What a facilitator can do with post-it notes…

So many shades of post-its, so many uses for it (Credits: Rinux/FlickR)

So many shades of post-its, so many uses for it (Credits: Rinux/FlickR)

This post is based on a conversation that took place on the LinkedIn group ‘Professional Facilitators’ Network’: 100 uses for Post It notes in any session you facilitate? (link accessibility pending on membership).

As is often the case with crowdsourced efforts, brilliant and creative ideas came up, all listed in one neat list below.

  1. Indexing a flipchart
  2. Colour coding flipcharts produced by workshops on different themes
  3. Swiftly capturing ideas in a fast moving brainstorming session
  4. Designating membership of a given team or cohort within the course
  5. Parking issues for attention later in the course or somebody after the event
  6. Risk assessment or policy audits –classified by colour, traffic lights are good.
  7. Spotlighting each part of the SMARTER planning framework with a different part of the rainbow (ROYGBIV – I had to google that one up as a non-native English speaker)
  8. Reconciling with self-classification questionnaires on personal styles etc.
  9. Recording post course action points on a wall summary
  10. Scribble notes for every participant to use during the training
  11. Message notes for individual participants to be put on a board outside the room-unless very urgent or private
  12. Providing flexibility to change classifications when doing things like a cause – effect chart for Critical Thinking exercises.
  13. Making notes in my lesson plan regarding any changes made
  14. Documenting public commitments made by the participants of the session – you can “create” a pyramid, road map, or other visual with the sticky notes at the end of the session. (Don’t forget to take a picture and share it with participants to complete the harvesting. So often sheets with sticky notes just get lost or stay with the facilitators.)
  15. Voting, polling or formative evaluations: Divide a flip cart page into quadrants based on the issue at hand and options available. Then allow participants to manually get up out of their chairs and cast their vote by placing a sticky note by their desired option. After tallying up the votes the facilitator reviews the results and debriefs with session participants. This gives each participant a chance to be involved, have their voice heard and gets them on their feet and out of the chair.
  16. Use them for ice breakers – Draw how you are feeling today – head, body, feet on separate post its. Then, the body parts are clustered by type and stuck to a surface. Folks go and select how they would like to feel at the “end of the day”, “same time next yearʻ etc.
  17. Swim lanes
  18. Tagging participants for group activities or role play
  19. Hiding content on visuals, to present ‘layers’
  20. Name badges
  21. Confetti
  22. Card games
  23. Statements of what’s most important for us here today
  24. Cartoons
  25. Put them all together to make a map
  26. Betting slips
  27. Cheques
  28. Cheques showing appreciation of others
  29. billets doux
  30. Accusations
  31. Frisbees
  32. Wounds (statements of how I have been hurt)
  33. Medals
  34. Disguises
  35. Statements of favouritism
  36. Statements of difference between us
  37. Marker posts on a route
  38. Leaves on a tree
  39. Fig leaves to cover up the naked bits
  40. Shoes
  41. Steps
  42. Ammunition
  43. Directions
  44. Ideas
  45. Suggestions
  46. Sobriquets
  47. Nicknames
  48. Job descriptions
  49. Goals
  50. Clothes
  51. Quotations of typically frustrating things
  52. Raw ingredients
  53. Stylistic descriptions
  54. Fragments from someone’s past
  55. Snaps
  56. Snacks
  57. Pauses for thought
  58. Calls for action
  59. Cris du coeur
  60. Unsayable things
  61. Mirrors
  62. Sketch pads
  63. Maps
  64. Points on a map
  65. Drawing out fears or concerns in a (semi-) anonymous way
  66. Demonstrating (or finding) patterns in group’s thinking
  67. Building alignment (especially if you encourage people to sort and arrange post-its into natural groupings once all are up)
  68. Setting timeframe, priorities, or tasking sub-groups
  69. Use as place markers on the floor for exercises
  70. Creating a separate space for a “store” and a “work area” when working with multiple activities that use a lot of sticky notes.
  71. Write current state and desired future state on the “stickies” – then they categorize and prioritize. Here’s they key – never touch the stickies, but make sure you capture their words exactly as best you can.
  72. Attaching humorous signs to my back to entertain the group!
  73. Time Lines and Road-Maps develop more scope and depth at Senior Leadership and Managerial offsites, strategic stakeholder, or Team-Building sessions.
  74. Force-Field Analyses and Venn Diagrams are enhanced with Notes because they are powerful visual, kinetic communication tools.
  75. “Group Think” buster – helps elicit creativity/innovation (beyond initial brainstorming) since constituents can “see” when “same/old” or “we don’t do that here” pops up.
  76. Group processing tool – Notes allows better facilitating through “storming” and “norming” phases — so important in productive group processing. Levels the “playing field” in communications.

What does this impressive list tell us?

Post-it notes can be used for various types of activities as in:

  • Listing and mentioning simple things or explaining and describing more complex ‘things’
  • Commenting and noting things down
  • Analyzing, categorizing, indexing and labeling – and selecting out of that
  • Drawing, mapping and creating visuals
  • Visually delineating (borders) and using stickies as props for other exercises
  • Fun and games

What are the comparative advantages of post-it notes? 

Pixeled Post-Its (Credits: Jenn Vargas / FlickR)

Pixeled Post-Its (Credits: Jenn Vargas / FlickR)

Post-it notes can be used by individuals or groups, for very light or very serious activities.

What’s more: they allow rapid clustering and “give flexibility to move ideas, actions or thoughts”.

