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Sticky-Note Brainstorming


Each week, Instant Meeting presents an idea or activity that you might use to make staff meetings more interesting, teacher-centered, educational, or fun.

Brief Description/Purpose

This brainstorming approach enables participants to retain some anonymity as they share ideas. It is also a very visual approach that allows for some physical movement.

Materials Needed

  • large sticky notes (alternative: index cards and tape)
  • large markers that enable participants to write notes that will be legible from a distance

Time Required

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10 to 30 minutes, depending on the complexity of the issue/subject being discussed and the size of the group

"Instant Meeting" Idea

Sticky-Note Brainstorming is a form of brainstorming that allows all participants to retain some anonymity as they share ideas. If the topic of discussion is one in which staff members might want to distance themselves from their ideas, or if the "big voices" in the group might intimidate some others from sharing ideas, sticky-note brainstorming could be the way to go. Of course, if you're simply looking for a very visual way of examining any issue or an easy way to sort ideas, sticky-note brainstorming might be the answer.

Whatever the topic you might be brainstorming in the meeting -- setting priorities for facility improvements, improving school-wide communication, debating report card changes, deciding how to handle a school-wide issue such as cafeteria noise or kids who don't do homework, or any other "sticky" issue -- begin the session by giving each participant a stack of "sticky notes" and a bold pen. Ask participants to write their ideas on the sticky notes: one idea per note, written legibly.

If you are looking for some safety and anonymity in a discussion where there are two strong points of view, then you might organize the flip charts or white board space with two spaces -- one for each side of the argument. You might even have participants use a different color sticky for each side.

Collect the notes and stick them on the wall. If anonymity is not an issue and you want to get people moving, you might invite participants to get up and stick their ideas to the wall themselves.

Once all the ideas are posted, invite all participants to come up to the wall to read the comments that have been posted.

Sticky notes are a good tool for organizing information; they are easy to move and reorganize. As the group discusses its shared ideas, organize similar ideas into "clumps." Be certain that all participants are in agreement about the clumping that is done. Then give each clump a title. Identical ideas can be overlapped or eliminated. Other ideas might not fit neatly into a clump, so they will need to stand alone.

Sticky note brainstorming is a brainstorming and organizing tool. Next, you'll need to choose the appropriate tool for evaluating and for deciding. Among the techniques you might use for this are multivoting, pick 3 - drop 3, or the nominal group or "sense of the group" techniques.

Source: Variations on Brainstorming (, "Great Meetings" -- November 30, 2004).