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Once you have gathered all the relevant information surrounding your problem and the circumstances you are facing, it’s now critical that you organize this information in a way that will help prepare you for the creative Re-Imagine step along The Path.
There are three main things that you will want to do with this information:
- Firstly, make logical associations and connections.
- Secondly, sort this information into relevant groups or categories.
- Thirdly, order and prioritize this information into hierarchies.
Let’s now explore this sub-stage in a little more detail.
Find Associations and Connections
The objective here is to combine different pieces of data with common elements that will help you to construct meaning in order to make more sense of the information under study. You are effectively looking for common associations that you can link together to form relationship chunks that will help improve your comprehension and understanding of the problem and the circumstances surrounding the problem. This is all about identifying how things connect, fit and work together.
Your ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, circumstances and ideas from different areas that you have been investigating, will be the key here.
While going about this process it’s important to understand that creativity is nothing more than simply connecting things in new ways. Therefore by connecting seemingly unrelated questions, problems, circumstances or ideas, will help you to generate relevant associations that will likewise assist you with understanding the information you are working with at a profoundly deeper level.
Throughout this process, you may not always know how the dots will connect, but you must always keep the faith that they eventually will.
At this stage, the more diverse experiences you have had, the more information, facts, stats and perspectives you have managed to collect, and the more likely you are to develop creative associations that will thoroughly prepare you for the Re-Imagine step along The Path.
Be Very Careful…
The human mind is an incredible tool that we have at our disposal. It effectively unravels chains of associations all of the time throughout the day. By simply hearing a word or seeing an image, the mind unlocks a whole string of relevant associations and ideas — each one connected to another in a unique way. These chains of associations tend to be clustered around domains related to our own experience.
Even though chains of associations are efficient and beneficial — allowing us to move quickly from analysis to action — they should however be used with caution because they can be dangerous and misleading. Let’s quickly explore why this is the case.
Chains of associations that we are able to formulate and piece together during this sub-stage, may very well inhibit our ability to think broadly. The reason for this is that we often fail to question our own assumptions; we tend to jump to conclusions very quickly, and this tends to create barriers to alternate ways of thinking about particular situations. We discussed how to overcome this in the previous clarification sub-step. This principle is probably even more relevant here than it was there. It’s therefore critical that you keep this in mind as you continue to move along The Path.
Criteria to be Used
Before you start making relevant associations and connections, it’s important to outline a set criteria that you will use to make these connections. The criteria you use will depend on the data you have collected, on the problem you are dealing with, and on your desired objectives. Ask yourself:
- What criteria can I use to make relevant connections here?
Once this criteria is in place you can start looking for patterns and associations.
Pattern recognition is the act of making sense of complexity and looking at ways different things are related to one another. In fact, solutions are often found when you learn to recognize new patterns. However, often these patterns are hidden within the data you have collected and can take a little time to unlock.
Recognizing patterns within the data you have collected is critical, because it will help you to anticipate what could potentially happen next, and what you might therefore be able to do with the information moving forward into the Re-Imagine step. To make this work, you must look at the changes and trends you identified within the fact-find sub-stage and associate them accordingly with the problem you are facing.
To help you identify relevant patterns within your data, ask yourself the following questions:
- What patterns am I seeing here?
- How are these things related?
- What are the common elements?
- Where do all the pieces fit?
- Where does everything seem to intersect?
- Should these two items be located together?
Please keep in mind that recognizing patterns can take time. However, what will help you is the breadth and depth of your knowledge, perspectives and experience. The more of each you have, the more likely you are to spot relevant patterns that will likewise help you to lay the foundations for creative idea generation as you continue to move along The Path.
Search for Gaps
Once you have created all the relevant connections and associations between the different pieces of information, your main objective is to search for gaps that could be missing where you might need to do further research and study. Ask youself:
- Are there missing pieces or unexplored territories?
At this stage you can jump back to the fact-find sub-stage and then the clarification sub-stage in order to help you gain better and more comprehensive insights. In fact, please keep in mind that The Path is flexible. You don’t need to meticulously move from one step to the next in succession. Instead The Path is flexible and adaptable to your needs. Move back, move forward, move sideways, etc. In fact, don’t hesitate to take one step forward and then three steps back. The goal isn’t to stick to a set direction, but to rather solve the problem or problems you are working with.
Borrow from Other Places
While forming associations it’s important to borrow ideas and concepts from other places, people, businesses, etc. You would’ve already conducted this research in prior sub-stages, and all you’re doing here is just piecing it together and making relevant connections.
When you’re borrowing you are creating associations with what you already know. This will help you formulate new insights. In fact, all you’re doing is simply taking an existing idea to help you construct a new idea. You’ll then use this foundation as a map to help you find your own solutions to the problems you face.
Keep in mind that borrowing ideas from other places is actually at the center of the creative process. Creativity is actually something that naturally evolves over time as new information is gathered, combined, restructured and re-applied. In fact, this is what you will be doing within the Re-Imagine step along The Path.
In order to link external ideas with your own knowledge and experience, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who else is experiencing the problems I am working through?
- How is their experience relevant to my experience?
- What kinds of connections exist here?
It’s important to firstly look for answers close-by and speak with people who have experienced the exact problem you are dealing with. However, after this you must also consider looking at how solutions were potentially found for other problems that aren’t related to yours on the surface. How these problems have been solved, could very well help you to make relevant connections that will assist with finding the solution to your problem.
Nature is also another goldmine for making relevant connections and associations. Many problems the world-over have been solved because people looked towards nature to help solve their problems. However, we will get into this within the next step along The Path. when we begin to re-imagine our world, problems and circumstances.
Sort through the Information
Your objective here is to divide the information under study into categories based on relevance. This may however first require breaking the information down into smaller pieces, or simply slotting information into groups based on a specific set of criteria.
This is an important activity because it helps you to make better sense of the information you will be working with during the creative Re-Imagine step along The Path. A mind that is uncluttered, clear and organized is a far more prepared for the process of creative thinking than a mind that is cluttered, unclear and disorganized.
To begin sorting through the information you will need to ask yourself a set of questions that will help you to determine whether something lies outside or inside a boundary you have stipulated. These questions are often closed-ended (with exceptions), meaning that they simply require a YES or NO response.
- How can I organize this information in a logical way?
- What are the different components of this problem?
- What are the similarities in this data?
- What are the differences in this data?
- Are there any boundaries or categories that I need to stipulate?
- Is this relevant to the problem I’m attempting to solve?
- Is this information worth keeping?
- Where will I place this piece of information?
- Does it belong inside or outside this boundary or category?
- How can I break this information down into more manageable pieces?
Once the information and data has been sorted effectively, now comes time to prioritize and order it accordingly.
Order the Information
Your objective here is to arrange items and pieces of information into a particular order of importance or into a cycle that is relevant to the problem you are facing. However, before you order the information, be sure to clarify once again what are the most important factors influencing your problem. This is a critical question to ask, because it helps you to focus-in on the right things as you move through this process. Once you know what to focus on, than you can order the information accordingly. Ask yourself:
- What’s the most important factor influencing this problem?
- What is the next most important factor?
- What’s most important, and what matters less?
- How is this more important than that?
- How can I structure this information into a hierarchy of importance?
- What cycles are evident here that could be of use?
Having connected all the relevant pieces, plus also sorted and ordered the information accordingly, you are now ready for the creative process.
How can I visualize this?
Integrated into this stage is a set of visual thinking techniques, strategies, tools and processes that you can utilize to help you visualize your thoughts on paper or in physical form. These techniques will be revealed and integrated into each stage along The Path over time.