No two Lotus Blossoms sessions are alike, because that particular tool is designed for maximum flexibility and broad applicability. You can do a Lotus Blossom around a problem statement or to explore solutions. You can use it to design an organization, outline a research paper, or define a business process. I’ve even been known to plan out my New Year’s Resolutions in a Lotus Blossom. The options truly are endless, and so is the variety.

But for all the different ways to use a Lotus Blossom, there is one consistent practice I apply almost every time. It’s a particular petal that seems to fit every situation, regardless of topic or situation. I call it… the Barriers Petal.

It’s a pretty simple concept – just write the word Barriers in one of the petals around the central blossom. I tend to use the lower-left petal of the central blossom, for no particular reason other than that box tends to be available. Plus, having a consistent location helps me remember to do it.

Oddly, one of the things I like about this is the way this brings a slightly negative tone to the conversation, an off note to the composition. While the rest of the blossoms are typically full of possibilities and sparkly ideas, the Barriers blossom helps us anticipate the things that might undermine our plans or interfere with our goals.

This contrast sends a subtle signal to go beyond the obvious, front-of-mind ideas, and to dig a little deeper. Plus, virtually every topic has some sort of barriers associated with it, and it’s better to think about them and anticipate them in advance than to be surprised when one smacks us in the face.