Individual Creativity Exercise
Brief description of creativity technique
A mind map constitutes an effective method for generating ideas by the association in a form of diagram, used to visually organize information. It involves writing down a central theme and thinking of new and related ideas which radiate out from the center. By focusing on key ideas written down in your own words and looking for connections between them, you can map knowledge in a way that will help you to better understand and retain information.
Exercise for skills at the level of:
Learning objectives of the exercise
Using the mind mapping technique has lots of advantages that are not limited to creativity. That makes it particularly applicable in higher education. Some of the benefits of using mind mapping are:
improving memory and recall;
Improved ability for structuring information and make connections.
Some additional benefits of mind mapping are that:
It creates a much higher level of engagement among meeting participants. It is natural for our mind when seeing a work in progress to fill in the missing details. This tends to result in a much higher level of engagement by team members.
It enhances the group's ability to do systems-level thinking. Thus, all meeting participants can share a higher level of thinking and understanding. This tends to lead to better ideas and solutions.
It captures a "group memory" or history of what has been discussed in the meeting so far. The visual map radically speeds up the process of getting this late-comer up to speed on what has transpired in the meeting.
Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise
Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity
Others, please specify
Divergent thinking skills
Duration may depend on the complexity of the problem
How many people are needed?
This exercise is effective both in groups and individually
In person: sketch paper, pen/pencil, template, whiteboard
Online: internet access, devices, template
Instructions for conducting the exercise
Step 1: Start with one main concept at the middle of the writing space.
Put the topic, central concept or idea in image form, in the center of an empty page. Beginning in the center you will have enough space for your ideas but it also provides the brain with freedom to move in all directions and reveal ideas/solutions more naturally and freely. Use landscape orientation.
Step 2: Define the structure
Create the fundamental structure with which you would be organizing your ideas. The structure would include branches radiating out from the central idea and drawn as thick lines. There are different mind mapping templates. You may use the one suggested here or just draw your own. It is useful to chose a style that fits you best.
Step 3: Define each branch
Put down a key image/word for each branch as your ideas come. Allow the ideas to flow freely and quickly (long pauses are not to be encouraged) without judgment on whether they are practical or crazy.
Step 4: Highlight the priorities
Use colours to highlight the most important ideas. You may write them in capitals. Use smaller letters for less important ones.
Step 5: Extend your mind map by additional ideas
It is important to add new ideas as they come. Draw lines between similar ideas or find another suitable manner to connect them. Add additional bubbles if you need.
Step 6: Review and revise
After the first attempt, allow your mind to settle. Review it and revise and/or reorder your mind map. Sometimes, a different sheet of paper may be required for this. Additional ideas may also appear in the process of rewriting.
Case study from desk research
Case study 1
The vice president of a light bulb company wanted to increase sales. He wrote “light bulbs” in the middle of a page and connected it with a process, “Lighting” and a system, “4.000 distributors”. He wrote down what came to mind, drew bubbles, and made connections.
The key concepts featured on his initial map were:
1. Attributes of light bulbs: lifespan, lighting, colours, and decoration
2. Markets: industrial, institutional, and retail
3. 4.000 distributors to reach his present markets
4. Energy management to conserve costs
5. “Decoration management”, to enhance lighting quality.
The map became increasingly complex as he worked on it over time and prompted him to think about his business in various new ways. The bubble that produced the final idea was the one containing “energy management”.
The idea: He created an energy management division, which bypassed the distributors and focused on industrial and institutional markets, allowing clients to cut energy costs. As a consequence, the company closed massive orders for light bulbs. He put it this way: “The map led to a cascade of ideas that motivated us to act and create a whole new division”.
Case study 2
An entrepreneur looking for new products mapped out various ideas. The map reminded him of analysis, which reminded him of psychotherapy, which reminded him of Sigmund Freud. He wrote “Sigmund Freud” and drew a bubble around it. The bubble reminded him of a pillow, and that association inspired his idea.
The idea: He’s manufacturing a pillow with Freud’s picture on it, and marketing it as a tool for do-it-yourself analysis.