As the fable goes, the Tortoise and the Hare competed in a race—which culminated in the Tortoise winning and the (well-rested) Hare bemoaning an unexpected loss. Aesop’s narration may stop there, but the story itself doesn’t need to end. Viewed through the lens of the Innovation Toolkit, the Tortoise and the Hare would benefit from performing a retrospective analysis of their race, so they can identify lessons learned for the future.
Enter the Rose Bud Thorn tool!
Indeed, let’s have a little fun (we’re learning from anthropomorphic animals, after all), and say that the Innovation Toolkit was the race’s sponsor and that the Tortoise and the Hare—and the Fox judge—continue in their fabled roles. What happens next?
The Tortoise and the Hare linger at the finish line of the race, both eyeing the ITK banner fluttering in the wind. “What’s a Rose Bud Thorn?” asks the Hare distractedly.
“That’s a good question,” says the Tortoise, looking around for help. “Why don’t we ask our friend, Fox?”
“But… the race,” says the Hare. “I’m all ready to beat you if we try again!” However, the Tortoise has already started walking towards the Fox’s den. The Hare scrambles to catch up.
“Fox!” the Tortoise is saying. “Could you tell us what a Rose Bud Thorn is?”
“Why, yes, Tortoise and Hare,” replies the Fox. “The RBT is an innovation tool for evaluating an event after it occurs. A retrospective, in other words.”
“I lost the race,” says the Hare. “What else could it possibly tell us?”
The Fox gives the question fair consideration. “Well, losing the race would be a negative, or “Thorn”—for you, at least. A “Rose” is something positive, such as getting good exercise, and a “Bud” is an opportunity or a potential, such as trying a different strategy next time. Also, those are just examples from your perspective, not Tortoise’s.”
The Hare looks intrigued, and the Tortoise slowly nods, so the Fox supplies them with pens and colored sticky notes to construct a simple Rose Bud Thorn on the grass. The Hare’s writing is scribbled, whereas the Tortoise’s is quite neat. Once they finish jotting down ideas, the Fox moderates a discussion between them, starting with the Roses, then the Thorns, and then the Buds. At the Fox’s suggestion, they conclude the session by placing small leaves on the sticky notes that resonated with them the most.
Feeling inspired, the Tortoise and the Hare thank the Fox and head out across the forest. The Tortoise, never one to back down from a challenge, suggests doing a marathon together, and the Hare, with newly acquired humility, agrees. From behind them, the Fox calls out, “Have you heard of the Premortem tool? It helps you define success, and it’s often used after the RBT. You could try to use it before the marathon!”
The Tortoise and the Hare wave at the Fox in a friendly way, but they are too deep in their discussion to turn around now. The Fox shrugs and settles down on the grass for a well-deserved nap. Eyes closing, the Fox reflects on the eventful day before murmuring wryly into the forest air:
“There’s always more to learn, isn’t there? Sooner or later, they’ll be back…”
Try a Rose Bud Thorn (or Premortem) Today!
From the beginning, the members of Team Toolkit have aspired to be equitable in our work. We don’t claim to be experts on the topic, and our practice hasn’t always matched our aspiration perfectly, but equity is a goal we want to work towards.
As several previous blog posts explained, we try to include equity in how we design and update our tools. Our tools represent a big slice of our work, so it’s important to design them with equity in mind. Another big slice of our work is facilitation, and we want to make sure that we include equity in how we use and apply our tools as well. What does that look like? Perhaps an example will be helpful.
A month or two ago I was facilitating a group through a Lotus Blossom exercise. At some point I referred to “the green blossom on the left.” One participant spoke up and said “I’m colorblind, not sure which blossom you’re talking about.” Clearly, the language I used did not provide equal clarity to all participants and left out this person – which means my technique was not equitable.
