Post-its: Not to be confused with design, or a summary of innovation
Pic: Workshop to a Startup-NGO in Washington DC [CM]
It may sound really obvious, but as time goes by and I have been a PhD student, a design-anthro consultant, ethnographer, instructor in academia and in the industry, the reality is that people confuse the design process or the lead to innovation with the sole use of using post-its, and it stresses me out.
POST ITS ARE NOT THE DESIGN PROCESS
While talking to individuals from some companies that have been consulted by design firms, innovation gurus or self called design thinkers, they indicate they are troubled by having paid a bunch of money to “just learn to paste post-its, cluster them and talk about ideas.” But what do they do next? The technique has become a financially successful end in itself, but the empowerment towards innovation is limited. The technique can only provide certain answers and people are not aware that this is just a small part of the whole picture.PIC: Stanford’s DSchool PA [CM]
USEFULNESS OF POST ITS
Don’t get me wrong. I work with post-its, my students work with post-its and the organizations I assess work with post-its in my workshops. They are great to extrapolate ideas (display and externalize knowledge), yet…they are just that, a practical tool to think display (a term popularized by Miles and Huberman), which is to say they are great for brainstorming, mind maps creation or to visualize mental models. But the threat is that they also can generate what my friend Michael Barry from Stanford mentioned to me once: Academic Paralysis.
Post-its seem to have been the perfect marketing response to selling the usefulness of designer’s divergent thinking. Nonetheless, it has become an end in itself (with no results or success guaranteed on innovation). What can we do? I believe that making people aware that this is just a small portion of the ecosystem and just a small bit of the design process might be the most ethical way out. Post-its should be used to answer the right type of questions. Not everything needs to be answered with funny colored elements; that is not the synonym of effective design.
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