The Power of a Post-it Note


I want to share with you a simple tool that two people whose work I respect highly use regularly to improve decision making and head off gray rhinos: the humble Post-it Note.

One of the key take-aways from THE GRAY RHINO is that we need to pay more attention to ideas from people who are less likely to speak out or be heard. Because we are biased to over-weight information that is familiar, confirms our pre-conceptions, or comes from people like us, we need to actively seek out and seriously consider alternative views if we want to avoid unpleasant but often predictable and avoidable surprises.

I spoke in December at a meeting organized by 50Action50, an initiative organized by the design consultancy WeDesignThink to bring women and men together to activate women’s full economic potential, benefitting businesses, families, and communities. I like the initiative’s collaborative approach, constructive framing, and emphasis on action. Peter Durand of AlphaChimp Learning did the fantastic visual notes taken during my talk.

This was the second human centered design thinking workshop in which I’ve participated with Karen Gordon, founder of WeDesignThink and 50Action50. Her workshops use an ingenious technique based on the simplest of tools: the Post-it® note. At the beginning of the workshop part of her events, she asks each person to write down ideas, one per post it note. When they sort into small groups, each person posts their ideas on a white board. This ensures that every single participant’s voice is heard, and that quieter people’s ideas get equal weight with their more assertive colleagues. Simple, but essential.

What were the odds, then, that the very next morning on a “Designing for Gender Parity” webinar with the NewChampions5050 gender leadership initiative of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, Move the Elephant for Inclusion founder Tinna Nielssen also mentioned using Post-its to help under-recognized but worthy ideas get heard. She calls this technique an “Inclusion Nudge” – one of the ideas she and co-author Lisa Kepinski cite in their Inclusion Nudges guidebook.

There are demonstrated benefits to including women and other under-represented voices in decision making processes. Therese Huston’s fantastic new book, How Women Decide, cites extensive research showing how women and men differ in their approaches to risk. Those differences can give the edge to companies that foster a balance of views around the table. Research by Catalyst shows that companies with a critical mass of women on boards outperform those that do not.

Inclusion nudges work not only for including women, who often are taught not to interrupt, but for other voices that differ by origin or expertise: an introvert in a room of extroverts, a non-lawyer in a room full of lawyers, a consumer in a room full of marketers… you get the idea.

Try the Post-it nudge in your strategy, brainstorm and decision making sessions. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

Michele Wucker

About Author

Michele Wucker is a global thought leader and the author, most recently, of THE GRAY RHINO: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore (St Martin's Press, 2016). Learn more about her at

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