The problem solving power of stickies: simple tools that deliver great results

I love stickies and I was happy to see this talk and learned a few new things from Kate Rutter from Adaptive Path. Get her presentation here. 

When my boyfriend Jason, was putting his portfolio together to look for a job a few months ago, he didn’t know what he wanted to do and what he could do. So we solicited the help of our little friends – stickies. We did a bottom-up exercise that helped us figured that out. In a matter of 30 minutes, we organized his work into 3 meaningful chunks and he figured out what he wanted to do with his life and built a really good portfolio from our stickie game 🙂

So I agree with Kate that “tickies are the currency of ideas”. She showed us new ways to use an old brainstorming tool. They help us create useful and meaningful information:

  • Generate ideas
  • Probe problems
  • Explore attributes
  • Identify patterns
  • Prioritize
  • Make decisions
  • Create plans


Kate, the sticky ninja shared some tips to make this tool work:

  • One thought or idea per sticky
  • Make them as clear as possible
  • Be specific
  • Set the stage, define what we’re doing and keep it so everyone can see throughout the exercise
  • It doesn’t have to be formal
  • Keep it light

4 layouts

  • Lists
  • Clusters
  • Categories
  • Trees

7 methods of using stickies:

  1. Free listing: Start with one big idea, write down thoughts associated with that idea. Use stickies to identify patterns.
  2. Swap sort: Compare one thing to another. Pose a question such as: “what makes us the most money”. Put one item per sticky, then compare them and place them in relation to each other accordingly. The end result is usually: “we knew that!” But visualizing consensus moves things forward.
  3. Dot voting: each person put their votes down, each get a limited number of votes (like 3). Eliminate then repeat.
  4. Loose cluster: grouping and identifying patterns.
  5. Top-down tree: The 5 why’s, getting to the bottom of it.
  6. Bottom-up tree: Group and categorize then group the categories… Kind of like affinity diagramming.
  7. Information map: Kind of like site map
  8. Action map: Put some pre-existing spaces down for things to go into. See the notes on Indi Young’s talk, she used this technique to do her mental spaces in the mental model technique.

We did an exercise together on the topic of “ways to evangelize UX in your organization”, here are some of the results:






2 Responses to “The problem solving power of stickies: simple tools that deliver great results”

  1. 1 Dev Friday, March 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you. Its really helped me get started.

  1. 1 StickyNote Ninja » Blog Archive » UX Week 2007 : notes and comments from the stickynote ninja talk Trackback on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 3:49 am

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