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The Humble Post-It

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

“Failure sucks, but instructs."
David Kelley

14 of us came together for the first time last Friday night to playtest the smol tok expansion pack. There’s a whole bunch of new cards, new questions, and new rules that I wanted feedback on and the best way to get it is to play it.

The point behind prototyping and playtesting is to get actual users to play the expansion pack and put it though its paces. For design thinkers, the aim is to fail early, quickly, and cheaply in order to discover what doesn’t work and to improve upon it in the next iteration. And boy, were there many failures: I have the Post-Its to prove it. But you know what, I came out better because of this experience. I now know where my blind-spots are and what I need to work on to get ready for the next playtesting on 12 December.

Speaking of Post-Its, have you ever heard of Arthur Fry? In 1974, Art was having problems at church. Every Sunday at choir, the pieces of paper he used to bookmark the pages in his hymnal kept falling out. This irritated him. He wondered how he could make his bookmarks stick. And then it came to him. As a scientist at 3M, he remembered an adhesive that was developed by his colleague which was regarded as a failure because it couldn’t stick very well. He decided to add this adhesive on strips of paper and found that “it was not only a good bookmark, but it was great for writing notes. It will stay in place as long as you want it to, and then you can remove it without damage."

He spent some time prototyping and refining his sticky bookmarks during office hours and eventually developed the Post-It note (it helped that 3M encourages innovation by allowing its researchers to spend 15 per cent of their time on projects that inspire and interest them). Realising the value of the Post-It to the common man, the product was launched in 1980 and has since generated billions in revenue for 3M. In 1986, Art was promoted to 3M’s top technical position of corporate researcher. But this wasn’t that big a deal to him; "my biggest reward,” he shared, “is to see so many people use and appreciate my product."

In tribute to Art’s wonderful invention, we’ll be using even more Post-Its on 12 December. Join us at the next playtesting. Registration is free.


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