Paper vs. Electronic

Originally posted on November 15, 2007 by Pete
One of the toughest decisions is whether to use paper or electronic tools for running meetings, managing to-do’s, even taking notes. Paper wins for speed, flexibility, and the ability to look at more of it at once…you can spread it out.


Electronic wins though for portability…and who doesn’t want to eliminate paper?

In general, we use paper for facilitating group work sessions because that is the only way to keep up. Using a computer to enter data creates a drag on the entire process, no matter how fluent the operator is. And it is next to impossible to facilitate the group if you have to look at the screen and think about your typing. And, by papering the walls, you have a visual point of reference to point to during the discussion as needed (as well as edit to incorporate later ideas).


For managing to-do’s, it is trickier. There are lots of good task management programs and, by using the computer (e.g., Outlook, Vitalist, etc.) you avoid having to re-write the same items when you cross off most of them but still have a few left. And you can sort by due date, by project, by context (e.g., calls, errands, office, internet, etc.). And, many of the programs work on your cellphone as well as your computer, so you have the information available at pretty much all times.

The most subtle challenge may be in creating output. I have gotten fairly fluent with the mainstream Microsoft Office Suite but somehow it is hard to create the first version of something using the computer. When I need to move quickly, handwriting the original and then having someone enter the data works the best…even if I have to tweak every page.

Probably the root question is organization. When creating output, you need to be able to capture and massage ideas as they are generated…which is not always the final sequence. Paper allows you to jump around, easily go back and make changes, get the gist of the content documented without bogging down to fix minor cosmetic details.

Finally, I had a client mention something I had never thought of…that the handwriten flipchart pages are more pleasant to look at! (Most of the production staff who have had the task of transcribing the data would probably disagree!) But maybe they are easier to look at than a computer or projector screen. Maybe the use of diagrams or multiple colors used make it easier to read/consume the information.

Leave a Reply