Brainstorming, Chunking, Clustering and Clouds

One of the tools of creative problem solving, useful in group work, including in dispute resolution, involves brainstorming – gathering, unevaluated, ideas associated with the presenting problem, from a group of people.  One of the processes of such braintorming is the stimulation of associated words and ideas gathered into such words.  Brainstorming is a bit like de Bono’s green hat work, with a dash of yellow hat work.

One of Lewin‘s key suggestions for analysis of non-trivial amounts of ethnographic description required for the kind of qualitative research that is involved in observing and understanding social situations, is something akin to  ‘chunking‘: bringing together, under a single term, a constellation of factors, eg ‘gatekeeper’ for the kinds of activities a member of a community/group undertakes to manage the flow of information into and out from the community/group. It involves the development of a metaphor.(‘Topological’ mapping is another of Lewin’s suggestions.) (See Argyris, 1993 Knowledge for Action, p.8-10)

As I was considering the task of deciding categories, for a non-native English speaker, as part of the process of handling a lot of data, I noted

To what extent might recognising commonalities of categories be related to language comprehension?  To what extent is what I am doing related to my propensity for convergence by abstraction – going, I think, to a ‘broader’ level of inclusivity?   Others’ clouds and clusters work with words.

Now I find that ‘clustering’ is a technical term, with the propensity for use with computers, reminding me that when I was using NUD.IST for my data analysis, I was amused to find this qualitative analysis tool reporting results in a numeric form, as if recurrence was most significant.

In reading someone else’s writing for understanding, for meaning-making there are two sets of understandings and associations of words in play: the reader’s set, and the writer’s set.  No wonder miscommunication happens.

In thesis work, when clarity of communication is so vital, no wonder time and precious words are spent on working with some key definitions.