Monday, 24 October 2016

Design Thinking: Sticky Note Confidential

For something that was created almost by accident, Sticky Notes are basically a Design Thinker's bread and butter. As part of Brainstorming session they are essential and until they create a more environmentally friendly electronic version, I'll still be going through them by the multi-pack! However, beware not all Sticky Notes are created equally and after many years of cycling through different brands, colours and formats, I will share with you my 5x basic rules for purchasing Sticky Note...

#1 - Get Super Sticky!

I stick with 3M and where possible the "super sticky" version. In 2003 3M released a new formula which is at least double as sticky as the original in my ad-hoc testing. This makes it perfect for offices where I am using any old painted wall (vs. clean glass or whiteboard). They do cost a little more (approx 20% - $18.99 vs $22.56 for 12x 3"x3" yellow, but have only 90 vs. 100 sheets), but the last thing you need is to have all your ideas drop to the floor, especially after they have been moved around once or twice.

(For the record, I almost always go 3M Post-Its when I can. I have used some very poor cheaper brands and they just don't stick well. Some peel off really poorly or curl up into an egg-roll shape the moment you remove it from the pad. 
The generic patent for Post-Its ran out in 1990s, but I imagine 3M will have the exclusive on Super Sticky for quite a while longer. So if you want the super sticky you'll have to go 3M.)

Currently I get the 14x pack @ Costco for $11.99 in Canada.

#2 - Get Bright Colours!

I use the more vibrant collections vs. traditional dull, pastel "Canary" yellow. Nothing seems to bore me more than a sea of yellow Stickies with thin blue ball-point pen ink that I cannot read until I am within arms length. The original colour was an accident, but you don't have to keep repeating the accident.

Turns out 3M sells multi-pack in 'collections' which are palette of 5x colours. I like Rio and Marrakesh, because I believe the vibrant colours help to stimulate the mind. I actually avoid Marseille and pastels as they are muted and give off the impression of dull idea.

(For the record, I always pair my bright colours with coloured brand-name Sharpies. This gives me near infinite combination of text + stickies to ensure there is lots of visual diversity. In a bind I do use white-board markets, but find the chisel tips sometimes annoying. I am *VERY* careful to remind folks not to use the indelible/permanent markets on the Whiteboard and *JUST* the Sticky Notes only! No pens please. )

Recently Costco no longer carries the multi-pack, but they have BIC permanent markets, 26 for $9.79

#3 - Get Traditional 3"x3"!

I have tried smaller and larger pads, but the square 3"x3" seem to work the best. There is enough space to get a good picture/visual, but not too much as to invite long, boring rows upon rows of text. Square pads provide nice symmetry and allow for both vertical and horizontal grouping.

(For the record, for me it's more 'feel' thing, the 3"x3" seems to fit into my palm quite nicely, better than the smaller 2"x2" and larger 3"x5" pads. 2"x2" are very hard to see and differentiate from anything more than 5-6ft. 3"x3" pads take up 60% of space 3"x5", allowing for quite a bit more ideas per square foot!)

#4 - Get Extra!

As a Brain Storming facilitator, the last thing you need is someone saying they 'had' more ideas but ran out of Sticky Notes. Buy in bulk and get extra as unused Sticky Notes don't really expire and can be used in a future Brain Storming session.

In an ideal world, everyone would start out with their own 90-100 sheet pack, but in most cases I do split a pack among multiple people when I have larger groups.

(For the record, in most typical sessions I use anywhere from 200-500 Sticky Notes, so get bulk multi-colour packs to keep things economical.)

#5 - Watch out for the Gimmicks!

There are number of options you can get now and most of then interfere or distract with the process. Especially if you are ordering on-line, read the description and avoid:
  • Dispenser: The accordion style as these are special dispensers. Using these in a Brainstorming session will ensure someone will write an idea upside-down.
  • Lined: The lined pads are extremely distracting and discourage using a large part of the pad for visuals.
  • Full adhesive: These are great at sticking to surfaces as the sticky surface areas is increased greatly, but I find it slows some people down. Getting Super Sticky pads are often enough. (However for users who always write on pads up-side down, these can solve that problem!)

The last unwritten rule (with apologies to Chase Jarvis) is "The sticky note you have is better than the one you don't". Grab anything you can get your hands on (even if it's 3"x5", pastel yellow, knock-off brand with lines!!!) and split it up so everyone has at least a few to start off with. There should no excuse to getting out ideas once the session starts.

In reality I actually have two habits that always keep ready to do a brain storming session at a moments notice:

A) Design Thinking Bankers Box

I have on a shelf a Bankers Box that I literally just dump new stationary supplies and old left-overs from past BrainStorming sessions. I label it my "Design Thinking" box and right now it sits in our d-shop. Keeping it isolated and separate from the stationary cabinet ensure that a local supply emergency does not constitute a Brain Storming emergency! Also ensure that any left-overs are collected and used up next session.

B) Sticky Note Ziploc Bag

I also have a larger freezer Ziploc bag full of at least 4-5 packs of Sticky Notes and 5-6 multi-coloured sharpies on top of my desk or in my bag. So when I find out our meeting in 2 mins is actually a brain-storming sessions, I just grab the bag along with my coffee mug.

You can watch a vblog version here:

Hope that helps!


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