I recently attended a Ladies that UX Fort Worth event where Kayla Wren covered the topic “Rose Bud, Thorn.” This research method is designed to surfacing three things: the good, the bad and opportunity and insights. I thought that using these lenses was a rather interesting perspective, so I thought I would share the method with you today.
What is the Rose, Bud, Thorn method?
Rose Bud, Thorn is a “Design Thinking” activity that can be used to uncover and surface insights for a number of topics. It’s a way to proclaim what exists now, as well as explore ways for improvement. Basically, this process asks you to look at something from three different perspectives:
- Rose: Something that is positive or working well
- Thorn: Something that is negative or not working well
- Bud: An opportunity or area for improvement
The “Rose” of this process is a way to showcase the good things that are going on. Hopefully not all things are bad. The “Thorn” is the bad parts of the process/app/etc. You must be authentic and recognize that not everything is perfect, and it is critical to discuss what needs improvement. The “Bud” of this the gold mine because this is where you surface ideas and potential improvements.
You can use this method to explore a number of things. It could be reviewing a process, like traveling on an airplane or onbaording a new employee. You can review an app or enterprise software. It can even be a future concept or something that is not even real yet, like how you might envision a new policy or idea.
Why would a person do this?
There are many benefits of this of this procedure including:
- It is so darn simple.
- You do not have to be a deep subject matter expert on a topic to participate.
- Nor does it take any technical knowledge to work in this method.
- It’s super low-fidelity, so no computer hookup required.
- Only a few supplies are needed: sticky-notes, markers and a wall or whiteboard to accumulate the thoughts and ideas.
- It can be done in-person in any office or online on an electronic whiteboard like Mural.
- You can do this activity with a larger or small group of people.
Who can do it?
Anyone! Of course that is the answer you were expecting, right? Really though, this activity can be conducted by people with any skill levels. You can go through this process through members of your team, or with external clients. Rose, Thorn, Bud can be among students or professionals. All age levels. All levels of expertise. The more diverse the perspectives the better.
If you are working with a large group of people, it might be better to break this larger group in to smaller, more manageable clusters of participants.
How do get ready?
First, decide on the topic. Then determine if that topic can be broken in to phases or chunks so that the activity can be organized in to smaller, manageable portions if needed. Also determine if the problem is too large for this activity. It might need to be refined so that you are focusing on the right part of the problem you would like to explore for improvements.
Then decide who should participate. Are there subject matter experts who can bring expertise to the brainstorming session? Are there customers who can bring a unique perspective? Who from the team should be included? Developers? Designers? Product owners? Anyone else? Like I mentioned before, the more diverse perspectives you can bring to this process the better. This is a time to brainstorm and come up with a lot of ideas. So give your opportunity to do so with a variety of perspectives. Though, if the group gets too large, it might be better to multiple sessions, pending budget and time constraints.
Next deal with the logistics. I won’t get in to those details in too much depth here because those will vary on your circumstances. Keep in mind basic best practices when conducting any research session:
- Define the goal of the research. Also understand the hypothesis and the reason(s) you are conducting the research.
- Make sure that you are meeting the stakeholders’ and requesters’ needs and ask.
- Plan ahead of time and make sure you are organized and ready for the session.
- Run a pilot and make sure the plan that you have runs as smoothly as it can.
How do you do it?
Let’s fast forward to the day of the session. You already have your topic, participants, venue, etc. Now let’s talk about what you will need to do.
- Whiteboard or wall for post-it notes
- Sharpie markers for each participant
- Three color of post-it notes. I recommend pink for Rose/Good, green for Bud/Opportunity and yellow or blue for Thorn/Bad.
- Optional: voting stickers for the participants to vote on the Bud/Opportunity that he team will work on to implement or research further
- A whiteboard segmented in to topics you would like the group to work through
Talk to the group about the goals of the research process. You want them to be honest, open and creative. Tell them about the topic we are going to explore today and how we are going to explore it through three lenses: the good, the bad and the opportunities.
Overview of the process
- Grab three different-colored post-it pad for the phase we are on (pink for Rose, green for Bud and blue for Thorn) and a sharpie marker.
- Step up to the board and start with the (first of however many you have) portion of the process you want to brainstorm about.
- Take 5 minutes to quietly brainstorm the good and bad aspects of that process, as well as opportunities, by writing on the different colored post-it pad. Don’t forget to change the color of the post-it you write on based on whether or not is was a good point, a bad point or an opportunity.
- As you come up with an idea, write it down and then verbally state what it reads as you put it on the board. This is done so that you can inform others of your idea. Plus it might prompt other people to think of something related or different to what you wrote.
- Populate the board with as many good, bad and opportunities as you can in in 5 minutes. Don’t start side conversations or dismiss any ideas. This is the time to brainstorm as many ideas as you can and then capture them on the board.
- If the group is still going strong, give them another minute or two to get all of the ideas out.
- When the time is up, have the group cluster the post-it notes in to themes and similar ideas.
- Let the group take a few minutes to reflect on these themes and have a short discussion about what data has surfaced from the exercise.
- Are there surprises?
- Are there repeated problems?
- Are there issues that are present, have been for a long time, but don’t ever seem to be fixed?
- What are the opportunities?
- Any great ideas?
- Any opportunities that could be easily accomplished? Low hanging fruit?
An optional next step is that you have the group use stickers to “vote” on various opportunities to determine what the group should work on first.
There are so many aspects of Design Thinking. And there are so many ways to build empathy for the user and generate ideas during discovery. Rose, Thorn, Bud seems to be an easy method that provides an opportunity for your group to surface several opportunities for improvement. Don’t be intimidated by this method if you are nervous and feel like you do not have extensive experience to conduct or participate in such a session. Just go for it. If you do try the Rose, Thorn, Bud method, please let me know how it worked for you and what opportunities your team has discovered to work on.
To read more about the method, I found another interesting website that breaks down how to do it on Atomic Object’s website.