Just like how letters are used in words, this new visual language requires the user to interpret arbitrary symbols of creative thinking processes.
The divergent process of coming up with ideas using non-judicial methods.
The convergent process of reducing all the many ideas into realistic solutions.
Schemes and techniques which look at the overall process from start to finish.
Including problem analysis techniques, redefinition to define the problem.
CLASSIC BRAINSTORMINGRead More
- Arrange the meeting for a group of the right size and makeup (typically 4-8 people)
- Write the initial topic on a flipboard, whiteboard or other system where everyone can see it. The better defined, and more clearly stated the problem, the better the session tends to be.
- Make sure that everyone understands the problem or issue
- Review the ground rules
- Avoid criticising ideas / suspend judgement. All ideas are as valid as each other
- Lots, Lots & Lots – a large number of ideas is the aim, if you limit the number of ideas people will start to judge the ideas and only put in their ‘best’ or more often than not, the least radical and new.
- Free-wheeling. Don’t censor any ideas, keep the meeting flow going.
- Listen to other ideas, and try to piggy back on them to other ideas.
- Avoid any discussion of ideas or questions, as these stop the flow of ideas.
- Have someone facilitating to enforce the rules and write down all the ideas as they occur (the scribe can be a second person)
- Generate ideas – either in an unstructured way (anyone can say an idea at any time) or structure (going round the table, allowing people to pass if they have no new ideas).
- Clarify and conclude the session. Ideas that are identical can be combined, all others should be kept. It is useful to get a consensus of which ideas should be looked at further or what the next action and timescale is.
RAWLINSON BSRead More
Rawlinson Brainstorming is useful variant of Brainstorming for untrained groups because there is no interaction between group members, all ideas are directed towards the facilitator/scribe
- the problem owner simply describes in a headline the problem, he then gives simple background on routes he has tried and have failed, and what would represent an ideal solution
- the resource (i.e…. all other participants) are invited to have a creative warm-up session and then offer solutions to the problem as two-word descriptors
- the problem owner focuses on those ideas that give him new viewpoints
TRIGGER SESSIONRead More
Trigger Sessions are a good way of getting lots of ideas down from untrained resources.
- The Problem owner defines the problem
- Each member of group writes down his ideas in shorthand (2 minutes only)
- One member reads out his list – others silently cross out ideas read out and write down “Hitch-hiked ”ideas
- The second member reads out his list of ideas not already covered, followed in turn by other members
- The last member reads out his original list and his “Hitch-hiked” list and procedure is repeated counter current (ie, if there are 6 folk, the order goes 1,2,3,4,5,6,5,4,3,2,1,2,3,4,5,6…)
A good group will be able to manage seven passes. Everyones paper is then collected and can be typed up into a single list of ideas – all duplicates should have been crossed out during the session.
BrainWriting is a technique similar to Brainstorming and Trigger Sessions. There are many varieties, but the general process is that all ideas are recorded by the individual who thought of them. They are then passed on to the next person who uses them as a trigger for their own ideas. Examples of this include;
Each person, using Post-it notes or small cards, writes down ideas, and places them in the centre of the table. Everyone is free to pull out one or more of these ideas for inspiration. Team members can create new ideas, variations or piggyback on existing ideas.
The name Brainwriting 6-3-5 comes from the process of having 6 people write 3 ideas in 5 minutes. Each person has a blank 6-3-5 worksheet (below)
|Problem Statement: How to…|
|Idea 1||Idea 2||Idea 3|
Everyone writes the problem statement at the top of their worksheet (word for word from an agreed problem definition). They then write 3 ideas on the top row of the worksheet in 5 minutes in a complete and concise sentence (6-10 words). At the end of 5 minutes (or when everyone has finished writing) pass the worksheet to the person on your right. You then add three more ideas. The process continues until the worksheet is completed.
There will now be a total of 108 ideas on the 6 worksheets. These can now be assessed.
Idea Card Method
Each person, using Post-it notes or small cards, writes down ideas, and places them next to the person on his or her right. Each person draws a card from there neighbours pile as needed for inspiration. Once the idea has been used, it is passed on to the person on the right along with any new, variations or piggybacked ideas. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
This method is set in the form of a light-hearted competitive game. Creativity methods normally avoid competition because it tends to be divisive. However, as long as the game atmosphere is fun rather than overly competitive, and the facilitator ensures that there are no significant losers, the game format might be useful, particularly in training contexts where winning and losing are likely to be less of an issue and both can be used to provide teaching material.
The game will take a little longer than some other brainwriting techniques. Very little facilitation skill is needed. The structure is as follows:
- Display the problem statement, and explain that the winner of the game is the one who devises the most unlikely solution.
