Card Story Boards

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Creativity Techniques
Cartoon Story Board

This technique, although similarly named, differs 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 ).

With card story boards, the facilitator can concentrate on idea-generation of particular topics and sub-topics much more closely than typically possible in open-ended methods (c.f. Constrained BrainWriting as another way to achieve this).

Cards are arranged 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):


Different-shaped or coloured header cards look more striking. If you want to use non-sticky cards, you can make a re-stickable display area by spraying flip-chart paper with low-tack adhesive (available in spray cans). Then the cards can be positioned, rearranged or removed as you wish.

One possible approach is as follows:

  1. 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’.
  2. 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
  3. Now, rank the idea cards via a suitable voting method and prioritize them 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 Smithers’ ‘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)

This process compactly summarizes the problem and lists current ideas for addressing it, in a system that is easily adjusted.

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