A while back, I was tasked with writing a full design specification for a product. While I already had much of the design in my head from previous brainstorming sessions and discussion with others, I needed a way to make sure I got everything important into the design spec.
I quickly realized that what I needed was a method of capturing ideas and features as they flowed through my brain, in a manner that allowed me to quickly jot them down and stop thinking about them. This revelation is certainly in line with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, which strongly enforces the idea of ubiquitous capture.
David Allen talks about using this for organizing your life, but says nothing about using this as part of a formal process for product design. After all GTD is focused on self-organization, not for a group or product. Does it mean parts of GTD won’t work for these purposes? Absolutely not.
In fact, it was the most valuable revelation in terms of product design and planning that I had in a long time. Arguably, it is the most valuable planning lesson that I’ve learned ever. Once I realized this, I quickly sought out a method for implementing this.
This is where the Sticky-Note Method comes into play. The Sticky Note method is a way of formalizing the use of ubiquitous capture for the purpose of product design. Here’s how it works:
- Set a fixed window of time when you’ll only capture ideas onto sticky notes or cards. This can be as short as a few hours or as long as a week or so. This allows you to let ideas flow, while not feeling the pressue to act upon them immediately.
Begin adding sticky notes or cards to your public space. Be sure to place these sticky notes in a place where everybody involved can see them. I highly recommend having sticky notes on you at all times, because you never know when a good idea will come to you. Do not wait to get to the public space to write down the idea; only wait to post them.
After the fixed window, formally review the sticky notes or cards. If you’re working with a team, be sure to involve them in this process. Your review process should yield one of three outcomes for each card:
– Approved. This status means that the card is ready to be acted upon.
– Denied. This status means that the card will not be accepted at the current time. You may want to keep it for future brainstorming purposes, however.
– Future. This status is similar to denied, except this card has been approved for future applications.
While this process is quite simple, it’s also very effective at transforming ideas in your brain to actionable items that are public to stakeholders. Importantly, this doesn’t require you to specifically use sticky notes or cards to do this in person. Trello is a service that allows you to attain the same effect without the need for sticky notes. There are several others that allow you to create virtual “cards” that can be shared with your team in an easy, unobtrusive manner.
Did this work for you? Let me know in the comments below!