It is becoming more recognized that if a company wants to have long-term success, innovation is the key. But some will argue that the engineering design process still lacks important aspects of the creative process, especially when it comes to inclusion, mention, and considerations. Therefore, it is argued through social studies that the creativity element is an essential part of the designing process, hence it is often created which has the biggest impact on the outcome of a product. Without creativity, there Is no potential for innovation that can be transformed into commercial value for a company and long-term failure is a certainty (Howard et al., 2017).
What is this technique about?
The flower method can be applied when the teacher wants the participants to develop and analyze a problem in a creative manner or to develop an idea further by combining it with other ideas.
Where does it come from?
The flower method is a brainstorming method that does, like the lotus blossom method, provide students with a mind-map-like structure that helps to organize the thinking process and documentation.
For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)?
By using the flower as a visual reflection template, the participants can gain a better understanding of the What, Who, How, and When of the idea. By answering these questions, the teacher and participants will generate detailed descriptions of the idea or the problem and its context.
How to use it?
The flower method can be implemented when participants have come up with an idea or an initial problem description in the engineering process. When using this method online, it is recommended to use a shared whiteboard or a tool like Microsoft PowerPoint which all participants can access and edit during the session. It is important to create enough space for the participants to write in the petals so make sure that the flower has a decent size. Participants work in small groups in breakout rooms, so that each group can contrate on the development of one idea within 30-60 minutes (depending on the expected depth of the answers). The participants document their thoughts in the petals of the flower and present them to the other groups afterward.
How to implement this technique online
Preparation, what to do before the session
- Prepare a whiteboard with as many flowers or a PowerPoint with as many flower-template slides as there will be ideas.
- The flower has a circle in the middle with a text box where the participants will later write the name of their idea/problem.
- Make text boxes in each petal with the questions that the participants should answer (e.g., “WHO are the actors involved?”)
- Upload the finished document the evening before on the online platform.
- If you use PowerPoint, make a general folder where the students can upload flowers.
- Prepare breakout rooms.
- It is suggested to do the session after an ice breaker and a regular break.
During the application, while giving the session
- Explain the purpose and the process of the method.
- Ask the participants to open the Whiteboard or PowerPoint containing the flower template. (If you are not sure whether the internet connection will remain stable, work with a PowerPoint, and ask them to save the document as “flower – their group name” on their computer.)
- Ask them whether they have understood the task and whether they are ready to move into groups.
- Send them into breakout rooms. Usually, 20 minutes are enough for a flower with easy questions.
- When the students come back, remind them again to upload their flower template so that all can access it.
- Let each group describe the flower developed in a maximum of two minutes – take time.
Follow-up, about what to do after the session
- If you want, combine It with an evaluation method and ask participants to vote for the craziest or most feasible, or … flower
- Save all the finished flowers in the space that is accessible by all students.
Examples and/or testimonials
Below is an example of how the method was prepared and facilitated in February 2021 by a student group during the course “Megatrends and Technological Innovation” held at the University of Southern Denmark by Prof. Dr. Patricia Wolf.
Facilitators instruction guide for the flower method
PowerPoint template of the flower (before the session)
PowerPoint template of the flower (after the session)
- A computer
- Microsoft Office
- Internet access
- Access to a communication platform with breakout rooms: e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Miro, etc.
- A whiteboard where it’s possible to write and draw or Microsoft PowerPoint
- Timer: e.g., a watch, computer, or phone
- Generated ideas from the participants
Howard, T., Culley, S., & Dekoninck, E. (2007). CREATIVITY IN THE ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS. Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (IMRC), University of Bath.