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Unlock the power of Design Thinking with Post-it® notes and other unexpected tools

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These days, work is all about collaboration. But as many managers have found, you can’t just toss a bunch of employees in a conference room and expect magic. As with anything in business, effective collaboration requires the right process and tools. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

As a non-linear, iterative, and continuous process, Design Thinking helps teams better understand their customers, define the business problem, and create innovative solutions compared to linear methods many businesses use to resolve issues.

The power of Design Thinking

Design Thinking has five steps: 1. Empathise to understand the user’s needs, 2. Define the problem, 3. Ideate potential solutions, 4. Prototype the most promising ideas, and 5. Test prototypes with users to gain feedback.

As a much more playful way to approach problem-solving, Design Thinking breaks down the rigid barriers of a traditional, linear process. As play researcher Dr. Stuart Brown notes, “play-deprived adults are often rigid, humourless, inflexible and closed to trying out new options.” Play-deprived businesses are exactly the same.

The playful approach of Design Thinking empowers your team to be more flexible and open to new solutions that might have been previously dismissed out-of-hand. It’s no wonder Design Thinking is found in some of the world’s most playful and successful companies, including  Apple, Google, PepsiCo, and Nike.

The right tools for the job 

If your business brain is trying to figure out how you’re supposed to do all this non-linear thinking in PowerPoint or with a spreadsheet, think again. The business tools you usually work with are too linear and static to use collaboratively. That’s why tools like 3M's Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, Post-it® Super Sticky Meeting Charts, and Post-it® Super Sticky Dry Erase Film are required tools of Design Thinking.

Team members can easily write down ideas, put them on a wall, and add, subtract, or connect ideas as needed. Any idea can be written down by anyone for all to see, freeing up one person from being the official notetaker. It also empowers everyone to share, reference, and build on each other’s thoughts during the meeting, while keeping collaboration going after the meeting by providing a consistent shared reference for anyone to walk up to and read.

Ready to test Design Thinking with your team? Your next big idea is as close as the office supply closet. Here’s how Post-it® products can help you get the most out of each stage of the Design Thinking process.


In this stage, you want to gain a personal understanding of the problem you’re solving. That means doing research, talking to experts and users, and gathering data. Use Post-it® Super Sticky Dry Erase Film to create a whiteboard wall that can act as a central repository for critical nuggets of information to be shared with the team.


Once you’re done the research, it’s time to take everything you’ve learned to accurately define the problem you’re trying to solve. Post-it® Super Sticky Self Stick Easels allow you to group different aspects of the problem by sheets. By sticking several sheets around the room and assigning subjects, the team can quickly move from one sheet to another to contribute insights as they see fit. Once the problem is defined, write it out on its own sheet to hang in the room to be used as inspiration during the ideation phase.


After all that left-brain analysis, it’s time for the right side of the brain to work. Issue each member of the team a pad of Post-it® Super Sticky Notes and let them go far and wide with their ideas. This stage is all about idea generation, so encourage team members to write down one idea per note, stick it on the wall for others to see and iterate on, and quickly move on to the next idea. The goal is to aim for quantity, so make sure you bring plenty of pads for everyone. Once you’ve generated enough ideas, discuss the ones the team feels rise to the top and group them together.


Rather than selecting one idea to execute, take the team’s top ideas and build out prototypes. Failure should be expected and encouraged; the point is to find the solution that works best as quickly and cheaply as possible. Use Post-it® Super Sticky Big Notes to track progress on each prototype, add notes, and brainstorm new ideas off the back of existing ones. 


Once you have a prototype you like, don’t jump right to production; a little bit of user feedback at this stage can save you from a product that users reject later on. Gather a few users and have a Post-it® Easel Pad on hand to collect feedback during a moderated testing session.  

As you incorporate Design Thinking into your business, remember that each of these stages can be done in parallel or returned to time and again as you make progress; for example, what you learn in the testing phase may better inform your definition of the problem, leading to a new brainstorming session to explore solutions you hadn’t initially considered.

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