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

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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. 

Strategy Into Action

September 3, 2010

Everyone will tell you that you need a strategy for your business or department – and they are right.  Whether it is “grand” strategy that establishes the direction for your business overall or whether it is a “tactical” strategy designed to effect more specific changes, it’s a good idea to know where you are going and what it will look like when you arrive.

But many strategies fail to deliver.  There are many reasons for this – one being a failure to turn the big ideas into actions that people can work on.  Sometimes there is a plan but it is too grand and too long in the preparation – by the time the actions actually get started the world has changed and they plan doesn’t seem relevant any more.  Or there is a strategy but no clear idea of the directions to follow, no one is responsible and and no obvious place to start.  The momentum generated by the “strategic” thinking soon dissipates.

With just 5 questions it is possible in the space of a few hours to generate a robust action plan that will get you moving on achieving your strategy.  You can do this on your own or with your team, in a meeting or workshop, and with or without a facilitator.

Question 1     What is our focus?

Question 2     What are the key directions we should take?

Question 3     What are the obstacles that are blocking us?

Question 4     What to do to remove the obstacles and achieve what we want?

Question 5     What are the immediate, practical actions we can take?

The focus question defines the overall goal and scope – you might already know the answer and just need to restate it.  The key directions are the themes or areas that if followed will lead to the goal.  The obstacles are the constraints, the blockers that will defeat the plan if not addressed – some of the actions will be focussed on overcoming these.  Other actions will address new things that need to be created or delivered.  Consideration of these should be focussed on short term or very short term timescales – what can we do today, tomorrow, this week, this month that get us following the key directions.  Medium and longer term actions can be logged but will most likely be consider later.  Assign ownership to the key themes and the actions.  Document it all – preferably on a single sheet of paper (see the example). Get started.

image

In just a few hours you have an action plan.  It won’t be perfect nor will it be complete.  But it will provide a basis on which to move forward.  New or missing actions can be added as each action is completed.  Keep the plan alive, review it regularly, keep adding the next actions that come to mind.

Acknowledgement: The format of the action plan was suggested by examples using the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning method designed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).