Lotus Blossom

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Engineering Areas
Design & Prototyping, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or individual
Group
Amount of people
Up to 15, 15-25, 25+
Type of activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity
Duration
Between half an hour and one hour
Type of class
Theory-based

Description

What is this technique about

The Lotus Blossom Technique is a structured brainstorming exercise used to expand on a central idea or problem.

The Lotus Blossom technique is designed for groups and provides a systematic look at a variety of solutions to a problem. Starting with a core idea the participants come up with additional ideas and solutions that surround the core. Each of these solutions will become the core part for the next round.

Where does it come from 

The Lotus Blossom Technique was originally developed in Japan by Yasuo Matsumura, director of the Clover Management Research. It aims at finding the roots of a certain problem by “peeling” the layers of the core issues. It enables the participants to see a holistic connection between the relevant elements and can be used for scenario planning and strategy forecasts.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

The Lotus Blossom Technique allows ideas and applications to be connected to the core theme. By incrementally filling out the themes and subthemes a picture of relationships evolves. All parts are dynamic and can be connected potentially leading to novel interrelations.

You start by defining a central subject. This is then divided into themes and sub-themes with separate entry points. Around the core subject evolve more and more circles that have to be explored. 

How to use it

Execution:

    1. The central idea/concept is developed by the facilitator and the participants, They document it on a large flipchart or the like for every participant to see.
    2. By brainstorming the group tries to come up with up to eight significant characteristics or attributes of the core topic. These are called sub-ideas and will be explored later. The initial topic is called the ‘Lotus Blossom’ diagram and serves as the basis while the sub-ideas are ‘seeds’ for more Lotus Blossoms.
    3. The sub-ideas become the new central idea and the process is repeated for all generated sub-ideas.
    4. All the Lotus Blossom diagrams are created and should be used as topics to further discuss and analyse.
    5. You can print or draw a Lotus Blossom diagram on a Wall chart.
    6. Ideas that have been developed or evolved can now be pinned to the specific part of the Lotus Blossom diagram to finalize the diagram and show potential areas of interest for further analysis and application.

Hints from experience: The optimal number of themes is between 6 and 8. If they become to numerous you should ask questions in order to classify upcoming themes into existing ones. Further, try to prioritize ideas during the process by using coloured markers/post its etc.

How to implement this techniques online

Again online brainstorming tools generally have templates which can be used for the applicatiton of this technique in an on-line or virtual environment. For instance. Miro and Concept Board offer a ready-made template you can use. 

When applying the technique in a virtual or online setting: 

    1. Set up the Lotus Blossom template in your virtual whiteboard of choice well in advance. Explore the different templates and decide which one you feel most comfortable with.
    2. You can also ask delegates to print, sketch or post a Lotus Blossom template and either work online, or go analogue with a pen and handwriting if you want them to work individually first before coming together as a group.
    3. ALWAYS do a demo of the technique – some participants will get it straight away, but because we all have different learning styles, others will need to see it in action first before they can get started with confidence.

You conduct the exercise in the same process as you would then do in a physical or face-to-face setting. 

Asking participants to share completion of a single Lotus Blossom template in small groups, perhaps in breakouts if you’re using Zoom or Microsoft Teams and have a large number of people, develops collaboration and a shared sense of purpose, as well as idea exchange.

Examples and/or testimonials

There are many examples and cases on the use of LOTUS BLOSSOM, but we have not yet found one where this technique is issued in a virtual environment. 

If you have used this technique in an online or virtual setting, or know about a case please let us know.

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as for instance Zoom, MS Teams or similar, as well as tools for brainstorming.

    • Miro
    • Mural
    • Concept Board

Resources

Links

Michalko, M. (2004, October 21). Creative thinking technique: Lotus Blossom. InnovationManagement.se. Available at: https://innovationmanagement.se/2004/10/21/creative-thinking-technique-lotus-blossom/

Guthrie, G. (2022, January 15). The lotus blossom technique: a creativity hack you need to know. Available at: https://cacoo.com/blog/the-lotus-blossom-technique-creativity-hack-you-need-to-know/

The MITRE Corporation. (2021, May 25). Lotus Blossom – Innovation Toolkit. Available at: https://itk.mitre.org/toolkit-tools/lotus-blossom/

Riley, R. (2013). The Lotus Blossom Creative Technique. throught egg – Helping you unleash your creativity. Available at: https://thoughtegg.com/lotus-blossom-creative-technique/

RealtimeBoard, Inc. (dba Miro). Lotus Diagram Template – Free Lotus Template Online. Available at: https://miro.com/templates/lotus-diagram/

Ondreicsik, A. (2020, November 25). Using a Lotus Diagram template to turbocharge ideation & creativity. Conceptboard Cloud Service GmbH (dba Concept Board). Available at: https://conceptboard.com/blog/lotus-diagram-template/

Videos

TeachLikeThis. (2014, March 18). How to use the Lotus Blossom – TeachLikeThis. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/uDCqWR-tPc8

Consortium for Public Education. (2021, February 25). Design Thinking for Education, Ep 9: The Lotus Blossom. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/eYzjM9un2p8

Big Bang Partnership. (2021, February 9). Virtual Facilitation Technique Library. Lotus Blossom Ideation Activity. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/0SYKXDa5CV8

Papers

Shen, T., Lai, J., Tsai, M. (2016). The performance and impact of applying lotus blossom technique in teaching on creative problem solving. In: 2016 International Conference on Advanced Materials for Science and Engineering (ICAMSE), pp. 614-617. DOI: 10.1109/ICAMSE.2016.7840367. Available at: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7840367

Olga, C. (2021, October). Using Lotus Blossom Strategy in Geography. In: Romanian Review of Geographical Education, 11(1), pp. 21-39. DOI: 10.23741/RRGE120222. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358721203_Using_Lotus_Blossom_Strategy_in_Geography