After thanking the person for speaking up and apologizing for my misstep, I began referring to the blossoms based on their position in a clock face, rather than just by color. Instead of “the green blossom,” I referred to “the green blossom in the 9:00 position” or “the red blossom at the 12:00 position.” That minor change to my language ensured that everyone in the session was able to follow along and participate fully. It was a more equitable technique.
The fact that colorblindness exists does not require us to avoid all use of color. Instead, an equity focus means we should be aware that colorblind people exist, and be thoughtful about which colors we use when we design our tools (here’s an article with tips on designing colorblind friendly visualizations). We should also be thoughtful about how we use those colors – instead of referring to something only by its color, we might refer to it by its location, size, shape, or other distinguishing characteristic. I’ve continued to use the clock face references in all my other Lotus Blossom sessions. I hope that by sharing it here, the rest of the ITK community will adopt this equitable facilitation practice as well.
I always say that one of the nicest things you can do for an author is to tell someone else about their book. In keeping with that spirit, here’s a big list of books I absolutely adore. You’ll find some novels mixed in with the non-fiction, so please don’t dismiss the importance of reading non-fiction as part of your professional development.
What these books all have in common is that they are each awesome, they each made me think, and they each stuck with me long after I got to the final page. I hope you enjoy scanning through this list and you’re sure to find something good to read here.
- Crossing The Unknown Sea, David Whyte
- Disrupters, Patti Fletcher
- Orbiting The Giant Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie
- Imaginable, Jane McGonigal
- The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin
- Fight Like A Girl, Kate Germano
- The Pentagon Wars, James Burton
- The Heart of War, Kathleen McInnis
- How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed In The Back, My Fingerprints Are On The Knife, Jerry Harvey
- Zilch, Nancy Lublin
- Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
- The Excellence Dividend, Tom Peters
- Yes To The Mess, Frank Barrett
- Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal
- The Reflective Practitioner, Donald Schon
- Intertwingled, Peter Morville
- Space Opera, Catherynne Valente
- To Engineer is Human, Henry Petroski
- Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
- Art Thinking, Amy Whitaker
- Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds
- Faster, Better, Cheaper, Howard McCurdy
- Just For Fun, Eric Torvalds
- How To Be Fearless, Jessica Hagy
- Complications, Atul Gawande
- Progress In Flying Machines, Octave Chanute
- Ignore Everybody, Hugh MacLeod
- The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal
- Snowcrash, Neal Stephenson
- Everything All At Once, Bill Nye
- Tilt, Nicholas Shrady
- Wood, Wire, Wings, Kirsten Larson
- A Dream of Flight, Rob & Jef Polivka
- Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
- Syllabus, Lynda Barry
- Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
- The Next 100 Years, George Griedman
- 2034, James Stavridis
- Ghost Fleet, August Cole & Pete Singer
- How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
photo credit Dan Ward
Last week I wrote a short, simple blog post about a cool problem-solving technique called the TRIZ Prism. It’s a tool I love, a topic I’m very familiar with, and I’d already filmed a short video explainer on the topic so I was able to incorporate that into the blog post too.
For no particular reason, I had the hardest time writing that thing! I drafted about a dozen different opening lines, crossed them all out immediately, and then wrote them all again (none got better the second time).
I wrote myself in circles and brilliantly imitated every “writer having a hard time” montage you’ve seen in any movie where writers have a hard time. Crumpling up pages and throwing them across the room into a trashcan (and missing). It looks way more fun in the movies than it feels in real life.
The final version is… fine. It’s short. It’s focused. It sets up the “go watch the 3-min video” message. It does everything I wanted the post to do. And it gives no indication of how much struggle went into that piece, no indication of how many pages ended up in the trash.
That might be the best thing about it (aside from the fact that it’s finished). This unremarkable blog post actually took FOREVER to write. It was hard to write (again, for no particular reason). So I wanted to share the behind-the-scenes story as an encouragement to anyone who might be under the mistaken impression that writing is easy or that your own struggles are somehow rare or unusual. If (when!) you find it difficult to find the words, just know you’re not alone… so keep pressing on.