Managing Methods: Cards

Working on a team means you'll get exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of new tools, techniques, and methods. How do you leverage what you learn? Here are some ideas for information management, ranging from the very simple to the very complex:

  • Stickies
  • A dedicated sketchbook or Moleskine
  • Index cards
  • Mindmapping
  • Google Docs
  • Evernote
  • SharePoint

Whatever you choose, it's got to work for you and your workflow. After a couple of iterations, I decided I needed a system that wasn't tied to technology. Most tech solutions limit you to viewing one method at a time, making scanning through many methods time consuming. I also wanted a system that I could share with clients for co-designing approaches on the fly.

Ring of method cards

Ring of method cards

For me, blank playing cards held together by a wire key ring works the best. I have them roughly organized into categories: energizers, principles, groups of methods like the Grove Consultants' "Strategic Visioning" or LUMA Institutes's "Innovating for People," and then a whole bunch of single methods arranged alphabetically. 

In practice, when I learn about or remember a method, I write the title on one of the blank cards I keep at the back of the ring. I'll go back later and populate the body of the card with the essentials of the method, possibly after a little research to make sure I've got my facts straight. 

In use, I'll pull out the cards with a client when a discovery meeting shifts from talking about outcomes to approach. I'll pull out the few cards that I think will work well to achieve a particular outcome, then weigh the pros and cons of each card with the client. I'll write the duration of the activity given the size and nature of the group on a sticky next to each card. When we're done, we'll have the entire agenda mapped out. 

A few friends have suggested I publish these cards. There are two problems with that. First, I don't own these methods. These are really good ideas from a lot of really smart people. Second, the act of creating a card is even more valuable than having a card because it creates a strong mental model of the method and how you might use it.