putting your problem at the center of your mind map, write down or type in its opposite, and then brainstorm around that.
Random trigger word: To give you yet another perspective on your problem, use place a random trigger word at the center of your mind map. You can generate one of these words in the following way: Go to the dictionary, turn to a page at random and blindly point to a word. Use that word as your trigger word. If you don’t have access to a dictionary, take a walk, and look for things that catch your eye. Use the first one of those as your trigger word.
Good luck trying out this intriguing set of creative problem-solving techniques! If you do all five of them, you should end up with five new perspectives on your challenge, which should put you much closer to brainstorming a breakthrough solution to it!