Friday, December 16, 2011

Brainstorming Essentials: Graphic Organizers Such as Mind Maps & Venn Diagrams

How useful are graphic organizers such as mind maps and Venn diagrams to brainstorming?

There are those who equate brainstorming to coming up with a series of terrific ideas that help us get something done or some problem solved, and on the levels of simplicity, there is truth to that. In some circles, the concept of brainstorming is also referred to as idea management or creative thinking.

Yet, brainstorming, especially when done in a group setting, is much more precise and organized. There are tools and techniques that have been developed to help minimize a random brainstorming approach, and instead develop it into a precise technique. These tools help an individual or a group to focus on a problem, and then very deliberately develop creative solutions to that problem. 

Some of the more common tools used in the brainstorming process are graphic organizers like mind maps and Venn diagrams. These tools are most useful when the brainstorming process is being embarked upon by a group.

Chief among the brainstorming graphic organizers are the mind map and Venn Diagram. There are also the KWL tables, which although this graphic organizer is often used as a creative tool in a learning environment. The KWL Table for example is very often used by instructors KWL is an acronym for What We Know.

The mind map helps one to see how the key word radiates out from a centralized point. The mind map is a diagram that one draws by placing the key word in the center and then mapping out radially all the words, ideas, tasks or other items that are linked to that key word or key idea. It can help the brainstorming group visualize, structure, or classify the ideas. It can show how one idea feeds into another, etc. 

Concept mapping is structurally different in that the key concept is placed at the top of a chart and many other concepts are added below. It can often help to stimulate learning in the sciences and other subjects. It is also used to represent the expert knowledge of teams for business or even government projects.

Then there is the Venn diagram, which has been in existence since 1880. The Venn diagram is named after its inventor, John Venn. Venn diagrams are used quite extensively in a number of fields to help show all the possible relations between groups of things. They can be used in as complex of settings as logic, statistics, set theory and probability, or as simple a setting as a brainstorming session to determine and visualize possible relationships within that specific creative problem solving arena. 

As the web develops and grows, it is now possible to locate templates or research possible tools to buy or create these various graphic organizers. For example, there are a number of websites where one can download mind mapping and concept mapping charts, as well as Venn Diagram templates. It is possible to make these items on one’s own computer, but many have found the ease in downloading these various graphic organizers to be much swifter and definitely more efficient especially when you take into consideration that their primary goal is to use the mind maps and Venn diagrams in their brainstorming not have to first create those graphic organizers to that they can finally get on to the higher goal of brainstorming.

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