The Twenty One Technique

The Twenty One Technique
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The Twenty One Technique

The Twenty-One Technique is a powerful tool for making decisions based on collective wisdom and is ideal for evaluating multiple ideas. Sometimes it can be difficult to know if a particular idea your group is embracing is truly the most preferred or desired by your group.

Distribute one index card and a pen to each person in your group. Instruct each person to write the letters A, B, C, and Total on the left-hand side of their card, one under the other.

Pose your question or statement and invite everyone to write their response on the other (blank) side of the card as clearly, succinctly and legibly as possible.

For example, you could ask or say the following:

  • What is community leadership?
  • Effective group facilitation means…
  • One thing our group could do to improve is…

It’s now time to allow your group a minute or two to consider their response to your question/statement. When ready, announce that over the course of three distinct rounds – called A, B and C – each person will have a brief conversation with a different partner to discuss the relative merits of two different responses to the question at a time.

Start the Activity – The Twenty One Technique

To start, instruct your group to re-distribute the cards in a series of one-for-one swaps with as any other people until you say “STOP.” The objective here is to produce a random redistribution of the cards.

Once shuffled, ensure that no one is holding their own card, ie if so, simply swap with the card of another person.

See also  The 5 Whys

With a new card in their hand, invite each person to seek out a new, random partner. Invite them to have a brief 1-minute conversation in regards to each of the two ideas/answers/responses they are holding.

When ready, instruct each pair to allocate a total of seven points across the two options according to their combined and relative preference, ie the two scores must equal seven points. For example, a pair may award 5 points to the idea expressed on one card and only 2 points to the other idea because they prefer/like the former idea more.

Instruct each person to write the score allocated to that idea next to letter A on the back of the card on which that idea is written.

You are now ready to launch into the next round.

Simply repeat all of the above steps – redistribute the cards, check that everyone is holding a new card (and not their own,) everyone looks for a new partner, each pair discusses the relative merits of these two new ideas and then awards a total of seven points shared across them.

Over the course of three rounds, it is expected that each person will have viewed and discussed a total of six new ideas (none of which are their own.) Upon completion of the third round, ask each person to add up the total points awarded to the idea written on their card (for all three rounds) and write this sum next to Total.

Starting with 21, survey your group to identify the idea that was awarded a total of 21 points, ie meaning this idea earned 7 points for each of the three rounds. Write this idea (if any) on flip-chart paper or a whiteboard for all to see.

See also  The 1-2-4-All Method

Next, survey those who are holding a card with an idea valued at 20 points, and then 19 points, etc. Continue this process until you have identified and listed the top 3 to 5 ideas of your group.

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