Practical Tools and Wise Quotes on All Matters Creative
Creative tools > Swap-sort
Use it to put a set of ideas into priority order.
Use it only when you have relatively few items to prioritize.
Identify the criteria that you are going to be using to prioritize. These should be relatively few. One is just fine. Three is ok. Five is rather a lot.
Write them on Post-it notes or Cards and put these into priority order, using a 'mini'-swap-sort. Then reference these for every comparison exchange.
Write the items that you want to compare on Post-it Notes or 3" x 5" cards. Shuffle them so they are not in any 'leading' order, then place them out in a line (vertically is often the best, though a horizontal line is just fine).
Now take the first two items and compare them. If the higher one (in a vertical setting) is more important than the lower one, then swap them.
Then repeat this comparison and possible swap with the second pair, third pair and so on until you get to the bottom.
Then go back to the top and repeat the whole top-to-bottom comparison and swaps. Keep repeating until you can go through the whole sequence without swapping anything.
Your list will now be in priority order.
Imagine I have four items, A, B, C and D are the actual priority order, but they start off as C D B A. My criterion is 'alphabetic order'. The swap-soft process is as follows:
C D B A
C D B A
C B D A
C B A D
B C A D
B A C D
B A C D
A B C D
We make decisions by comparing and contrasting. Taking two items at a time, as in this swap-sort creates focus and attention on just those two items, making a decisions as to which is more important easier.
The pattern of repeated comparisons and exchanges comes from computing, where it is known as a 'bubble sort'.