Professionals are required to solve problems every day. Client problems, technical problems, employee problems, strategic problems, and the list goes on and on. The pressure to make the right decision can be overwhelming and confusing. Here is my suggestion:

Choose one problem you are currently facing. Put an image or image/word combination that represents this issue in the center of a blank sheet of paper placed landscape in front of you. (Or use your favorite mapping software program.) Start writing down all of your thoughts about this problem. These branches could include problem definition, objective, possible outcomes, risks, people involved, positive & negative impacts, unknowns, deadlines, statistics, intangibles, etc. You know the problem better than anyone, so you fill in the map.

Once you have all your thoughts on paper, step back and see if you need to re-organize, prioritize, or in any way make certain ideas stand out. Just getting all of your thoughts out in this manner may pave the way for you now to think about the problem without worrying if you’ve considered all the facts. The answer may jump out at you.

If appropriate, take your map to someone else who is familiar with the problem. Explain your map and ask this person)s) to add any additional thoughts. Do NOT delete any of the current data.

Idea mapping in this manner doesn’t solve the problem, but it does give the creator a visual image of the issue, so that better analysis and thinking is possible. Give this a try and then email your map (jpg file) and send me your feedback.