The Creative Thinker, a new visual mapping software program from Idon Resources, turns traditional mind mapping on its head. Instead of depicting ideas as radiating from a central concept, connected by lines, the Creative Thinker places text within hexagon-shaped symbols — or “idons” (idea icons) — giving users new freedom in visually representing and manipulating their ideas.
This powerful hexagon modeling program was originally a tool in a broader suite of creativity software called Idons for Thinking. Developer Idon Resources decided to offer this modeling tool as a separate software program, and the Creative Thinker is the result.
Mind mapping is an excellent way to brainstorm, and is growing in popularity — and rightly so. But there are times, especially during group brainstorming sessions, where your ideation may be focused around several main ideas. The Creative Thinker enables you to quickly record ideas and key concepts, and cluster them into logical groups later — without being tied to the visual construct of a single, central idea or concept.
Instead of worrying where to put a new idea within the hierarchy of your mind map, The Creative Thinker frees you to simply generate the ideas and organize them later. In addition, the work space seems to have less visual clutter, since there are no connector lines between ideas.
To begin mapping your ideas, simply select the hexagon icon in the program’s toolbar. As you move your mouse across the workspace, an outline of a hexagon follows your cursor. When you click the left mouse button, a blank idon is placed there. This function remains locked on until you click the right mouse button, so you can quickly place a number of blank idons in the workspace to fuel your creative muse.
Idon Resources recommends a six-step process for solution finding and brainstorming with the Creative Thinker. This process is detailed in the program’s excellent tutorials. But you can just as easily begin brainstorming with it right out of the box.
At any time, you can drag and drop idons around the Creative Thinker’s ample workspace, grouping similar topics and ideas together.
The Creative Thinker gives you a number of options to format your visual model. You can format individual idons with different fill colors, drop shadows, attached notes, and links — which Idon Resources calls “gateways” — to other Creative Thinker files, other documents and Web sites.
To support faster recording of ideas, The Creative Thinker includes a convenient “brainstorm mode.” When you click on the icon for this function, a small text box appears, floating above the work space. Type an idea into it, hit the enter key and a hexagon containing that text is placed in the work space. The text box, now empty, awaits your next idea.
This rapid-fire method of recording ideas is both practical and invaluable, because it enables you to quickly and easily record a large volume of ideas, using only your keyboard. This makes it especially valuable for group brainstorming sessions, where participants may generate many ideas in rapid-fire succession. Most importantly, the brainstorm mode helps you to keep your creative “flow” going, by eliminating any unnecessary keyboard commands or mouse clicks.
One of the Creative Thinker’s unique tools is called the “Oblique Thought.” This is a special idon, which contains a randomly-selected, thought-provoking phrase from the program’s extensive database, that is designed to act as an idea trigger. You can add oblique thoughts to your visual map at any time.
One of the challenges of problem-solving and brainstorming is that your conscious mind can only hold a handful of thoughts at a time. Recording your ideas in a visual format enables you to capture a large number of thoughts and their relationships in a tangible form in front of you. In addition, the combination of words and shapes engages both the left and right hemispheres of your brain, which helps you to be more creative.
Hexagon modeling is a visual mapping technique that nearly anyone can begin using immediately, with little or no training. That makes the Creative Thinker appealing to everyone from businesspeople and consultants to students and writers.
The Creative Thinker is ideal for small group brainstorming sessions. Its brainstorming mode makes it easy for a scribe to quickly record ideas, so they can be viewed by the entire team on overhead projector. The program’s work space is designed so that a large number of hexagons can be viewed simultaneously, enabling participants to easily see relationships and associations between individual thoughts and collections of ideas.
Idon Resources has thoughtfully provided an extensive set of tutorials with The Creative Thinker, to help you quickly become proficient with it. These tutorials do a great job of explaining the basics of hexagon modeling, and how to use it to represent knowledge effectively, clearly define challenges and brainstorm fresh solutions.
Idon Resources recommends a six step problem definition and brainstorming process, but you can also begin using the program immediately to record your ideas.
The tutorials also includes many examples of how to use the Creative Thinker for different types of projects, and how idon colors can be used to designate different types of thinking in your maps.
With any visual diagramming program, it’s important to be able to focus in on specific aspects of it at sometimes, while other times you may want to take an overview of the entire map. The Creative Thinker gives you multiple options to manipulate your view of your work space:
- A unique “toggle switch” toolbar icon with plus and minus signs on either side enables you to do a step-by-step zoom in or out of your visual diagram.
- Another toolbar icon, when selected, enables you to drag a selection rectangle across dimensions defined by the bounding box. This gives you a great deal of precision for zooming in on your entire map, or just one section of it.
- Visual diagrams can often become very complex. By the time you zoom out enough to see your entire visual diagram, the text within each symbol is often so small that it’s unreadable. The Creative Thinker solves this problem with a “magnifier” window. When you select the magnifier command from the program’s toolbar, a small blank window appears, floating above the workspace. When you click on an idon, an enlarged view of it appears in the magnifier window, with its text clearly visible. This feature enables you to look at specific sections of your visual diagram without having to zoom in and out, a real time savings.
The Creative Thinker fills a unique niche in the world of creativity software. For those who may find conventional mind mapping a bit too structured or abstract, this well-designed hexagon mapping program is a great alternative. Its low learning curve means that just about anyone can become proficient with the Creative Thinker almost immediately and can benefit from its capability to help you transfer your ideas from your mind to a more tangible form.
You can order the Creative Thinker from the Idon Resources web site for £79.99 + VAT (approximately USD$133). The company’s web site also contains valuable background information on the applications and benefits of hexagon modeling, plus the company’s line of magnetic hexagon modeling kits and supplies.