Monday, December 8th, 2008

Mind Mapping is a very powerful tool when it comes to solving problems. In this video you will see how you can take a structured approach to problem solving which will allow you to generate more ideas and better solutions. You will hear about the four step method of problem solving, and you’ll get a feel for how this can work for you.

Watch this video to see how to use Mind Maps in this way

The first and most important step of all is defining what the problem is. Now this may seem pretty obvious, but actually a thorough examination of what the problem is can lead to a redefinition of the problem, or turning a huge problem into something manageable, and helps get you in the right frame of mind to solve problems that initially seem overwhelming.

So the goals here are to have a narrowly defined problem that we are sure is not multiple problems, but a single well defined problem. We need to be sure that it really is the problem, and that the problem is not obscured by emotion, opinion, hidden or open agendas or anything else. It is also important to understand why it’s important to solve the problem, because this will give you the impetus to actually follow through with the process.

Now the first four ways we examine the problem are based on what are known as the cartesian quadrants, based on the work of René Descartes, and the concept was originally applied to proving a theorem - if you could prove it by examining it from all of these perspectives, it was taken to be proven true. However, we are using it in a slightly different way here, because we are using it to examine the problem it from all four of these perspectives, which will eliminate everything that is not the problem, and we will have a clear and concise grasp of what the problem really is (or at least what we believe it to be). Don’t be surprised if viewing the problem from these four perspectives completely changes the problem you are solving, or even proves that it wasn’t a problem in the first place. Often our original idea of what the problem is, is actually symptoms of the problem, and this method allows you to break through to the core problem.

The video walks you through a practical example of problem definition based on this Mind Map. As you go through the definition of the problem, you add branches to your mind map, narrowing down the definition to the core issue, but also generate some strong starting points for brainstorming solutions.

Some people also try to define the objectives and what constitutes a good solution very tightly during this phase of problem resolution. This is counter-productive, because it narrows your thinking. The process we have gone through with the definition of the problem has already narrowed things down quite sufficiently.

Also, while we have been talking about this in terms of problems, the word Challenge is really more appropriate, because our thinking about problems is often fearful and dreading these heavy things that weigh us down and hold us back, whereas challenges are things that we step up to and overcome, and feel positive about our progress. Also, this methodology doesn’t need to be about solving problems - you can use exactly the same method for identifying and going after new opportunities.

Next, the video explains the four step method of solving the problem.

Part of this process is brainstorming. Brainstorming is designed to be free from judgment, and the idea is to get as many ideas out there as quickly as possible. The concept is that quantity yields quality, and the more ideas generated, the more solutions you will find. This is the opposite of linear thinking, where you arrive at one solution and then stop thinking.

With brainstorming, you want to generate as many ideas as possible just throwing them out there and recording just the keywords on your mind map so you can keep up - maybe using the BranchStorm™ feature of NovaMind. To get things started, you have probably generated some ideas or categories of ideas just from the problem definition exercise. Add those categories to your Mind Map, and then add sub-branches for specific ideas. Think from the perspective of no resource constraints - assume you have infinite money, staff, time and expertise available at your disposal. You can pull it back to reality later.

If the ideas come too fast to organize them as you go, just get them down there and organize them later.

But what if you run out of ideas?

Here are some ways of getting the creative juices flowing again:

  • Get up and go for a walk, or do something else completely different and come back after half an hour
  • Add blank branches to some of your categories and ideas, and your subconscious will work on ways to complete these branches by supplying ideas - you can do this before going for your walk, so your subconscious has been triggered to search for specific ideas
  • Use the NovaMind Suggesterator™ to come up with new words and associations, and build your ideas from there. Choose some of the words from near the end of the list of suggestions where they are more “off the wall” suggestions, and work out connections with the problem
  • Think of ways of “improving” an existing solution or proposed solution
  • Ask the question “If there was another solution what would it be?” - this tricks your brain into supplying another idea when you don’t think there is one, and once you have come up with one more idea, the flow of ideas starts again.
  • How would other people solve this problem? People from another country, your competitors, your ancestors, children, etc.
  • What limitations on your thinking have you imposed? Although you are supposed to be brainstorming from the perspective of no constraints whatsoever, your mind is probably so attuned to judging ideas and limiting what you come up with as potential solutions, that you need to ask “what other solutions are there if there are no restrictions?”. How can you reverse or get rid of those assumptions and limiting decisions. What possibilities open up when you do?

During the brainstorming, you were not judging anything. Ridiculous ideas were recorded along with sensible ones without judgment. Now it’s time to organize the information on your Mind Map into different categories, where you have a branch for each category, and the proposed solutions and ideas as sub-branches.

Remember that there are always multiple solutions to problems.

So check what is going to be feasible, what fits with practices and policies, or where changing those practices and policies would be a better solution. Make sure you take into consideration the effects of your proposed solution on everyone involved, and whether the idea really does constitute a solution to the problem. If a solutions looks ridiculous, ask how you could accomplish the same thing in a different way, or which parts of that idea can we actually use.

Make sure the solutions fit with the facts of the situation, and judge the impact on both the problem and anyone and everyone affected. Every potential solution will have pros and cons - make sure you think about that as you make your decision as to which of the proposed solutions to follow first. Make sure the cost and time to solve the problem is worth it. Which solutions are you best equipped to implement? What are the short term and long term benefits of each solution? How do the solutions fit with your time and resource constraints?

Record further details under the preferred options on your Mind Map, such as time frames and the steps involved in achieving the desired outcomes.

The video tells you how to gather the required information and take action on implementing the chosen solutions, and follow up to make sure that the things you did actually solved the problem.

So, watch the video on how to solve problems using Mind Mapping above if you haven’t already done so, and I wish you all the best with using NovaMind to solve all your problems and generate new ideas and solutions.

About Mind Mapping

Mind Maps are diagrams that work the way people think -- they organize the information in the same way our brains organize information. They make it easy to understand, remember, and communicate complex information.

Our brains like thinking in pictures. The smooth curves and colorful pictures used in Mind Mapping create powerful images for your brain to remember.

Mind Maps cater to both logical left brain thinking and pictorial right brain thinking at the same time, which makes them a very good way of storing and recalling information, presenting things to other people, and brainstorming new ideas.

Contact Profile

NovaMind Mind Mapping Software

NovaMind has been the top Mind Mapping program available on Mac computers for the last 6 years, and is rapidly gaining recognition in the Windows market. NovaMind makes Mind Mapping intuitive and fun.

For more information about NovaMind, please visit or e-mail Gideon King at gideon(at)

Gideon King
P: 07 3806 3038


Watch this video to learn how to use mind maps to define problems properly using four perspectives, and solve problems using the four step method.


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