- The facilitator sells each group member an agreed number (say 10) of blank, serially numbered cards at, say, 10p each, pooling the money to form the prize. Each group member signs a receipt that records the serial numbers of their set of cards.
- Members try to think of utterly implausible solutions, writing one per card. The cards are then put up on a display board.
- Members now have (say) 15 minutes to silently read all the solutions, and to append to them (on further un-numbered cards or Post-its) ways in which they could be converted into a more practical way of solving the problem (so reducing that ideas’ chances of winning).
- Each member then has two votes (e.g. two sticky stars) to vote for what s/he now considers to be the most improbable idea on the numbered cards. The idea that attracts most votes wins the pooled money.
- Form two sub-groups, give half the cards to each, and give each group (say) 15 minutes to develop six viable solutions from their cards.
- Each sub-group tries to ‘sell’ their ideas to the other sub-group.
- Everyone comes together and agrees on the best ideas overall.
On a number of occasions you may want to constrained ideas around pre-determined focus, rather than ranging freely. The versions described here use the standard Brainwriting pool technique, but bias the idea generation by using brain-writing sheets prepared in advance.
- Present starter ideas: The leader initiates the process by placing several prepared sheets of paper in the pool in the centre of the table (see note below).
- Private brainwriting: Each group member takes a sheet, reads it, and silently adds his or her ideas.
- Change sheet: When a member runs out of ideas or wants to have the stimulation of another’s ideas, s/he puts one list back in the centre of the table and takes one returned by another member. After reviewing this new list s/he has just selected, s/he adds more ideas.
- Repeat until ideas are exhausted. No discussion at any stage.
Varying the level of constraint
Cued brainwriting: For mild constraint, the sheets are simply primed with one or more starting ideas (e.g. SWOT’s, issues) in the required area.
Structured brain-writing: For a stronger constraint the sheets can be formally headed, each sheet relating to a particular issue or theme, with participants being asked to keep the ideas they contribute on each sheet relevant to the issue in the heading on that sheet.
When traditional thinking has become stale or dried up, visual brainstorming using graphic ideation may be a useful alternative
Idea Generation Phase, set a high target: e.g. to generate 20-30 basic idea-sketches on a specific problem in 1hr. If in groups you could begin with private sketches which you then pool, perhaps a round robin. Quick, impulsive ideas put into sketch can help to avoid undeveloped ‘lost’ thoughts/ideas. Rapid response to an idea with an immediate sketch creates momentum, preventing any critical thought processes to intervene.
Evaluation Phase, With a collection of sketched ideas, they can now be evaluated.
- Present your idea-sketches, trying to observe them with as much imagination as possible
- Think of yourself as a critic, so looking at them from another perspective
- Rotate the sketches, place images on images, cover top of bottom half, these varying tactics may inspire yet another idea
- Comparison. Clustering all the sketches together, place complex ones with simplistic ones, make comparisons, more ideas could be generated at this stage.
- Log all the ideas that come to mind throughout the session, using different coloured pens to denote initial ideas, continuing ideas and then final more paramount ideas.
ASSOCIATIVE BSRead More
Associative Brainstorming is a technique used to come up with new solutions for problems or concepts. This is done by taking random adjectives and adding them to the problem that is defined or the concept, By mixing those words together you’re inspired to create new possibilities or solutions.
MIND MAPPINGRead More
Mind mapping, developed by Tony Buzan, also has been called ‘spider diagrams’ represents ideas, notes, information, etc. in far-reaching tree-diagrams.
To draw a mind-map:
- Layout a large sheet of paper in landscape and write a concise heading for the overall theme in the centre of the page.
- For each major sub-topic or cluster of material, start a new major branch from the central theme, and label it.
- Each sub-sub-topic or sub-cluster forms a subordinate branch to the appropriate main branch
- Carry on in this way for ever finer sub-branches.
It may be appropriate to put an item in more than one place, cross-link it to several other items or show relationships between items on different branches. Coding the colour, type of writing etc can do this. Alternatively you drawings in place of writing may help bring the diagram to life.
Software packages are available that support with mind-maps, making it easier to amend and reshuffle the map, they often hold notes and documents, etc. associated with the labels (so acting as a filing system). Computer-based maps have the disadvantage of the small screen, and are less flexible than hand drawn versions (e.g you cannot usually make cross-links). Freemind is a cross platform free and open source example which is very popular for is flexibility and compatibility.
Radical tree diagrams, hierarchical tree diagrams, clustering methods (cf. Snowball Technique, KJ-method, Highlighting) all use the same hierachical logic. However, they have different optical impacts, and dissimilar abilities to characterize derived connections such as over-lapping, cross-linking etc.
