Brainstorming: The Cubing and Webbing Methods

WebYesterday, I started a three-part series on brainstorming with an outline of the steps involved in a productive individual brainstorming session. I have found that having this type of structure in a traditionally unstructured activity, like brainstorming, is necessary for anyone who tends to think in a very organized manner.

One of the steps discussed yesterday focused on the different processes you can use during your brainstorming session to develop ideas. While I briefly covered a few options, this post will focus on providing detailed information on two types of brainstorming methods – cubing and webbing.

Cubing

Cubing is a brainstorming strategy outlined in the book, Writing, by Gregory Cowan and Elizabeth Cowan (New York: Wiley, 1980). With cubing, like with other brainstorming methods, you start with one topic, challenge or issue. Then, you apply six points of view (like the six sides of a cube) to the issue.

You should move quickly through each side of the cube, spending only 3-5 minutes on each side. Here are the six perspectives to consider in cubing:

  1. Describe it – How would you describe this topic, challenge or issue, including characteristics, definitions and parameters?
  2. Compare it – What is it similar to? Different from?
  3. Associate it – How does the topic connect to other issues you’ve dealt with before? Does it make you think of anything you’ve worked on in the past?
  4. Analyze it – What smaller parts make up the whole? Is it possible to break down the issue?
  5. Apply it – How is it used? Who uses it?
  6. Argue for or against it – Explain your position for supporting or not supporting it.

Once you’ve completed each side of the cube, look at your responses to see if there are any emerging patterns. You can apply the evaluation process to analyze the results of this exercise.

Webbing

Webbing, sometimes referred to as mind mapping, typically involves writing down a number of thoughts and ideas. Then, you return to what you wrote and connect the dots to create a web that links together all of your individual thoughts.

This can actually be a very chaotic process, and you have to be willing to let go of your organized mental structure more than in other brainstorming methods. But if you’re successful at webbing, you can develop a number of ideas that are instantly applicable to each other and the topic in question.

To start, grab your sheet of paper and write down your focus topic in the center. Then, simply jot down every other idea, concept or consideration you are thinking about that relates to the topic. Ignore placement and formatting for the dumping stage and focus on getting the ideas down on paper.

Once your sheet is covered with ideas, start to identify the ideas that relate to each other by circling, starring or otherwise marking them. Then, connect the circles with lines. You may want to use different types of lines, different colors, or even a second sheet of paper or sticky notes to group and regroup your ideas.

The end result will be a number of clustered ideas that are connected through a web of lines. This is when you will move to the evaluation stage of brainstorming and start to make sense out of what you’ve created.

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Image credit: Andrew Beierle

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  • Vantrix

    I have found ‘Mind Mapping’ to be a better option – may be because thats what i try whenever i need to think and visualize beyond the obvious…

    -Anita CM
    http://www.vantrix.net