In praise of Post-its

A trainer’s best friend? There are probably two bezzie mates: one is the flipchart and the other is very definitely the Post-it. Strangely, now more than ever.

In designing the Virtual Programmes we’re now running, I’m always kicking things off with my trusty Post-its and a flipchart ⁠– to map out a journey and to brainstorm options for higher engagement.

Even during online delivery, the Post-its keep popping up… whether using a Google Jamboard, a Mural canvas, or StickyNotePages in Adobe Connect, Post-its keep reminding us that even after going digital, they still stick in our world.

What’s so special for me about these magical sticky/non-sticky bits of paper is how they were born.

Arthur Fry sang in a church choir and would bookmark his part with little bits of paper. Irritatingly, once he opened the hymnal at that page, the piece of paper more often than not fluttered away.

Arthur worked for 3M. He remembered that another colleague, Spencer Silver, had accidentally (all the best inventions are accidents) developed a very weak adhesive. Well, what would be the point of that? The adhesive had lain dormant and unused… until Arthur Fry put two and two together and made much more than four.

But that’s not where the story ends… once the first Post-its had been developed, far from being hailed as geniuses, Spencer and Arthur were greeted with huge scepticism and nothing happened for years. Even when 3M finally decided to give it a try, they offered Post-its for sale in four cities and hardly anyone bought them.

It wasn’t until the final throw of the dice, when 3M sent out loads of free samples to offices, that the success story began. Companies were re-ordering at such enormous levels that these sticky notes went on to become ubiquitous. Now, they’re part of the fabric of office life.

The crossover of the Post-it into digital workspaces is a salutary lesson that however digital we get, real tangible stuff still plays a part; that if you innovate, you will most likely be greeted with modified rapture (at least initially); and that often, people don’t really know what they need until they’ve run out.

So let’s hear it for the Post-it… perhaps, after reading this, you could stick one with a smiley on it to your nearest wall in celebration. 😊

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David Solomon


Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training