Sticky Note Fatigue and the Fog of Knowledge 

Andy Budd has an interesting take on the over-use (or, perhaps the poor-use) of design exercises and what  he refers to as “sticky note fatigue”. He suggests that business leaders sometimes see the exercises as too far afield of the real work of design.

I’m a believer in the power of exercises and methods used as part of design and strategy workshops. I’ve seen over and over again how the right exercise  idea unlock deep insights and a shared understanding of strategic options. But, when the exercises aren’t led well or the participants aren’t clear about why they’re doing what they’re doing, those exercises feel a lot like all ideas and no action. So, i tend to agree with this point:

Another challenge is confusing the map for the territory, or in this case the activity for the insights. Not all sticky note exercises are created equal. It’s not the sticky notes themselves to blame, but the people who use them badly.

The goal isn’t merely to “do some ‘design thinking'”. The goal is to use these exercises to a) get to some real insights and ideas and b) get closer to alignment on the right problems to solve and the right kinds of solutions to prioritize. It’s the job of the facilitators to create the right focus and the right guidance for the participants.

I like Budd’s suggestion to, essentially, just get on with the design work and put some screens or sketches together. “You can often learn more from a bad first prototype than you can from any number of sticky note exercises.”

In my experience, we’ve generally put the collaborative design work (i.e. the sticky note work) up front. Perhaps we should be blending design work and collaborative design more frequently?

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