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Change-ability Tip #18: Increase Creative Problem-solving through Visual Thinking

Kernel: Visual thinking techniques = instant flood of ideas, options & connections

There is something magical about visual thinking strategies such as Mind Mapping, clustering, concept mapping, or FutureScapes™. Each approach varies somewhat and personally, I like to use Gabrielle Rico’s “clustering” simply because I’ve had the most experience with it. I rarely begin any project at work without doing a cluster map of my thoughts, ideas, resources, goals or needs, and connections, etc.

Simply described, clustering begins with a “focus” word or phrase written in the centre of a large, unlined sheet of paper (at least this is my preference–you could create a cluster in the sand… or on lined paper). Circle your focus word and then capture your thoughts, ideas, and related topics, letting them pour onto the sheet in representative words or phrases. In my use of clustering, I circle thoughts and connect them to related or hierarchical thoughts at the same time or later as I reflect on the cluster topic. In Mind Mapping, developed by Tony Buzan around the same time as Rico’s clustering technique, use of colour and images is considered very important.

FutureScape™ is a technique that I’ve learned about recently and instantly appealed to my librarian sensibilities in that it incorporates information gleaned from environmental scans and intuitive insights. It is a visual thinking strategy developed by T. Irene Sanders for organizational strategic planning, but has been used for many purposes including career development. It is described in her book Strategic Thinking and the New Science: Planning in the Midst of Chaos Complexity and Change (New York: The Free Press, 1998).

I was especially interested in Sanders’ use of what she calls “perking information”–new developments occurring just below the surface that will impact your situation in future. She notest that FutureScape™ is different from Mind Mapping in that it “helps you see the self-organizing behaviour of the big-picture context in which your decisions are being made.” (p. 157)

More information is available at the links below:

T. Irene Sanders: Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy

Mind Mapping video with Tony Buzan

Clustering developed by Gabrielle Rico, author of Writing the Natural Way

Review of Dan Roam’s book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures. at Paul Baker’s blog, EducationPR: Social Media for Communicators In Education

Chuck Frey is the founder and editor of (check out the Mind Mapping Resource Center here) and the author of The Mind Mapping Software Blog. The Mind Mapping Software Update newsletter includes excerpts from the blog.

For information about online or electronic visual thinking tools, check out Innovation Tools and Chuck Frey’s Mind Mapping Software Product Guide


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