This brainstorm technique begins with its structure. A core word or idea is placed in the center of the Lotus Blossom, with eight words stemming from the core word surrounding it (A-H in the example, below). Each of these eight words is then moved to corresponding “petals” around the core box. The process can be repeated with each petal, opening further into more petals. It’s a perfect symbol of Japanese ingenuity: beautiful and practical.
- State the problem or opportunity.
- Create a series of words which reflect or refer to Step #1. Pick one core word and place it in the centre of the Lotus Blossom.
- Brainstorm or free associate words or concepts suggested by the core word. You can either place the words directly on the petals, or pick the most provocative eight answers from a larger group of words to place on the petals.
- Transfer the eight words from the centre square to the first ring of outer petals.
- Free associate more words for this first ring. I typically try for a second or third ring of petals around each core word. You want more words than less.
- As the Lotus Blossom expands, what new ideas or concepts are triggered or suggested?
Practical Examples of the Lotus Blossom
I’ve used the Lotus Blossom in many different workshops. For a large group of people, I created a super-sized Lotus Blossom on a broad wall, using different coloured Post-It Notes for the petals. For a small group working at a table, I printed mini-versions of the Lotus Blossom for us to share around a table.
Because the Lotus Blossom is both linear and lateral, I use it frequently with conservative brainstormers because they can see the clear line of idea generation. Most recently, I used the Lotus Blossom in a workshop to create a new name for an established insurance company. Knowing my team members were going to be “linear thinkers,” I began with a simple explanation of the technique. And – no surprise – the central word was obvious to this team: insurance. The next eight words were also obvious: they chose words specific to their brand, their values and their customer services: security, policy, life, gift, safety, premium, health and protection.
The brainstorm got interesting when different teams expanded the petals from its first ring. For example, from security, one team competing among four groups created these eight words: lock, key, rope, safe, light, guard, measure and alarm. They became preoccupied with the word light, even going so far as to translate light into other languages on a smart phone from a team member. From different words for light, the team used the Lotus Blossom to expand further, eventually tweaking and stylising words by removing letters or coming similar words to come up with a unique hybrid, eventually the word Verio.
Another team picked up on this team’s success, expanding upon light to come up with the word torch (aka, a flashlight to my American friends). This team came up with ideas like distributing small key-ring torches as media gifts, a community program to remind families to check that their home torches had batteries in case of emergencies, etc.
As a technique, yes – it’s somewhat complex and a bit “stage-y” for brainstorms, but I’ve also had great success with it. When one is created large-scale on a wall – in brilliant colour to boot – it can be both interactive and inspiring. I remember watching how people from different teams started working on their own, linking words from different petals and create ideas. In other words, it almost facilitates itself.
I have included two printer-friendly Lotus Blossoms below in both 8.5×11 and A4. Please e-mail me if you’d like more information or want help considering how it might be used in your workshops. As always, let me know what you think of the technique or if you’ve tried it in your brainstorms. Good luck!