We are currently evaluating Mind Map Software from smartdraw to determine how good it is to create great Mind Maps fast.
Another Mind Map Software is MindVisualizer which is solely focused on mind mapping, thus it’s very easy to use, adding branches is easy-press the ENTER/Insert key and type the topic. Below example illustrates why it can increase your productivity.
CONSENSUS MAPPINGRead More
The consensus mapping technique (Hart et al., 1985) helps a facilitator and group reach consensus about how best to arrange a network of up to maybe 20 – 30 activities that have to be sequenced over time into a useable plan of action (e.g. outlining a 10-year network of sequentially linked activities to deal with a complex environmental pollution issue). These will usually be activities that could be done in a range of orders – i.e. the order has to be approved – it is not given by the internal logic of the activities themselves.
The technique has parallels to many of the usual project planning methods (and could if necessary feed into them) but operates at a purely qualitative, outline, level.
It merges elements of standard clustering techniques such at KJ-method and Snowball Technique with elements of sequential mapping Causal Mapping incorporated into a wider consensus-seeking procedure that has associates with Eden;s SODA method. Here is the suggested procedure:
- Present the ideas: Devise a master list, via any suitable means, detailing all the ideas to be used in the single coherent action plan required, e.g. brainstorm the activities needed to implement some idea or project. Everyone copies the master list onto Post-its, or equivalent, one idea per slip.
- Form groups: The facilitator form 2 – 4 task groups, each of 5 – 9 individuals in each.
- Private clustering: Individuals in groups makes their own private attempt to group the ideas into related clusters or categories.
- Sharing in triads: Join together in pairs or triads within each task group to describe one another’s clusters.
- Group clustering: Individual task groups combine to try merging their private clustering into a shared clustering they can all accept.
- Group review: following group clustering, clarification of the original ideas, and re-evaluation of them takes place.
- Facilitators create and present a ‘Strawman’ integrated map: each task group delivers their group clusters to the facilitator they then take a break. During the break, staff members consolidate the group cluster maps into a single overall cluster map, containing all the ideas, categories, and relationships generated by the groups. This ‘Strawman map’ is presented to the group as a whole when they come back together.
- Map reconfiguration: The whole group splits itself again into the respective task groups, and each one uses the ‘Strawman Map’ for motivation and stimuli for developing its own map in which cluster of activities are linked sequentially. Links made of ribbon or yarns are better than pen lines at this stage, because they can be changed.
- Plenary presentation: Each task group exhibits its map of sequentially linked clusters to the others.
- Map consolidation: Representatives from each task group meet to construct a single final map that combines the features of all the maps.
The complete procedure works best with a trained group, but the mapping element could easily be adapted to informal solo use.
IDEA ADVOCATERead More
Idea advocate is a simplified form of the dialectical approach and was developed by the Battelle Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. The method has an Idea Champion to offer continual support and enthusiasm for a project in the development stage. Assume that the group of original ideas for solving some issue has already been concentrated to a small number, say 3 – 6 of strong contenders:
- A participant (the ‘idea advocate’) is allocated to each idea to present a case for that idea. Someone already familiar with the idea, or who initiated it, or who would have to implement it would be ideal choice.
- If required the ‘idea advocate’ is permitted a set amount of research time to prepare their case.
- Ideas advocates then make presentations of their assigned cases to the relevant decision makers and other idea advocates.
- Each case is then discussed and decisions made. If a particular case was illuminating then a straightforward selection can be made, however, if there are several strong cases several rounds of elimination will take place.
- Ensuring there are no differences in power and status amongst the idea advocates is essential. The more sophisticated approach outlined in Dialectical approaches handle the balance between positive and negative evaluation better.
We thought NAF (New, Appeal, Feasibility) was a good title because of the irony that in England if something is Naf, it is “cheesy”.
This is a simple way of scoring / assessing begining ideas following brainstorming and potential solutions to a problem after they have been explored and developed. Give a score out of 10 for each of the three items, New, Appeal, Feasibility. It is not scientific. It is gut feel which,in the context of creativity is important.
When we originally developed these NAF ratings it was to try and understand the probability of the person who had responsibility for implementing the idea of taking action. We called it clientship, which revolved around your “power to act”. The amount of Novelty was not as important as how new the idea was to him/her. It did not even have to be novel. The key point was it something the problem owner had never thought of. Appeal is a gut level reaction more emotional than attractiveness which always seems to me to be more of a cerebral consideration.
The reason for these NAF ratings was to identify the probability of implementation because if something is not very new, not very appealing, but very feasible the probability of implementation is very low. Where as if something is very new (to the problem owner), has a lot of appeal and low feasibility it is worth further exploration to see if more feasibility can be invented.
