One of the most valuable skills in today’s complex, ambiguous world of accelerating change is problem-solving. It’s rarely taught in school but is vital to your success. It’s also a key element of creativity.
Not surprisingly, visual thinking tools like mind maps and diagrams can help you cut your challenges down to size, achieve clarity and generate high-value solutions to them.
Here are 9 mind maps and diagrams that can help you creatively define and solve your most vexing problems:
Mind mapping software can help, because it acts like a prism, separating a major task or challenge into its component parts and enabling you to see the relationships between them, so you can more effectively develop creative solutions to address it. To subdivide the components of your task or challenge, ask yourself questions that begin with the famous “5 W’s”: who, what, when, where and why.
Fishbone diagrams, also known as cause and effect or Ishikawa diagrams, are useful for determining the root cause of a problem or challenge. They are especially useful during the problem definition segment of brainstorming sessions, where they helps individuals and teams to deconstruct problems and challenges.
A “force field analysis” is a little-known but powerful creative problem-solving technique that can help you to deconstruct your current challenge into its strengths and weaknesses in – and to focus on those that will help you ensure a successful outcome. Force field analysis gives you a visual way to better understand your challenges and visualize these forces at work, so you can brainstorm ways to minimize your weaknesses, build upon your strengths – or add new positive skills or conditions to better counterbalance your weaknesses.
One skill you ought to cultivate if you want to be more creative is deconstructing challenges and situations into their elements. In so doing, you will inevitably reveal the bits and pieces that may be turned to creative advantage. A mind map is the perfect medium for breaking bigger elements down into smaller ones – while also revealing the relationships between them.
To help us solve our biggest challenges, my friend Stephen Shapiro has written a marvelous book called Invisible Solutions. It outlines 25 mental filters or “lenses” that can help us systematically frame our problems, challenges and opportunities and release our best thinking. I’ve created a mind map that lists each of them, along with questions to help you think creatively about them.
Have you ever been stumped by a creative challenge? It seems like your muse has flown away. Your creative well is dry. Maybe you just need to whack yourself upside the head, figuratively speaking. Maybe you just need to look at your challenge from a new, creative perspective. This technique gives you permission to REALLY throw off your creative blinders and create a “board” of remarkable thinkers to help you whack YOUR thinking!
During the last several decades, one of the most widely used and successful brainstorming techniques has been SCAMPER. Its name is a mnemonic for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify/Minify, Put to other uses, Eliminate and Reverse/Rearrange. The reason it is so popular is because it forces you to look at challenges or problems from a variety of creative perspectives. I’ve adapted it into a mind map – with over 200 creative prompts to jump-start your thinking in new directions!
A popular perception about creativity is that it’s random and uncontrollable. Terms like “a flash of insight,” “a bolt from the blue” and the iconic “A-ha!” support this notion. Writers and artists speak of a fickle creative “muse” that ebbs and flows unpredictably. A more reliable way to be consistently creative is to adopt a proven process for ideation and creative problem-solving, like this proven 5-step process – which I adapted into a mind map.
This mind map template contains 8 thought-provoking questions that you can use to help you with personal problem-solving – better defining problems and then brainstorming solutions for them. These questions have a lot of value for personal problem solving. And the mind map format is perfect for divergent thinking.
What problems will you solve?
Armed with this toolkit of visual creative problem-solving techniques, what challenges will you tackle?