LOTUS BLOSSOM

Advanced
Problem Solving

 
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The Lotus Blossom is a creative brainstorming exercise which encourages you to completely flesh out an idea before considering it complete and challenges you to come up with more ideas than you naturally would. The exercise was developed by Japanese researcher Yasuo Matsumura.

This technique begins with its unique structure. A core idea is placed at the center of the Lotus Blossom, followed by eight ideas which stem from it (A-H).

 
 
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Each of these eight ideas is then transferred to corresponding “petals” around the core box and expanded further. As the Lotus Blossom expands, new ideas or concepts are generated. The exercise is both practical and beautiful.

 
 

Haiku became a highly valued art form in Japan during the 9th century and has since been practiced by many including Japanese scholars, poets and samurai. There are four master haiku poets from Japan, known as “the Great Four”. They are: Matsuo Bashō, Kobayashi Issa, Masaoka Shiki and Yosa Buson. These poets wandered the countryside observing nature, experiencing life and perfecting their writing. Their work is still the model for traditional haiku writing today. Please see the following haikus written by the samurai, Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), considered the greatest haiku poet:

 

The Layout

  • A single sheet (paper or digital)

  • Eight 3x3 squares (petals) arranged around a core box

  • The center square of the core box contains a challenge or concept that the outer squares, or petals of the blossom are related to

 
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Core Box

  • Center square: the challenge or concept to be explored

  • Inner circles A-H: the circles immediately surrounding the center square are ideas related to the initial concept. Please note: these inner circle ideas are repeated as seeds for the petals.

 
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Petals

  • Outer circles A-H: these are the eight original ideas transferred from the core box to their corresponding petals

  • Boxes 1-8: eight sub-ideas, solutions that surround each of the original eight ideas

    Here is an illustration of petal E. The other petals follow this pattern identically:

 
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The Process

  1. Enter the challenge or concept to be explored in the center square of the Lotus Blossom.

  2. Brainstorm solutions, concepts and ideas and place these in the circles immediately surrounding the center square (inner circles A-H). The goal is to generate eight creative ideas all related to the original challenge or concept. No answer is wrong. Just put it in for consideration.

  3. Transfer the eight concepts from the core box (inner circles A-H) to their corresponding petals (outer circles A-H).

  4. Brainstorm related solutions or ideas and enter these in the eight boxes surrounding each petal (boxes 1-8). Once you have completed the eight ideas for the first petal (A), move on to the next and go through the same exercise.

Please see an example of the process below.

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By the time you’ve filled out the Lotus Blossom, you will have an abundance of different ideas related to the original challenge or concept. If you want to dive deeper into any one idea, you can create another blossom, place your chosen idea in the center and continue the process of building 64 more ideas around it. The possibilities are endless, but the process is organized and manageable.

 
 

A Sample Blossom

Frank is thinking about taking his medical career to the next level and finds he is experiencing self-doubt about making this change. Please follow his process of exploring his self-doubt below.

  1. Frank enters his challenge, “Self-doubt re: next job” in the center square of his Lotus Blossom.

  2. He brainstorms how he wants to explore his self-doubt (inner circles A-H). He comes up with the following ideas:

  1. A  Define what is challenging

  2. B  Define what success looks like

  3. C  Confidence in my skills

  4. D  What helps me grow

  5. E  Define what brings me joy

  6. F  Look inside for validation

  7. G  What helps me be creative

  8. H  How does it fit my personal life

Please see Frank’s core box below.

 
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3. Frank transfers these eight concepts (inner circles A-H) from the core box to the petals (outer circles A-H).

4. He then explores each of these eight concepts and generates eight more specific ideas for each.

Please see Frank’s petal below, where he defines what brings him joy:

 
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Frank has completed all eight petals and now has at least 64 new ideas related to the self-doubt he was experiencing about making this change. He can reflect on his ideas and solutions brought forth through the Lotus Blossom and move forward with clarity and confidence.

Please see Frank’s completed Lotus Blossom below.

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Reflection

As you can see, the Lotus Blossom is a fun, creative exercise that challenges you to fully develop your ideas. The exercise assists you in transforming a single challenge into a multitude of solutions and can be applied to any challenge or concept. We invite you to begin your own exploration with the blank Lotus Blossom provided on the Lotus Blossom Worksheet. Start with a challenge or concept and allow the unique structure of the Lotus Blossom to guide you as your solutions and ideas unfold.

There is a blank Lotus Blossom worksheet in the Ebook version.