What Is A Lotus diagram? The Lotus Diagram In A Nutshell

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Understanding a Lotus diagram

Modern businesses rely on collaborative work environments to achieve success. As a result, the ideation process has become a vital component of every project.

Ideation is usually facilitated by brainstorming, but these sessions have a notorious reputation for drifting from the main topic and descending into chaos. Indeed, some teams may generate thousands of useless ideas, while another team may experience a creative block and struggle to generate just a handful.

The lotus diagram gives structure and impetus to a brainstorming session and is arranged in a simple grid pattern around a central topic. Typically, the grid contains space for at least eight ideas or ancillary concepts. These eight concepts are representative of the petals of a lotus flower and are similarly arranged.

Completing a lotus diagram

Follow these steps to complete a lotus diagram brainstorming session:

  1. Select a medium – lotus diagrams can be created by simply drawing the structure on a whiteboard. Alternatively, teams may opt to use post-it notes or an online collaboration tool.
  2. Select the central topic – and then place it in the center of the grid.
  3. Brainstorm – every team member should be encouraged to offer their ideas to fill the eight squares. 
  4. Expand – then, each of the eight ancillary concepts is placed in its own lotus diagram which surrounds the original diagram formed in the previous step. There is no need to populate every box with an idea. Instead, the team should work their way around the diagram and record their initial, natural thoughts. 
  5. Combine and synthesize – any duplicate ideas or thoughts should be combined into a single lotus diagram where practicable. Once each diagram is completed, the team can also analyze each diagram and cross-pollinate ideas. Some may choose to use different colored post-it notes or arrows to describe potential relationships.

Benefits of a lotus diagram

There are several benefits to this brainstorming approach:

  • Speed – the lotus diagram enables teams to generate organized and related topic ideas in less than 30 minutes.
  • Flexibility – the diagram can be used for virtually any subject area. What’s more, the structure of the framework allows each topic to be drilled down further by adding new diagrams around the central topic.
  • Lateral thinking – the brainstorming method also encourages lateral thinking. When the team gets stuck, it can simply return to the diagram to generate tangential ideas related to the main concept.
  • Simplicity – lotus diagrams can also be used to break down complex concepts into more simple ideas. 
  • Collaboration – in a typical lotus diagram containing eight adjoining grids, each team member can be tasked with completing one grid. This ensures every member gets an equal say. If there are more than eight members in a team, collaboration can be maintained by simply incorporating more ancillary concepts – or “petals”.

Key takeaways:

  • A lotus diagram is a creative brainstorming organizer linking a central concept to ideas supporting that concept. 
  • A lotus diagram is a relatively simple technique that can generate many new ideas in around half an hour. Teams must select a medium, identify the central topic, brainstorm, expand, and combine and synthesize.
  • A lotus diagram is flexible enough to be applied to virtually any subject area. The framework also helps break down complex ideas and encourages a collaborative effort.

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Ansoff Matrix

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Growth-Share Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"