This article explains the Crawford Slip Writing Method, also known as the Crawford Freewriting Method, in a practical way. After reading, you will understand this brainstorming method for solving problems in teams.
What is the Crawford Freewriting Method?
The Crawford Freewriting Method was created in 1925 by Dr. C.C. Crawford, professor of education at the University of Southern California.
It is a simple and effective method of brainstorming, usually used by teams. It is also a quick and agile way of brainstorming where each team member can give their opinion and express their ideas no matter how crazy or quiet they are.
The Crawford Free Writing Method is a survey tool that easily accommodates large or small working groups, thus making it quicker to collect information from each person present.
This brainstorming tool was created in the United States in the 1920s, as a form of intellectual writing. Time is an important factor for this collaborative teamwork tool because creativity must be present in order to be expressed in a short time. This forces each participant in the group to organize their ideas quickly and creatively.
How to use the Crawford Slip Writing Method?
As the Crawford Slip Writing Method uses speed to encourage creativity, it is normally used by large groups where time is short but has to be of high productivity. This allows people to express themselves without having to discuss their ideas in a monotonous and lengthy way.
It is also used to connect the ideas of large audiences, where time is also limited but which makes people feel that they are participating and expressing their opinions and ideas.
- Hand out the sheets of paper to each team member. Hand out the number of sheets according to the number of ideas you want to collect. These can be pieces of paper or Post-It notes.
- Ask the group for ideas on the topic being addressed. Be specific or general, depending on what you need or are looking for in the answers.
- Approach the topic with questions and challenges to allow for creativity from team members, e.g. How could we… in what way…?
- The leader or facilitator can show images or say words that encourage the team’s creative responses.
- Collect the answers after a certain amount of time, and then collect them according to the different sections you have with the working group.
- Mix the ideas that are similar
To keep participants focused on the task, one can set a time limit from the beginning. For example, if you are going to address three specific questions, you can set aside 10 minutes to work on the first question, 10 minutes for the second question, and 10 minutes for the last question. Of course, the amount of time you allocate to each question will depend on the complexity of the topic and the number of ideas you want to receive.
Recommendations for participants using the Crawford Slip Writing Method
- Write down the ideas, be specific in your writing
- Write one idea per card.
- Be specific in what you want to express
- Describe the idea in a few words
Feedback in the Crawford Slip Writing Method?
After collecting each person’s answers, it is important to make an analysis in order to draw conclusions that help to deepen what you want to achieve with the team, whether it is the solution to a problem or the decision making necessary to meet objectives.
This is why feedback plays an important role in the success of the working session. In this way, you can get an idea of how to improve the problem or issue you are dealing with. Also the team members will know what they think about their ideas and how these provide important data for success.
With this Crawford writing method, the aim is to collect information from each team member in a very short time but which can result in qualitative data of ideas. If this tool is used in a correct way it can be of great help for problem solving, analysis of negative points of the company, creative ideas to solve bottleneck situations, among others.
Thus, quality decisions can be made to improve the company’s productivity.
Keep in mind when putting this method into practice:
This method, when used in most cases in large groups, should be taken into account that people might feel embarrassed, angry or cautious when asked to participate in the brainstorming since it is not always easy to express thoughts, opinions and ideas in front of others. But by creating a space of trust, energy and motivation in front of the group, people will be able to share what they want.
This method can also be used anonymously.
- The cost of this method is inexpensive as it only requires paper cups, pens, a facilitator and participants.
- Time is short, which makes it a tool that fits the speed of idea creation.
- It can be used in team co-creation space or in work projects that need inspiration to address issues.
- This method helps the more shy or silent people in the team to participate in the brainstorming discussions.
- The more people in the group, the more ideas you get.
- Creativity can emerge in a more practical way when written down on paper, this helps people reflect their ideas and thoughts more clearly.
- Must be a method used in a face-to-face way, since in a virtual way it could not have the same results.
