Widening the Search for Solutions

Concept Fans help you find new approaches to problem solving, when you have rejected all obvious solutions. Originated by Edward de Bono in his book Serious Creativity, they develop the principle of 'taking one step back' to get a broader perspective.

How to Use the Tool:
To start a Concept Fan, draw a circle in the middle of a large piece of paper. Write the problem you are trying to solve into it. To the right of it radiate lines representing possible solutions to the problem. This is shown in Figure 1:

It may be that the ideas you have are impractical or do not really solve the problem. If this is the case, take a 'step back' for a broader view of the problem.

Do this by drawing a circle to the left of the first circle, and write the broader definition into this new circle. Link it with an arrow to show that it comes from the first circle:

Use this as a starting point to radiate out other ideas:

If this does not give you enough new ideas, you can take yet another step back (and another, and another…):

Drawn using SmartDraw. Click for free download.

Key points:
The Concept Fan is a useful technique for widening the search for solutions when you have rejected all obvious approaches. It gives you a clear framework within which you can take 'one step back' to get a broader view of a problem.

To start a concept fan, write the problem in the middle of a piece of paper. Write possible solutions to this problem on lines radiating from this circle.

If no idea is good enough, redefine the problem more broadly. Write this broader definition in a circle to the left of the first one. Draw an arrow from the initial problem definition to the new one to show the linkage between the problems. Then radiate possible solutions from this broader definition.

Keep on expanding and redefining the problem until you have a useful solution.

In the next article we look at Random Input, a useful lateral thinking technique. To read this, click 'Next Article' below. Alternatively, look at some of the other places you can go in our "Where to go from here" section.