After developing a range of ideas through brainstorming, it is important for the problem owner to choose something that is very new, very appealling and not to worry about feasibility. Low feasibility means there is further opportunity for invention, build in feasibility by developing ideas to overcome the shortfalls..
We developed these ideas because we found that while suspending judgement worked to help generate ideas, the problem was in the “either or thinking” that people would use to select promising ideas for further exploration. We found most often they would slip into “that is a good idea and that is not”. This mental attitude got in the way of idea development and removed the possibility of getting a seed of an idea and developing it to something more useful.
When NAF ratings are used with a group, when what seems to be a satisfactory solution is reached, they can be used to quickly identify different participants’ opinion about a specific outcome. For example, if somebody finds an answer very feasible and another does not, we will have identified a further issue that needs to be resolved. This is of particular importance if you need commitment to a solution in order to get real implementation.
Newness: (to the problem holder) How new is the idea to you. It may not be new to the world, you may just not have thought of it.
Appeal: How much do you like it at a gut level. This has to be high. If it is not, it means you do not really like the idea, for what ever reason. However, if it has 50/50 sort of appeal it is worth exploring because some of the things you do not like about may be possible to deal with or change and thereby increase your level of interest in the idea
Feasibility: How feasibly is it to put this into practice? on a scale of 1-10 it has to be 80% plus in order to be worthwhile trying. If it is 80% it means that while the idea is not perfect you can see how to do it and the problems, the remaining 20% are to do with implementation. Things like getting others involved, agreement, funding, time, etc. If it is less than 50% feasible, but you like it and it has high newness, then it is worth being specific about what it is that bothers you about it and turn those into new wishes or problem definitions in order to build in more feasibility.
Reference: Synectics Creative Problem Solving, skills, process and techniques, Practice Of Creativity by George Prince. Founder Synectics Inc.
STICKING DOTSRead More
A popular, quick method for determining priorities by voting.
- Ideas are itemised clearly on a flip chart (or similar aid).
- Nameless voting tends to work best.
- Give each group a different coloured set of dots, i.e. group A have red dots.
- Give each indicidual or group a number of dots (say 10 each)
- Allow the group time to deliberate over the ideas they wish to vote for.
- Once all the groups are ready, one person from the group sticks their dots by their preferred top ideas.
- In some variations, there is no maximum number of votes an individual / group cn give to one idea.
- Once all the dots are placed, all the groups enter into a discussion on any patterns, and general observations.
- A short-list of the top 5 is made
This is not a deeply analytic method, but a short, sharp measure of the current thinking of the task in hand
JOURNEY MAPPINGRead More
“Stories have defined our world. They have been with us since the dawn of communication, from cave walls to the tall tales recounted around fires. They have continued to evolve, with their purpose remaining the same: to entertain, to share common experiences, to teach and to pass on traditions.”
Francisco Inchauste wrote those words on this website back in 2010. His post is just one of many on this website that talk about the power of storytelling to engage users.
But storytelling is not just a tool to engage users. It is also a powerful way to teach organizations more about their customers.
Most organizations are reasonably good at gathering data on their users. But data often fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools in business is the customer journey map.
What Is A Customer Journey Map?
A customer journey map tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.
It may focus on a particular part of the story or give an overview of the entire experience. What it always does is identify key interactions that the customer has with the organization. It talks about the user’s feelings, motivations and questions for each of these touchpoints.
It often provides a sense of the customer’s greater motivation. What do they wish to achieve, and what are their expectations of the organization?
A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as some type of infographic. Whatever its form, the goal is the same: to teach organizations more about their customers.
A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as an infographic. (View large version) (Image: Effective UI)
It will come as no surprise that marketers often use customer journey maps. But more and more digital professionals are adopting them, too.
Why You Should Create Customer Journey Maps
A customer journey map is a powerful tool.
If you are a designer, it will help you to understand the context of users. You will gain a clear picture of where the user has come from and what they are trying to achieve.
If you write copy, it will help you to understand what questions users have and how they are feeling.
It gives managers an overview of the customer’s experience. They will see how customers move through the sales funnel. This will help them to identify opportunities to enhance the experience. The map will show how enhanced customer service can differentiate the organization’s digital experience.
For the user experience designer, a customer journey map helps to identify gaps, points in the customer experience that are disjointed or painful. These might be:
- gaps between devices, when a user moves from one device to another;
- gaps between departments, where the user might get frustrated.
- gaps between channels (for example, where the experience of going from social media to the website could be better).
Most of all, a customer journey map puts the user front and center in the organization’s thinking. It shows how mobile, social media and the web have changed customer behavior. It demonstrates the need for the entire organization to adapt.