- The members of the activity cannot take the ideas of their colleagues and develop them separately.
- If the participation of each member of the team is not organized, it could generate a lack of control since it is a method normally used with large teams.
- If team members are not motivated, you may see a lack of synchronisation and you may not achieve the goal of creativity that you are looking for among the collection of ideas.
Simple but powerful method for companies
Crawford’s Slip Writing Method is a simple tool that can be used in companies at times when they need to be highly creative and effective either for problem solving or for the creation of new lines, improvements or new challenges that the organization is going through.
With just paper, pencil and motivation, great ideas can be achieved that will emerge from each individual. This gives the opportunity for each person to express their ideas and have them shared and heard and why not link many of them to achieve the solutions they need to obtain for the topic being discussed at the meeting.
This type of space and method will make the potential of the company grow and those involved feel that they are participating in it for progress and organizational development.
The preparation of the meeting with the team must be prepared in advance as the right questions to be addressed in the meeting are important for the flow of connection that each member will have with creativity and ideas, in this space of co-creation.
At the beginning of the meeting, you should highlight in detail the problems or issues to be addressed. Depending on the complexity of the topic, a presentation is needed to bring the team up to speed and to get everyone in the same frame of mind.
Examples of specific business questions could include:
- What new products should we launch to the public to expand our line?
- Are there any products that are in high demand that we do not yet have?
- How can we improve our efficiency in the production processes?
- What improvements in delivery to the end customer could be made?
These types of questions and those you feel are necessary for your organisation should be asked as a team-building impulse.
Creativity is valued and is an initiative that can be taken when using this method. Companies need creativity to move forward and this is an important tool to achieve this. Employees like this format because it is quick and agile and the meeting is short and precise.
The Crawford Slip Writing Method has been promoting creativity in teams that need to manage ideas in order to make important decisions on a specific topic for over two decades.
This puts the mental agility of each participant to the test, as well as the initiative, motivation and willingness to participate of each person in the team. Giving importance to their opinion and freedom of expression.
This method provides a variety of solutions, but also involves people and helps them feel that their contributions are valued. Writing instead of talking during this activity has advantages. It helps people to think freely without interruption and also makes them more open about what they want to express about the topic being discussed.
Nowadays companies are more flexible when working in teams, it has been increasingly understood that motivation and the importance of group building is vital for the productivity of an organisation.
Organisational structures give priority to human resources as the engine of a company is the staff, that they feel comfortable with proposing ideas, without the fear of what they will say. For this reason, brainstorming is a useful and simple tool that makes conflict resolution, teamwork and the creation of new alternatives in today’s companies easier and more effective.
In an easy and fast way, ideas can be collected to manage future successful results that the company needs. Giving voice and vote to the people involved is vital to achieve the fulfilment of team objectives. The importance of team building is essential to achieve what is needed.
Brainstorming, comments, opinions, sharing different perspectives in the working group is vital to progress and improve what is needed in the company. It also gives the employee confidence to share their thoughts in a calm and often anonymous way.
Now it’s your turn
What do you think? Do you think it is important to generate these spaces of ideas in a group in a company? Have you used the Crawford Slip Writing Method? Is it necessary to implement this method in today’s companies? Do you have any suggestions or anything else to add about this method?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Crawford, C. C., & Demidovich, J. W. (1983). Crawford slip method. how to mobilize brainpower by think tank technology. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES SCHOOL OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION.
- Crawford, C. C., Demidovich, J. W., & Krone, R. M. (1984). Productivity Improvement by the Crawford Slip Method. How to Write, Publish, Instruct, Supervise, and Manage for Better Job Performance. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES.
- Crawford, C. C., Demidovich, J. W., & Ledbetter, W. N. (1984). The Crawford slip method. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, (2), 109-110.
- Molenaar, K. R., & Wilson, C. R. (2009). A risk-based approach to contingency estimation in highway project development. In Construction Research Congress 2009: Building a Sustainable Future (pp. 786-795).
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