Saturday, December 09, 2006


Diagram Your Thinking

The notebooks of Einstein, Martha Graham, da Vinci, Edison, and Darwin suggest that one of primary reasons they achieved greatness was their ability to represent their subjects visually by diagramming and mapping. In Darwin's notebooks there is frequently occuring diagramatic representation of nature as an irregularly branching tree. His tree diagrams helped him capture his thoughts about evelutionary change by allowing him to reach out in many directions at once and pull seemingly unrelated information together. Each diagram was densely packed with potential meaning.

Tree of Life (Image On Left): the first-known sketch by Charles Darwin of an evolutionary tree describing the relationships among groups of organisms.

Darwin drew a number of these diagrams, both to perfect them and to use them to comprehend what is known and to guide in the search for what was not yet known. They were pivotal factors in the thinking process that led to his theory of evolution. He used them to work through many points: as a way of classifying the relation of different speices to each other, as a way to represent the accident of life, the irregularity of nature, the explosiveness of growth, and of the necessity to keep the number of species constant. Within fifteen months after drawing his first tree diagram, Darwin had solved the major problems of his theory of evolution.

Try looking at your problem with a diagram, as well as verbally. Write your problem statement as completely as you can, then diagram it by placing the problem in the center of a piece of paper and drawing a box around it. Ask yourself: "What are the main features and characteristics of the problem?" Print all potential answers about straight lines that emanate from the box.

Other questions when using a diagram for creative purposes:

Did the diagram add to my understanding of the problem?
Did i find out anything about the approach of the problem?
What's missing?
What areas are foggy?
What am I now seeing?
What should I by thinking about?

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