It encourages people across the organization to consider the user’s feelings, questions and needs. This is especially important with digital products and services.
With so many benefits, a customer journey map makes a lot of sense. But where do you start?
How To Research A Customer Journey Map
The process of creating a customer journey map has to begin with getting to know users.
Many organizations already have some information about users. In fact, you might meet resistance from those who feel that repeating this exercise would be a waste of time. This is why gathering existing research is a good start. Often, this research will be out of date or buried in a drawer somewhere.
By gathering existing research, you will see what the organization knows and how relevant that information is. This will placate those who are resistant, while potentially saving you some research effort.
There are two types of research: analytical and anecdotal.
You can turn to many sources for data about users. The most obvious is website analytics, which provide a lot of information on where users have come from and what they are trying to achieve. It will also help you to identify points in the process where they have given up.
But be careful. Analytics are easy to read wrong. For example, don’t presume that a lot of clicks or long dwell times are a sign of a happy user. They could indicate that they are lost or confused.
Social media are also a useful source of data. Tools such as SocialMention tracks mentions of a brand and whether those mentions are positive or negative.
Search data also provides valuable insight into what users are looking for, revealing whether your existing website is providing the right information.
Finally, consider running a survey. This will help you build a more detailed picture of users’ questions, feelings and motivations.
Although data can build a compelling case, it does not tell a story by itself. For that, you need anecdotes of user experiences. You can get these by speaking to users in interviews or on social media.
You will also discover that users volunteer experiences by posting them to social media. Be sure to collect these mentions because they will be a useful reference point in your final map.
Speaking to front-line staff who interact with customers daily, such as those in support and sales, is another useful way to understand customer needs.
The detail of the research will be constrained by your time and budget. If your organization has many different user groups, then creating detailed customer journeys for each might be hard. Therefore, focus the research on primary audiences.
You can make educated guesses about the customer journeys for secondary audiences. Do this by workshopping solutions with front-line staff and other internal stakeholders. Although this “quick and dirty” approach will not be as accurate, it is still better than nothing.
Be careful to make clear what has research behind it and what does not. Making many decisions based on assumptions is dangerous. Once management sees the benefits of research, they will be willing to spend more time on it.
With your research complete, it is time to create the map.
Presenting Your Customer Journey Map
As mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to produce a customer journey map. Normally, it will be some form of infographic with a timeline of the user’s experience. But it could just as easily be a storyboard or even a video.
The goal is to ensure that the user’s story remains front and center in people’s minds. Get a designer to produce the graphic to ensure it is as clear as possible and grabs people’s attention.
Whatever its form, the map should contain both statistical and anecdotal evidence. It should highlight users’ needs, questions and feelings throughout their interaction with the organization.
Don’t make it too complex. It is easy to get caught up in the multiple routes a user might take. This will just muddy the story.
The graphic is not meant to map every aspect of the customer’s experience. Rather, it should tell a simple story to focus people’s attention on the customer’s needs.
Think of the customer journey map as a poster pinned to the office wall. At a glance, people should be able to see the key touchpoints that a user passes through. It should remind them that the customer’s needs must always be at the forefront of their thinking.
There are so many ways to approach the customer journey map. I would love to hear of any good examples you have seen. Please post them in the comments below.
ASSUMPTION BUSTINGRead More
- List assumptions
- List all the assumptions, especially the obvious ones that you would not consider challenging…
- Challenge assumptions
- test each assumption. Ask under what conditions it would not be true..
- You will start to make assumptions as you challenge some assumptions, simply add these to the list, and challenge them later.
- Find several ways in which you can force the assumption to be true.
- This is the opposite way of challenging the assumption from 2.
ASSUMPTION SURFACINGRead More
- The aim of this technique is to make underlying assumptions more visible.
- Identify a particular choice you have made, and ask yourself why you feel it is the best choice – i.e. what assumptions guide this choice.
- List the assumptions, and beside each write a counter-assumption – not necessarily its negation, but the opposite to the issue it represents.
- Work down the list and delete ineffective assumption/counter-assumption pairs i.e. where it would make little difference to your choice whether the assumption or the counter-assumption were actually the case.
- Assess each of the remaining assumptions in terms of high or low potential impact (how critical is its truth to justifying your pattern of behaviour?) and high or low plausibility (how confident are you that it is, in fact, true?).
- Plot the assumptions on a 2×2 matrix (high/low impact on one axis, high/low plausibility on the other).
High medium Most serious Low Least serious medium
High impact/high plausibility assumptions are clearly the most crucial, but high impact/low plausibility assumptions need to be taken seriously, in case they turn out to be true, so check them out if you can.
