Fishbone Diagram

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up – it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Fishbone Diagram
The fishbone diagram (see below) originally developed by Professor Kaoru Ishikawa, is often referred to as an Ishikawa Diagram. The technique can help to structure the process of identifying possible causes of a problem (see also Causal Mapping)

The diagram encourages the development of an in depth and objective representation ensuring all participants keep on track. It discourages partial or premature solutions, and shows the relative importance and inter-relationships between different parts of a problem.

The method is ideally organized over a number of meetings, enabling the team to become deeply immersed in the problem. Fresh suggestions regarding possible causes can arise during the break and members are more likely to forget who originated every idea, thus making subsequent discussions less inhibited.

Fishbone Diagram


  • On a broad sheet of paper, draw a long arrow horizontally across the middle of the page pointing to the right, and label the arrowhead with the title of the issue to be explained. This is the ‘backbone’ of the ‘fish’.
  • Draw spurs coming off the ‘backbone’ at about 45 degrees, one for every likely cause of the problem that the group can think of; and label each at its outer end. Add sub-spurs to represent subsidiary causes. Highlight any causes that appear more than once – they may be significant.
  • The group considers each spur/sub-spur, taking the simplest first, partly for clarity but also because a good simple explanation may make more complex explanations unnecessary.
  • Ideally, it is eventually re-drawn so that position along the backbone reflects the relative importance of the different parts of the problem, with the most important at the head end.
  • Circle anything that seems to be a ‘key’ cause, so you can concentrate on it subsequently.
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