December 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 6 // Tools of the Trade // 6TOT1

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Book Review: Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it (TM) Notes

Jan Scholl reviews the recent edition of "Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it (TM) Notes" which contains information not only to solve problems but shows how to organize "chunks" of information for program planning and development purposes. Special sections in the book speed reading and rapid application of concepts.

Jan Scholl
Associate Professor and 4-H Youth Specialist
Agricultural and Extension Education
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Internet addres:

Straker, D. (1997). Rapid Problem Solving with Post-it (TM) Notes. Tucson, AZ: Fisher Books. ISBN 1-55561-142-7 $14.95 U.S., $20.95 Canada.

I must admit I was skeptical when I first saw this book. The title made me think it was written just to sell a well-known office product. Actually the author is a British quality consultant who developed his problem-solving applications outside of the 3M Corporation.

The book outlines six ways to process "chunks" of information and provides more than 70 diagrams and examples for solving everyday problems. The six ways (the post-up, the swap sort, the top down tree, the bottom-up tree, the information map, and action maps are described in practical sections titled "what is it used for", "when do I use it", "how does it work" and "how do I do it". There is even "a quick tour" for impatient people who want to get started quickly or who are in a hurry to "see the big picture first and the detailed parts later".

What I like about it is that once you try a few of these strategies, you'll come up with many applications on your own. I have used Straker's techniques to map out a plan of work, script a new audio-visual, arrange seating at a banquet, outline a new 4-H project, organize an Extension report, prepare a speech, and develop a model for a research study.

Use the techniques by yourself or involve other people-- moving ideas around until something satisfies. Yes, I know you can do the same thing with index cards, but then there is that certain satisfaction when something truly sticks! Bring in large poster paper or a vinyl sheet, arrange the notes on it, roll up the sheet and transport it back to the office for review at some future time.

You may find an older copy (blue cover) of this book at your local or university library. The latest (red cover) of the book-- indicated above--may be easily found or ordered from a book store. Either copy is quite usable. In my opinion, no Extension office or meeting should be without one!