The assumptions in the ‘high impact’ cells are those that the user sees as largely justifying their actions. Are they over-estimating them? What could change these assumptions? What benefits would there be and for whom?
The assumptions in the ‘low impact’ cells are seen as less critical, but it might be worth checking this out – are they being under-estimated?
BACKWARDS FORWARDRead More
Backwards Forwards Planning
Backwards forwards planning is a process to help ensure you start your exploration of ideas from the most appropriate place. The process is appropriate to open ended problems; where there is no right or correct answer. The intention is to help you gain perspective and to develop a gut feeling of the avenue to start your exploration. For example, if you come out of your house and your car does not start the logical answer is deductive analysis. Check the fuel,electrics,mechanical to find where there is something that was working and is now not working. However, that process will not get you to the meeting on time. You may need to call a taxi or borrow your a car or put your running shoes on! If you are in a creative process defining the problem is going to put you in a box. You want to define wishes and outcomes and then figure out how to achieve them.
The process has three stages.
- Write down the short version of the problem, preferably starting with “How to…”
- If you were to solve the problem in statement 1, what higher level problem would it also solve? Write this down. Continue asking what higher level problem it solves and writing them down. Try to obtain at least 3 statements.
- Going back to statement 1, ask what other benefits would flow from it, if it were a solution. Make sure these are different from those in stage 2.
You can then look at the various definitions and decide which is the most appropriate statement of the problem.
As an example, you are at home, your car is at the garage for repairs and you feel you really need to go and do the food shopping. Your first statement might be;
"How to get into the shops."
If you were to work down the list of additional problems this would solve you might write down
"I could get all the food and drink for the week"
" I could relax and not worry any more about where the food was"
Which may lead you to
" I could finish that painting I want to hang in the living room"
Working the other way, what benefits would you also have if you could get to the shops may lead to;
" I could have a look at some clothes whilst I was there."" I could enjoy some retail therapy" and" I could call in on my friend for a chat since they live near the shop."
Place the words “how to or I wish” in front of each of these plusses and they become new potential places to start problem solving from
It may be that your original statement is the problem to be solved, or it may be that “How to find time to complete the picture I’m painting” is more important to you. Using this process with literally hundreds of people I have found that about 80% of the time they choose a new task headline
BOUNDARY EXAMINATIONRead More
Boundary examination, described by Rickards (1974) and VanGundy (1981) offers a refinement of problem definition. It is similar to paraphrasing key words and Boundary Relaxation. Defining a problem gives a clear task to focus on. The definition highlights some features of the situation as being particularly relevant, and plays down others as largely irrelevant. The problem boundary is the notional ‘container’, which separates highly relevant features (inside the boundary) from less relevant ones (outside the boundary).
The problem definition, and what is relevant or not, often evolves as your understanding of the situation develops. If the boundary has been provided for you (e.g. because someone else has defined the problem for you) it will reflect their biases and concerns as well as your own, and the boundary setting may itself be part of the problem. It is easy for the area outside the boundary to become ignored ‘background’. This simple method from De Bono (1982) is designed to bring potentially relevant aspects back into awareness.
- Write down an initial statement of the problem.
- Underline key words
- Examine each key word for hidden assumptions. A good way to do this is to see how the meaning of the statement changes if you replace a key word by a synonym or near synonym.
- Having explored how the particular choice of key words affects the meaning of the statement, see if you can redefine the problem in a better way.
- The aim is not necessarily to change the position of the boundary but rather to understand more clearly how the wording of the problem is affecting our assumptions about the boundary.
‘CATWOE’ is a mnemonic for a checklist for problem or goal definition (Checkland and Scholes, Soft Systems Methodology in Action, 1990). CATWOE is applied to the system which contains the problem, issue or solution, rather than to the problem or goal itself – i.e. to: ‘A system to …’ ‘A system for …’; or ‘A system that …’. Such a definition should include:
C The ‘customers of the system’. In this context, ‘customers’ means those who are on the receiving end of whatever it is that the system does. Is it clear from your definition who will gain or lose?
A The ‘actors’, meaning those who would actually carry out the activities envisaged in the notional system being defined.
T The ‘transformation process’. What does the system do to the inputs to convert them into the outputs.
W The ‘world view’ that lies behind the root definition. Putting the system into its wider context can highlight the consequences of the overall system. For example, the system may be in place to assist in making the world environmentally safer, and the consequences of system failure could be significant pollution.
O The ‘owner(s)’ – i.e. those who have sufficient formal power over the system to stop it existing if they so wished (though they won’t usually want to do this).
E The ‘environmental constraints’. These include things such as ethical limits, regulations, financial constraints, resource limitations, limits set by terms of reference, and so on.
