One of the unique features of MindGenius mind mapping software is it’s ability to analyse ideas according to categories and to restructure maps or views of those ideas automatically.  This feature is a great way of implementing the consensus workshop method electronically (see previous post on the consensus workshop method). 

The five steps of the consensus workshop (as developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs) method are:

  1. Set the context – introduce the focus question
  2. Brainstorm the ideas
  3. Cluster the ideas
  4. Name the idea clusters
  5. Review and action.

image Using MindGenius, the focus question become the central topic or idea.




What can we do to improve morale in our office ideas



The ideas are brainstormed, collected and consolidated as they are added to the map.




What can we do to improve morale in our office ideas analysisThe ideas are clustered using categories feature, available from the “Analyze” tab – you can use a default set provided or create your own category group.




From here, create a new map with the ideas clustered by selecting the “Create Category Map”.

What can we do to improve morale in our office - by Category unamed

Using this new map as a basis you can work to name the clusters.  Add the names by editing the level one topics.

As an alternative, once the cluster names are agreed, return to the original map – the one with the brainstormed ideas. From the “Analyze” tab, now select “Edit Categories”.  Amend the categories used in your map, replacing the original identifiers with the cluster names.  Once completed, select “Create Category Map” and this time the resulting cluster map contains the cluster names in the level one topics. 

What can we do to improve morale in our office -named clusters

imageYou could now go on to assign dates and resources to the ideas, creating a simple action plan. 

imageAs part of the documentation step, you can export the map to Excel or Word to provide an additional record of the workshop or to provide the basis for further definition.


You can try this for yourself using MindGenius by clicking this text or the image below and downloading a free trial.

free trial

Technorati Tags: ,

Bringing a group of people together to solve a problem or make a plan is a great idea, especially where that group needs to commit to act on the ideas they generate.  There is a simple, structured approach which will harness the group’s creativity and allow them to generate a range of ideas.  It is called the “Consensus Workshop”

The method has five steps:

  1. Set the context – introduce the focus question
  2. Brainstorm the ideas
  3. Cluster the ideas
  4. Name the idea clusters
  5. Review and action.

What focus q Setting the context states why the group has been gathered and what the situation is that requires their collective thinking.  The method to be followed is outlined together with a general idea of the outcome and products.  The focus question sets the boundaries for what exactly is to be discussed.

What brain


Next, ideas are brainstormed.  Begin with an individual brainstorm – each person works on their own making a list of their ideas.  Then the ideas are collected and reviewed by the whole group until a consolidated list is prepared, resolving duplicates and capturing new ideas prompted by the discussion.


What brain cluster 1


Third, the group reviews the list and identifies common threads or clusters. 




What brain cluster sortedThe ideas are gathered together into the clusters.  At this stage it is sufficient to merely group ideas together because they have something in common without defining exactly what the thread or cluster is.



What brain cluster named


Fourthly, now name the clusters.  Review the clusters and discuss what are the common threads. 




Express these as phrases or very short sentences.  These will form the big ideas or focused directions for the actions that may follow.

What brain cluster named 2

Finally, review what has been achieved and test the level of agreement and consensus.  Begin the discussion on what needs doing and by whom.  Form these ideas into an initial action plan for subsequent development.  Document the outputs.

Further reading:

The consensus workshop method was defined by the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) and is explained, with examples, in the publication, The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action (ICA series), by R. Brian Stanfield. 

Focus Questions

February 16, 2011

If you work with facilitators sooner or later you will see “Focus Questions” being used to help guide thinking and discussions.  When presented with an issue, it is easy for a group to approach it from many different directions, not all of which will be immediately useful.  By framing the debate as a response to a “Focus Question”, the group are encouraged to pay attention to particular aspects of the problem or its solution.  As is implied, the question provides focus.

“Focus Questions” are often used in workshops but they may also be used as part of the preparation for a meeting or workshop.  They are issued with the workshop brief under a heading such as d“preparation for the workshop”.  Use in this way, “Focus Questions” can help direct the attendees thinking before the meeting itself.  It helps them understand better what the meeting is about, what answers are sought and what not to waste time on.

image When used as meeting preparation, “Focus Questions” may be listed as part of the brief. 

To provide a little imagemore structure, and to help the attendees visualise their response better, it can be useful to present the questions as part of a template that includes space for responses, thoughts and notes.   This can be prepared as simple table, using Excel or Word, say.

“Focus Question” templates can also be presented as a map with lots of space for notes.  The map can be sent as a PDF for the attendees to print, or if they have the appropriate software, such as MindView, it can be sent as file for the participants to complete.  MindView can do either.


If it is important to collate the responses to the questions, using mapping software is a great way to do this – bringing together all the responses against the relevant branches or topics on the map.

imageThis year’s conference is being held in Helsinki.  The theme is “Paradoxes in Facilitation”. 

This will be built around the book and epic poem of Finnish and Karelian folklore – the Kalevala

The Kalevala is credited as providing some of the inspiration for the national awakening that led to Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.

For further details and to make a reservation see:

Hope to see you there.

Technorati Tags: ,