Card Story Boards

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.

Card Story Boards
This technique although similarly named is quite different from the Cartoon Story Board technique. It is an ‘idea’ organizing’ method using tree logic (c.f. Mind Mapping, and other hierarchical diagrams and outlines, and Venn-convention methods such at Snowball Technique, and KJ-Method).

The facilitator is more able to concentrate on idea-generation of particular topics and sub-topics much more closely than is usually possible in open-ended methods (c.f. Constrained BrainWriting as another way to achieve this).

How to Do
Cards are laid out in a tabular format – a simple row of header cards (or possibly header and sub-header cards as in the example below), each with a column of idea cards below it, perhaps with added action or comment notes attached (index cards or Post-it slips could be used):


Using different shaped or coloured ‘header’ cards to make them more striking is helpful. The semi-sticky adhesive used on re-stickable notes is available in spray-can form, so if you want to use non-sticky cards, you can make a re-stickable display area by spraying flip-chart paper with the adhesive; the cards can then be put in position or removed and rearranged as you wish. One possible approach is as follows:

  • The group leader describes the problem to the participants; they then suggest possible categories of solutions. These are written on cards and displayed as a row of ‘headers’.
  • The group leader selects a particular ‘header’ and participants write ideas relating to that header on cards. These idea-cards are displayed under the relevant header, followed by the leader posing provocative questions to prompt further idea-cards under that header. This process is repeated with other headers, until there is an adequate supply of ideas. If necessary, return to Step 1 to generate further headers, and/or add sub-header cards under a particular header card
  • The idea cards should no be ranked via a suitable voting method and arranged in priority order under each header (or sub-header). The best three in each category are discussed further, and ranked amongst themselves

Smithers (1984), of the Creative Thinking Centre, adds a introductory problem clarification stage by initially putting up a header saying ‘Purpose’ and then getting the group to develop idea-cards under this header for different aspects of the ‘Purpose’ of solving the problem. The headers for the idea-generation stage are then created as a result of this initial stage, one group member writes the cards, another member pins them up, allowing the group leader to concentrate on facilitation.

Fasttrack, a fully developed problem-solving process devised by Bauer and Associates (1985), makes extensive use of card story boards. They use a:

  • ‘Why?’ header (equivalent to Smitters’ ‘Purpose’),
  • ‘Miscellaneous’ header (for use where there is disagreement about the category of an idea)
  • ‘Wild Card’ header (where all rejected ideas are stored)
  • ‘Causes’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Consequences’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Essential Criteria’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Solution ideas’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Selected solution(s)’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Action Steps’ header (for evaluation)
  • ‘Assessment Steps’ header (for evaluation)

These establish a very compact summary of the problem and current ideas about dealing with it, in a system that is easily adjusted.

You can also use header cards to represent procedural elements or steps (instead of idea categories) with the idea-cards listing the results of that step.

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