Just working through CATWOE, adding each element as you go, can lead to an unwieldy definition. It may be better to look at which are the important elements of CATWOE for any given system and use the relevant sub-set.
Chunking is a term used in NLP to describe the process of grouping items into larger or smaller groups (or “chunks”)
Chunking helps you to organise your thinking in order to better handle information.
In 1952, George A. Miller published a paper titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” (The Psychological Review, 1956, vol. 63, pp. 81-97).
In it he argued that “the amount of information that we are able to receive, process, and remember” is limited to between 5 and 9 pieces of information at any one time.
“By organizing the stimulus input simultaneously into several dimensions,” wrote Miller, “and successively into a sequence or chunks, we manage to break (or at least stretch) this informational bottleneck.”
Chunking allows us to become more efficient at categorising information. Items can be classified into different groups moving from the general to the specific, and vice versa.
For example, we remember remember phone numbers by clustering the digits into familiar-length groups. By comparison, it’s difficult to remember phone numbers from another country because they’re chunked differently.
Chunking Up (becoming more general)
As an example with an object;
|To chunk up,||ask|
|part to whole||what is this part of?|
|example to class||what class is this an example of?|
|an outcome||If I got this outcome, what else would that get for me?|
|a behaviour||What is the intention behind this behaviour?|
Chunking Down (becoming more specific)
As an example
- London Black Cab
|To chunk down,||ask|
|part to whole||what is a part of this whole?|
|class to example||what is an example of this class?|
|an outcome||What prevents me achieving this outcome ?|
|a behaviour||What other behaviour would also satisfy this intention?|
When to use Chunking.
When you are confronted with a task that seems daunting. Chunk it down into smaller, more manageable mini-tasks.
When you are overwhelmed by details. Chunk up to find the overall meaning or purpose to “get the big picture” or “see the wood for the trees”.
When you want to communicate more effectively. Package the information in chunks that are the right size for your audience.
When you want to find ways of reaching an agreement.
MULTIPLE REDEFINITIONRead More
Open-ended problems by definition are not well defined ‘the boundaries are fuzzy’ and different stakeholders may have varying boundary perceptions. The solver is unlikely to have a suitable description at the outset of the exact problem in hand and finds redefinition of the problem throughout the project.
A variety of redefinition techniques exist. This method suggested by Tudor Rickards (1974), is designed to assist the solver increase imaginative and original redefinitions through a series of questions that take you through unexpected mental modes
The following checklist of provocative statements is suggested to bring about these feelings:
- ‘There is usually more than one-way of looking at problems. You could also define this one as ….’
- ‘….but the main point of the problem is….’
- ‘What I would really like to do is….’
- ‘If I could break all laws of reality (physical, social etc.) I would try to solve it by ….’
- ‘The problem put in another way could be likened to …’
- ‘Another, even stranger, way of looking at it might be….’
To use this technique, try following this simple procedure:
- Taking as short or as long as required note down on a sheet of paper an open-ended problem of importance to you. The problem should be one, which you would like several answers leading to possible solutions.
- In your own time, complete the above statements with reference to your particular problem. However, if nothing comes to mind for a particular statement, progress on to the next statement
- It can be useful to have a break at this stage to allow time for deliberation.
- Return to your original definition ( 1 ), have any of the redefinitions helped? Can you see the problem from a different angle? Write down any thoughts or ideas you have at this stage.
CONVERGENT THINKINGRead More
Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem. It is oriented toward deriving the single best, or most often correct answer to a question. Convergent thinking emphasizes speed, accuracy, and logic and focuses on recognizing the familiar, reapplying techniques, and accumulating stored information. It is most effective in situations where an answer readily exists and simply needs to be either recalled or worked out through decision making strategies. A critical aspect of convergent thinking is that it leads to a single best answer, leaving no room for ambiguity. In this view, answers are either right or wrong. The solution that is derived at the end of the convergent thinking process is the best possible answer the majority of the time.
Convergent thinking is also linked to knowledge as it involves manipulating existing knowledge by means of standard procedures. Knowledge is another important aspect of creativity. It is a source of ideas, suggests pathways to solutions, and provides criteria of effectiveness and novelty. Convergent thinking is used as a tool in creative problem solving. When an individual is using critical thinking to solve a problem they consciously use standards or probabilities to make judgments. This contrasts with divergent thinking where judgment is deferred while looking for and accepting many possible solutions.
