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Online participation is time-delayed teamwork. This is one of its advantages: people do not have to set a specific date on when they submit and discuss proposals via a digital platform. However, there are tasks for which this mode alone is not sufficient and where iterations are necessary to develop ideas. This can be the case when a collaborative dialogue is needed to find, select, and make ideas more concrete – or simply when it is beneficial to sleep on the achieved interim results. Iterations can also be useful when the individual team members are asked to think about their own ideas and make their own judgements in order to perhaps revise their opinions later on with the knowledge of the judgements of others. How can you organise such an iterative process without having to put time-consuming meetings on the agenda?

Here at CrowdInsights, we count on the organised linking of short work units in the form of jointly created and edited documents and drawings, surveys, in combination with short video conference meetings.

A simple example is finding a title or a name for a project. For this, we came up with a method for a client that could be called the Christmas-Tree-Method. The geometric shape of a Christmas tree describes the basic pattern of the procedure, which consists of a sequence of openings and closings and culminates in an agreement on a concrete title proposal.

We started with a short video conference. The opening exercise aimed to explore the thematic terrain. For this purpose, we drew a metaphorical map with the workshop participants. Based on this, we developed initial title proposals in the manner of a Chinese whispers game: the initial suggestions that each person gave to the group were gradually changed and developed further by the others. The exercise was finalised with a first prioritisation.

The next steps were taken in the following days in silent work. Two to three participants at a time got together in groups. Their task was to further expand the list of prioritised proposals. To do this, they were given the task of using certain patterns, such as finding titles with first letters from A-Z, titles with two words, or titles that consist of alliterations, i.e. words with the same first letter.

In a third round, the participants were again presented with the now considerably grown list of suggestions for prioritisation. We used the method of pairwise comparison: the participants were presented with two suggestions each via a digital survey tool and had to decide which of the two they favoured.

In step four, we returned to width: here we once again developed variants of the previous favourites.

In the end, the participants first chose their respective favourites within the variant groups and from the resulting finalist list they lastly chose their top five candidates, including the winning title.

Conclusion: The overall process gave the participants time to sleep on the proposals several times. By organising much of the process as a silent micro-team work and in voting rounds via email and online tools, the need for time-consuming meetings was eliminated. By opening and closing the process step by step, it was possible to ensure that no proposals left the voting process without having been given thought to.

Feel free to contact us if you have a task where we can help you organise a multi-stage discussion process with time-delayed collaboration!