Use an idea map to identify ideas related to a central question.

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On an idea map, the central question is in the center. Affinities, which are categories, branch from the central question and ideas branch from the affinities.

Example of an idea map

This idea map shows how a hospital can improve patient satisfaction.

Answers the question:
  • What ideas affect the central question?
When to Use Purpose
Pre-project Brainstorm potential projects and project areas.
Throughout the project Assist in structured group analysis; can be used to set aside nonsignificant inputs.


  • Add additional affinities as needed.
  • You can add an idea to more than one affinity.
  • Add comments to affinities, ideas, and sub-ideas to preserve the thoughts of the group discussion.
  • The team composition is critical. Include all who have relevant process knowledge.
  • Avoid having the moderator make most of the suggestions.


  • Identify a central question to investigate (for example, product fallout on the laminator or dropped calls in the call center).
  • Based on the question to be investigated, assemble a multifunctional team for the brainstorming session.
  • Enter the central question.
  • Generate and record several affinities to segment the idea generation (for example, maintenance issues, training issues, and raw material issues).
  • Generate and record ideas and sub-ideas supporting each affinity.
  • Optionally prioritize the affinities, ideas, and sub-ideas.
  • Draw conclusions.

Quickly brainstorm ideas in the brainstorming list and click-and-drag them to the diagram to create associations between related ideas. For more information, go to Generate a brainstorm list.

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