They can be used for a wide variety of applications: mirroring, filtering, visioning, brainstorming, analyzing etc.

And their visualization creates a much better collective track record for group processes.

One of the conversation participants mentioned that stickies can be used as “Group Think” buster – helps elicit creativity/innovation (beyond initial brainstorming) since constituents can “see” when “same/old” or “we don’t do that here” pops up. She added also that they can be considered as a good “group processing tool – Notes allows better facilitating through “storming” and “norming” phases — so important in productive group processing. Levels the “playing field” in communications.”

Rapid Problem-Solving with Post It Notes‘ by David Straker can be a great complement to this list.

And now, the list as I would order it based on the categories highlighted above:

Listing and mentioning (simple ideas) or explaining and describing more elaborate ‘things’

  1. Raw ingredients
  2. Swiftly capturing ideas in a fast moving brainstorming session
  3. Parking issues for attention later in the course or somebody after the event
  4. Message notes for individual participants to be put on a board outside the room-unless very urgent or private
  5. Recording post course action points on a wall summary
  6. Statements of what’s most important for us here today
  7. Cheques showing appreciation of others
  8. Billets doux
  9. Cris du coeur
  10. Unsayable things
  11. Drawing out fears or concerns in a (semi-) anonymous way
  12. Wounds (statements of how I have been hurt)
  13. Quotations of typically frustrating things
  14. Accusations
  15. Statements of favouritism
  16. Statements of difference between us
  17. Write current state and desired future state on the “stickies” – then they categorize and prioritize. Here’s they key – never touch the stickies, but make sure you capture their words exactly as best you can.
  18. Directions
  19. Goals
  20. Steps
  21. Suggestions
  22. Calls for action
  23. Job descriptions
  24. Stylistic descriptions
  25. Fragments from someone’s past

Commenting and noting things down 

  1. Scribble notes for every participant to use during the training
  2. Making notes in my lesson plan regarding any changes made
  3. Force-Field Analyses and Venn Diagrams are enhanced with Notes because they are powerful visual, kinetic communication tools.

Analyzing, categorizing, indexing and labeling – and selecting out of that

  1. Indexing a flipchart
  2. Colour coding flipcharts produced by workshops on different themes
  3. Risk assessment or policy audits –classified by colour, traffic lights are good.
  4. Designating membership of a given team or cohort within the course
  5. Reconciling with self-classification questionnaires on personal styles etc.
  6. Setting timeframe, priorities, or tasking sub-groups
  7. Tagging participants for group activities or role play
  8. Name badges
  9. Sobriquets
  10. Nicknames
  11. Demonstrating (or finding) patterns in group’s thinking
  12. Voting, polling or formative evaluations: Divide a flip chart page into quadrants based on the issue at hand and options available. Then allow participants to manually get up out of their chairs and cast their vote by placing a sticky note by their desired option. After tallying up the votes the facilitator reviews the results and debriefs with session participants. This gives each participant a chance to be involved, have their voice heard and gets them on their feet and out of the chair.
  13. Providing flexibility to change classifications when doing things like a cause – effect chart for Critical Thinking exercises.

Drawing, mapping and creating visuals

  1. Documenting public commitments made by the participants of the session – you can “create” a pyramid, road map, or other visual with the sticky notes at the end of the session. (Don’t forget to take a picture and share it with participants to complete the harvesting. So often sheets with sticky notes just get lost or stay with the facilitators.)
  2. Drawing cartoons
  3. Putting them all together to make a map
  4. Using them as… snaps
  5. Drawing murals (a la pixeled post-its)
  6. …Sketch pads
  7. …Maps
  8. ….Points on a map

Time Lines and Road-Maps develop more scope and depth at Senior Leadership and Managerial offsites, strategic stakeholder, or Team-Building sessions.

Visually delineating (borders) and using stickies as props for other exercises

  1. Using stickies as ‘Swim lanes’
  2. Marker posts on a route
  3. Use as place markers on the floor for exercises
  4. Creating a separate space for a “store” and a “work area” when working with multiple activities that use a lot of sticky notes.
  5. Hiding content on visuals, to present ‘layers’
  6. Leaves on a tree
  7. Fig leaves to cover up the naked bits
  8. Mirrors
  9. Spotlighting each part of the SMARTER planning framework with a different part of the rainbow (ROYGBIV – I had to google that one up as a non-native English speaker)

Fun and games

  1. Use them for ice breakers – Draw how you are feeling today – head, body, feet on separate post its. Then, the body parts are clustered by type and stuck to a surface. Folks go and select how they would like to feel at the “end of the day”, “same time next yearʻ etc.
  2. Confetti
  3. Card games
  4. Betting slips
  5. Cheques
  6. Frisbees
  7. Medals
  8. Disguises
  9. Shoes
  10. Clothes
  11. Snacks
  12. Pauses for thought
  13. Ammunition
  14. Attaching humorous signs to my back to entertain the group!

Do you have any more examples?

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One thought on “What a facilitator can do with post-it notes…

  1. That is a fantastic idea Ewen -thanks for developing my original question . I did the same with another question I put in months ago “What ideas do you have for preparing for any public speaking event?” Over 1200 ideas came back and I have captured not in a blog but a word doc -happy to send you and anyone else a copy.My e mail is qedworks@hotmail.co.uk

    I will also re-post my original question above about POST ITs and signpost your note Ewen in my LINKED IN Group -QED Associate Freelancers

    https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=4070140&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp

    Like

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