Convergent thinking is often used in conjunction with divergent thinking. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, where many creative ideas are generated and evaluated. Multiple possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking to decision making strategies are used leading to a single-best, or most often correct answer. Examples of divergent thinking include using brainstorming, free writing and creative thinking at the beginning of the problem solving process to generate possible solutions that can be evaluated later. Once a sufficient amount of ideas have been explored, convergent thinking can be used. Knowledge, logic, probabilities and other decision-making strategies are taken into consideration as the solutions are evaluated individually in a search for a single best answer which when reached is unambiguous.
DIVERGENT THINKINGRead More
Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It is often used in conjunction with its cognitive opposite, convergent thinking, which follows a particular set of logical steps to arrive at one solution, which in some cases is a ‘correct’ solution. By contrast, divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.
Paul Pangaro describes feedback loops in terms of a goal-action effect-measurement cycle. In this model, a system acts to accomplish a goal within its environment. The system measures the effect its actions have on the environment and compares the effect to its goal. Then the system looks for errors and acts (or re-acts) to correct them. By repeating the cycle, the system converges on a goal or maintains a steady state. Feedback is the information loop fl owing from the system through the environment and back into the system. (For example, a boat pilot tacking to reach port or a thermostat turning a heater on and then off.)
Designers follow this cycle. They have goals, act to accomplish them, and measure their results to see if they meet their goals—goal-action-feedback. We’ve seen several analogs of this process—defi ne-prototype-evaluate and design-build test.
Feedback is a central subject of cybernetics, the science of goal-directed systems. Cybernetics has much to teach us about fundamental structures of design.
Reiteration is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. For instance, when the surfaces of two mirrors are exactly parallel with each other, the nested images that occur are a form of infinite recursion. The term has a variety of meanings specific to a variety of disciplines ranging from linguistics to logic. The most common application of recursion is in mathematics and computer science, in which it refers to a method of defining functions in which the function being defined is applied within its own definition. Specifically, this defines an infinite number of instances (function values), using a finite expression that for some instances may refer to other instances, but in such a way that no loop or infinite chain of references can occur. The term is also used more generally to describe a process of repeating objects in a self-similar way.
SIX THINKING HATSRead More
Six Thinking Hats
Early in the 1980s Dr. Edward de Bono invented the Six Thinking Hats method. The method is a framework for thinking and can incorporate lateral thinking. Valuable judgmental thinking has its place in the system but is not allowed to dominate as in normal thinking. Dr. de Bono organized a network of authorized trainers to introduce the Six Thinking Hats. Advanced Practical Thinking (APTT), of Des Moines, Iowa USA, licenses the training in all parts of the world except Canada (and now, Europe). APTT organizes the trainers and supplies the only training materials written and authorized by Dr. de Bono.
The six hats represent six modes of thinking and are directions to think rather than labels for thinking. That is, the hats are used proactively rather than reactively.
The method promotes fuller input from more people. In de Bono’s words it “separates ego from performance”. Everyone is able to contribute to the exploration without denting egos as they are just using the yellow hat or whatever hat. The six hats system encourages performance rather than ego defense. People can contribute under any hat even though they initially support the opposite view.
The key point is that a hat is a direction to think rather than a label for thinking. The key theoretical reasons to use the Six Thinking Hats are to:
- encourage Parallel Thinking
- encourage full-spectrum thinking
- separate ego from performance
There are six metaphorical hats and the thinker can put on or take off one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking being used. This putting on and taking off is essential. The hats must never be used to categorize individuals, even though their behavior may seem to invite this. When done in group, everybody wear the same hat at the same time.
White Hat thinking
This covers facts, figures, information needs and gaps. “I think we need some white hat thinking at this point…” means Let’s drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the data base.”
Red Hat thinking
This covers intuition, feelings and emotions. The red hat allows the thinker to put forward an intuition without any ned to justify it. “Putting on my red hat, I think this is a terrible proposal.” Ususally feelings and intuition can only be introduced into a discussion if they are supported by logic. Usually the feeling is genuine but the logic is spurious.The red hat gives full permission to a thinker to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment.
Black Hat thinking
This is the hat of judgment and caution. It is a most valuable hat. It is not in any sense an inferior or negative hat. The rior or negative hat. The black hat is used to point out why a suggestion does not fit the facts, the available experience, the system in use, or the policy that is being followed. The black hat must always be logical.
Yellow Hat thinking
This is the logical positive. Why something will work and why it will offer benefits. It can be used in looking forward to the results of some proposed action, but can also be used to find something of value in what has already happened.
Green Hat thinking
This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, proposals, what is interesting, provocations and changes.
Blue Hat thinking
This is the overview or process control hat. It looks not at the subject itself but at the ‘thinking’ about the subject. “Putting on my blue hat, I feel we should do some more green hat thinking at this point.” In technical terms, the blue hat is concerned with meta-cognition.