What Is KWL and How Can This Chart Help You Come Up With Creative Solutions?

Woman solving a problem on a poster

There are several methods you can use to inspire a creative thought process that leads to new and useful ideas. Some methods are ideal for individuals and others are also useful for a group of people.

One method that I like that can be useful for both individuals and groups is to create a KWL chart.

How does a KWL chart work?

This chart consists of choosing a problem/subject that you want to create something new and useful for. Then you hang up a chart paper on the wall (or you could create a document on your computer for this, but I recommend a chart paper) and on the paper you draw three columns.

The first column gets the headline “What do we KNOW about the subject?“. Here you and/or your team write everything you know about the subject you have chosen. You can either use post-it notes or write on the paper.

The second column gets the headline “What do we WANT to know about the subject?” and here you write all the questions you have about the subject. When you are done you think about how you can answer those questions.

The third column gets the headline “What have we LEARNED about the subject?” and you fill this one out with answers to your questions in column two and what action you will take based on your new information.

KWL chart for creative solutions

Click here for the PDF

How is this method used?

For example if my team wants to create a new and useful way to be more productive at work we could create the following chart:

What do we KNOW about the subject?

  • We feel that we can be more productive.
  • We spend a lot of time on meetings.
  • We spend a lot of time on social media.
  • We prefer to work only 6 hours per day and use them more wisely to produce even more than when we work for 8 hours per day.
  • We know that being in motion is different from action e.g. when we spend too much time on dreaming up goals, making plans, and doing research instead of taking action to see results.
  • We let our emotions rule us instead of our schedule.

What do we WANT to know about the subject?

  • How can we be more in action and less in motion?
  • How can we work for only 6 hours but produce more than when we are at work for 8 hours?
  • How can we let our schedule rule us instead of our emotions?

What have we LEARNED about the subject?

  • Stress can have a great impact on our productivity. To reduce stress we will start each day by writing down three things we are grateful for and we will do a short meditation each morning.
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes we will do it right away.
  • We will not have longer meetings than 15 minutes; we start each meeting by setting a timer and going through the agenda of the meeting.
  • We will finish each day by writing down the things we plan to do tomorrow and then we will organize them according to importance and really question if these are the most important tasks we can work on tomorrow.
  • Objectives in motion tend to stay in motion so we will use a timer and set it for 5 minutes and for those minutes we work only on our most difficult task first thing in the morning (when we are done with writing in our gratitude book and meditation).
  • You can improve things when you know exactly what you want to improve so we will use rescuetime.com to track how we spend our time on our computer.

Now it is your turn, what subject do you want to focus on when you fill out your KWL chart to create something new and useful?

About Birna Birgisdóttir

Birna Birgisdóttir is a Ph.D candidate, researching creativity and servant leadership. She enjoys learning new things and has a M.Sc. in International Business, B.Sc. in Business Administration, diploma in Human Resource Management and she is an Executive Coach as well as NLP Practitioner.

Birna loves new adventures; has travelled the world, scuba dived in Mexico, skydived in Las Vegas, surfed in Australia, meditated in India and climbed the highest peak in Iceland.

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