Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reading :: Rapid Problem-Solving with Post-It Notes

Originally posted: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 11:10:45

Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes

by David Straker

I wanted to like this book more than I did. In fact, I ordered it through interlibrary loan because it sounded so intriguing. In my research, I've been consistently impressed by how people invent solutions using post-its, and I've also studied how Contextual Design uses post-its in its affinity diagrams (a variation on the KJ quality method originated in Japan). So I had high hopes that the book would provide some broader insights along these lines, particularly insights that might help students think through issues of work fragmentation and/or through affinity diagrams.

And, yes, there is a lot of value in it: David Straker has put together a set of (generally) useful and easy to absorb tools for brainstorming, sorting and comparing, examining relationships, understanding affinities and grounded categories, and charting and planning actions. But the book has two problems.

One is that it's barely more substantial than a series of blog posts; the amateurish typesetting (it looks like it was composed in WordPerfect), spacious cartoons, and oversized headings seem like they're just trying to fill space, and compressing them to a reasonable size could have turned this book into a pamphlet or a modest website. The case study in the third section, and the three pages spent discussing the proper way to peel a post-it note, contributed to this impression.

The other is that post-its turn out to be the hammer that makes every problem look like a nail. The best fits for post-its were the sorting and affinity diagram/KJ tools. Other early tools seemed fine too. But later, the book goes very wrong by suggesting uses such as creating task timelines ? a use that really is much better done with a calendar or project management software.

Still, if the book is handy and if you're as interested in post-it notes as I am, you should take a look.

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