Bryan Taylor

Thinking About Design Thinking 4: Sticky Notes Do Not a Design Thinker Make

Having a massive supply of sticky notes doesn’t make you a design thinker.

I get the whole sticky obsession, and we do use such notes at Drawn, but I am growing tired of this sticky practice becoming the universal illustration of design thinkers. I find it an incomplete representation because anyone can have a wall of stickies, but not everyone is really willing to go where design thinking, at its essence, often leads us.

Design thinking is not a process that can be picked up from a blog article. It is a way of thinking, a commitment to follow the threads where they lead, a readiness to ask the brave questions and follow the answers down the path that they carve. If you really want to build a new office building, you can move those stickies around to justify the need for a new office building. But if you want to solve the real problem, the fact that you don’t feel inspired in your current office, then you can only find a real solution with design thinking.

When we treat sticky notes like tarot cards, ascribing a specific meaning that we wish to be true — and leading the process where we want it to finish — we are defeating the whole purpose and making it harder for others to truly practice design thinking.