The Power of a Post-it Note

This month I want to share with you a simple tool that two people whose work I respect highly use regularly.

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 early 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. The picture below is from 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 heard. 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. 


Finding New Ways of Seeing the Familiar
By Dave Fleming, December 13, 2016
Hidden biases shape our ability to see the obvious. Sometimes we need a little ingenuity to overcome the functional fixedness bias trick that our minds play on us.

Finding the Gray Rhino: Effectively Anticipating Changes as Women in Leadership
By Michele Weldon
Take the Lead: The Movement Blog, December 13, 2016

Gray Rhino & Company CEO and founder Michele Wucker reveals her research and insight on a leader's talent for seeing and dealing with disruptive change effectively. 

Gray Rhino Quiz Personality Profile: Chicken Little
By Michele Wucker, December 5, 2016

What's your Gray Rhino Quiz Personality? Chicken Littles don’t have trouble seeing problems. In fact, they could benefit from having more trouble believing the sky is falling. 

Onward Nation Podcast

Hosted by Stephen Woessner
December 14th
Listen online


Oslo, Norway
November 22d
Watch Takeaways here
Order your copy of THE GRAY RHINO. For bulk purchases please contact Karlyn Hixson at St Martin's Press. To order a personalized bookplate insert, email with the name of the person to whom you'd like the book signed and we'll email you a personal inscription that you can print on an A4 label or cut out and paste. For 3 or more copies, include your snail mail address and we'll send hard copies plus bookmarks to go along with the autograph.
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