lotus-diagram

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.

Connected Brainstorming Frameworks

5 Whys Method

5-whys-method
The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.

Ansoff Matrix

ansoff-matrix
You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

Five Product Levels

five-product-levels
Marketing consultant Philip Kotler developed the Five Product Levels model. He asserted that a product was not just a physical object but also something that satisfied a wide range of consumer needs. According to that Kotler identified five types of products: core product, generic product, expected product, augmented product, and potential product.

Growth-Share Matrix

bcg-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.

Starbusting

starbursting
Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.

Appreciative Inquiry

appreciative-inquiry
Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

round-robin-brainstorming
Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

constructive-controversy
Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

affinity-grouping
Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

fishbone-diagram
The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.

Rolestorming

rolestorming
Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

reverse-brainstorming
Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail. 

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