Post-its vs. Design thinking

Do the Post-its kill the good intensions of Design Thinking?

When our pro Design Thinking (DT) teachers from Portugal start to show us the method – Evolution 6² – already in the second face I’m sitting with the Post-its in my hand. My brain stop working, no ideas are coming to my mind… Are all my fears coming to realize?

In working life I have been participating and have been facilitating many workshops which have been trying to engage, gather the knowledge and silent information. We have been trying to find out how things feels and how we can fix complicated problems. With the Post-its. So now I’m sitting here and starting to study Design thinking and I can’t help thinking: Am I starting to study how to use the Post-its (Tschummer 2012, 11)?

But listening to and reading about DT brings me back to the idea of DT. Empathy, human-centered, collaboration, holistic perspective, active listening and observation as the tools of thinking and resolving together complicated problems without right answers (Tschummer 2012, 3; Miettinen 2014, 12). That I can buy!

As a service manager I have tried to find a method to make services for my customers accessible & efficient – and still get better service quality. And I am starting to get a feeling that DT might be The Method!


So it’s OK to investigate how things feel and look like without “right” answers how product or services should be done. My intuition has always led me to drawing when I’m stuck with some problem. The way we use legos and role play in the class is the same category – it helps you get rid of A4-format and excel-sheets. Its helps you see parameters and analyze the complicated connections between them. (Tschummer 2012, 15 & 17; Kälviäinen 2014, 33.)

In my work I have also been looking for ways to design and change the service culture. How to make the shift from administrative actions to the good service attitude? I might see daylight. From clerks to Customer Happiness Consultants! And now I’m starting off my journey to find ways, methods, courage & self-confidence to use them. But Design Thinking it is!

Back to post-its. I’ve been there – a facilitator handing out post-its. And we are sighing “Post-it sulkeiset” – in English you might translate it The Post-it Boot Camp. The good intensions and methods are ruined when you see those little neon colored paper slips. Now I have an identity crisis – am I a just another Post-it boot camp sergeant again?


I think the problem is normally communication – what are we trying to do (with Post-its) and the outcome – we have filled in a hundred post-its – and then what? You have to get the feeling that we are here together (Miettinen E. 2014, 183)! Help people to see the meaningful process behind the slips. These are the things I try to tackle when I’m starting my first humble DT project.

But still – Post-its needs design thinking! They are contaminated. Somebody has to re-invent the concept. Because it’s important how things feels (Brown 2008, 92)! But don’t worry about me – I’m convinced that Design thinking conquers my post-it trauma, eventually!

Written by Saara Maalismaa


Picture form Ruut Bryk’s retrospective exhipition in Espoo Modern Art Museum Emma, 2016


2nd and 3rd  September Design Thinking –session in Laurea, teachers Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença. See also:

Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harward Business Review, 2008, 85-92.

Kälviäinen, Mirja (2014) Muotoiluajattelua vai muotoilutoimintaa in Miettinen, Satu (toim.) Muotoiluajattelu. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus ry, 30-49.

Miettinen, Eero (2014) Muotoiluajattelu kansainvälisenä kilpailutekijänä in Miettinen, Satu (toim.) Muotoiluajattelu. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus ry, 182-189.

Miettinen, Satu (2014) Nyt on muotoiluajattelun aika  (toim.)  in Miettinen, Satu (toim.) Muotoiluajattelu. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus ry, 10-17.

Tschimmel, K. (2012) ‘Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation’ in Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation from Experience.

P.S. Someone in our class said in the second day that she have seen nightmares about Post-its – may be it looked like this? (Just for fun)

5 thoughts on “Post-its vs. Design thinking

  1. Pingback: Post-its vs. Design thinking – Designing: service, customer service, customer management

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog post. I think it is important for us all as “service designers” (or at least future to be) to find out the best tools and “gadgets” to deal with during processes. I find it also easier to express my ideas and thoughts thru drawing, even that my drawing is not good. We should probably be human-centered also when choosing the tools we use and kind to ourselves. It´s ok not to like all the DT tools and we can pick the ones that suit our style best. Let´s co-create!

  3. I can feel your pain with the post-its but for me those are also a good tool when trying to create something new. When compared to you and Saara-Sisko I can’t draw at all, so getting crazy with the post-its is also my definition of being creative and out-of-the-box. My biggest problems with the post-its are the paper pieces themselves, I wonder when someone develops post-it software/application that is really usable with multiple users and devices and let the user modify the pattern forever without destroying forests.

  4. Thank you, Saara, for your honest thoughts and great blog post! I like your subheading and the nice images. I have a colleague, who each time we have a workshop with post-its expresses herself how much she hates them. In that situation I always think to myself that she should just forget her limitations she has with post-its, open herself up and she might even enjoy the post-it brainstorming sessions. But it is also ok not to like them and use other methods that are more suitable to you – maybe during your studies you will even create your own method that replaces post-its (an idea for a thesis theme, maybe). I myself envy people who have the talent to make notes and reflect on things by drawing – I’m more of a bullet point and list person, which most of the times isn’t very creative. I truly hope that during my studies I will come out of my box and instead of thinking very linear, I would learn how to express myself in a more holistic and creative way – in my mind I can already do it.

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