Post-Its and the Real World

All those colors, all those possibilities

Ah Post-its, such a delight.

In the studios of designers and students the world over, post-its rule the decor. They are the universal medium for memory augmentation and information organization. We take them for granted and we use them as a cure-all when shit is just too hard. We stick’em and play with’em. We like the feel and the mobility of the bite-sized, bitty pieces of data, information, or even knowledge. Putting it on a post-it makes a task real and holds us accountable to get it done. You cannot bin a post-it when you haven’t accomplished the task, hence there is always a gang of stragglers that have been stuck to the board for eighteen months while all the other post-its flit in and out of the life cycle of project work.

Regardless of the culture surrounding this simple note with a bit of stick, I am beginning to question the enormity of the task we put upon it.


Mind Mapping a.k.a Post-It Noting, looks more like this in the real world, not nearly as brightly colored and exciting as in the hands of designers or students.

Sure when you are working with designers and professional facilitators, we love our colorful markers and matching post-its, but do the cubicalites care? To a cubical dweller the post-it is a regular piece of stationary, not a design tool. A few months ago I ran a mind mapping session at my firm in order to map the complicated flow of products that we create. Here we have three separate divisions filled with talented technical and strategic minds, but no one could hold the entire pattern of the business in their mind. We had to lay it down step by step, and once we reorganized it all, the whole flow of the business began to take shape.

During the mapping session, it was awesome. I was so enthusiastic and cheer leading the whole event. I had just started this job and thought, “Hey we can do this all the time, I can totally change how things will work with some post-it note design tactics.” Ah, the new chick with her big ideas, yes that was me. I have quickly realized that we are at 100% work flow capacity all the time, and the gathering of people in that meeting is super hard to make happen. Playing with post-its and crafting careful design is an absurd luxury. Yes, we were successful in our mission. Yes, everyone left the meeting feeling good and more self-assured of a variety of things. Yes, everyone, especially the boss found it useful. No, it will not be happening on a regular basis. Furthermore post-it noting does not need to happen on a regular basis, it needs the right kind of problem to tackle with it. You need to know what you are doing. In our meeting I had to clearly lay out every step of the process from the kinds of post-its, markers, how to write legibly, who had what role, and more.

After this experience I have a new mission:


So readers tell me your tips and tricks, your issues and successes, your best and worst post-it note related ideas.

Comment here or twitter @aliciadudek

4 thoughts on “Post-Its and the Real World

  1. Alicia, this is really great, and something I will share with my teams.

    Don’t give up your mission, but consider that you can probably generate ideas much more quickly using post-its than everyone else can execute. There really is a great place for this creativity, so where the roles in the enterprise shift from the visionary to the pragmatic (and post-its truly are pragmatic for the visionary), the operations folks need the time to implement what you plan.

    Kind regards,

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