Crawford's Slip Writing Method

Generating Ideas From Many Contributors

Crawford's Slip Writing Method - Generating Ideas and Solutions From Many Contributors

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mrPliskin

Use the Crawford Slip Method to record everyone's ideas.

How do you unlock the collective knowledge and ideas of your team, your department or even your whole organization? And how do you do this in a way that everyone (not just those with the biggest egos) gets heard?

The Crawford Slip Method is a simple yet effective type of brainstorming that gives the opinions of all team members equal weight, however quiet they are. In fact, you probably will have encountered this way of generating ideas and solutions even if you haven't called it the Crawford Slip Method.

Invented in the 1920s by Dr C.C. Crawford, Professor of Education at the University of Southern California, the method simply involves collating input from people on slips of paper (nowadays often on sticky notes).

Not only does this help you generate a wide variety of solutions, it also helps people get involved and feel that their contributions are valued. Writing rather than speaking during the session can have added advantages: it helps people to think freely without interruption, and it levels the playing field between quieter people and more outspoken participants.

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More than this, as peoples individual contributions are brought together into groupings of similar ideas, it gives you a feel for the overall "popularity" of each idea.

Tip:

The Crawford Slip Method and other creative brainstorming techniques focus on generating ideas and contributions, rather than how to use these to create a group outcome. If, however, your main need is to achieve consensus on a particular issue, consider using the Delphi Method or the Modified Borda Count instead. These are useful methods for achieving a robust group consensus on controversial issues.

How to Use the Tool

Preparation

  1. Before the session, think about how you'll present the problem to be solved to your team, how you'll analyze contributions, and how you'll give feedback to participants.
  2. Be ready to give each contributor paper slips or Post-It Notes on which to write their ideas. Depending on the challenge, you will probably ask each person to contribute between 5 and 25 ideas each, so have a good supply of slips to hand!

Briefing and Facilitation

  1. At the start of the meeting or workshop, introduce the issue to be brainstormed clearly. Be specific but keep it as simple as possible. Where appropriate use images, film clips or visual recordings to illustrate the problem to be solved and to get people thinking. Tell contributors how their input will be used and what feedback they will receive.
  2. Ask contributors to write down as many ideas and suggestions as they can, with each idea or suggestion being written on a separate slip of paper. Encourage people to keep contributing until ideas run dry, ideally getting between 5 and 25 ideas from each. You will know it's time to draw the session to a close when most people have stopped writing.

Analysis

  1. Organize the contributions into logical groupings and similar ideas. How you do this will depend on the challenge to be solved.

    For example, if you are looking for suggestion to improve customer service, you could map the key activities in the customer service process, and then organize people's suggestions according to these key activities.

    And record the number of slips containing each suggestion, so you have an idea of the "popularity" of each suggestion.

Feedback

  1. It can take weeks or even months to actually design and implement specific solutions based on the ideas generated. However, you should aim to provide feedback promptly at or soon after the session, to everyone involved.

Whether or not the ideas will ultimately be implemented, prompt feedback shows people that contributions are valued and being taken seriously. Remember to follow-up with more feedback when you actually implement resulting solutions and improvements.

Tip:

It can be good to analyze results and present feedback during the workshop itself. Well-planned and rapid feedback can be very impressive and powerful, and so help people to feel that your workshop or event was successful.

However, don't keep people standing around idly while you collate feedback.

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Comments (10)
  • Over a month ago Rachel wrote
    Hi All

    When it comes to group brainstorming, people can sometimes be afraid to speak up.

    However, you can avoid this issue by using the Crawford Slip Writing Method. And that's this week's Featured Favorite.

    Click below to find out more!
    http://www.mindtools.com/community/pages/article/newCT_95.php

    Best wishes

    Rachel
  • Over a month ago bigk wrote
    Hi

    It sounds a very good opportunity to develop ideas and get work done in a group.

    I wish you success.

    About the earlier exploration about the tool.
    There are groups of people and situations I was considering this for, I was considering the paper slip idea for both these. I find these are still interchangeable.
    The situation is not what is important.

    Advanced software skilled practioners might still want to use paper ideas exchange just as much as use distributed software group communication work methods to share the ideas in a network to develop or innovate in the project to get the ideas explored.

    I find still that both options are useful.
    It is the project itself that sometimes decides which method needs used first, although each can be challenged and used instead and used alternatively.

    Result and progress are important.

    Bigk
  • Over a month ago Dianna wrote
    Hi conlafe - welcome to the forums! It's great to hear from you.

    Have you considered the Charette Procedure for your multigroup process? http://mindtools.com/community/pages/ar ... wCT_90.php It's a really effective way to gather ideas for multiple issues with multiple groups (or large groups of people). I think you could use the slip writing method for each of the smaller brainstorming session and in this way combine the best of Crawford's method with a process that allows you to tackle complex issues with more efficiency. Take a look at the process and see if it would work.

    As for defining the problem statement that is really key to the whole issue. Maybe try the 5 Whys ( http://www.mindtools.com/community/page ... TMC_5W.php ) to better understand the heart of the general issues being raised. Then by addressing who, what, when, where, and how you can start defining the problem in clear and concise terms. What you want to stay away from is brainstorming an issue that is too general or not clearly defined. The solutions generated are far less useful and you'll probably end up repeating the process a few times. Maybe it's worth doing a brainstorming session to decide what the exact problems are??

    Please do keep us posted on how it goes.

    Dianna
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