Project Management

Displayed Thinking

last edited by: erin decaprio on Sep 24, 2006 10:26 AM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Procedures
3 Instructions

A fast-paced, two-step technique, used to generate or collect ideas from group participants and, subsequently, to organize them. Participants write down their ideas, which are then collected and categorized. The results can then be structured in a meaningful way for the group. Displayed thinking involves everyone; it is fast and thorough.


  • To visually display information collected during a brainstorming session.
  • To provide more structure to brainstorming, enabling everyone to contribute without being "drowned out" by "louder" participants.
  • To warm-up a team; as an "ice-breaker" activity.


  1. Distribute markers and "sticky" note pads to each participant.
  2. Write the issue to be considered on a white board, easel or overhead transparency so that all participants can see it.
  3. Instruct participants to write each of their responses on a separate sheet and to raise their hands when they come up with a response. Encourage multiple responses from each participant.
  4. Post each response on easel paper or white board, underlining one or two key words.
  5. When all responses have been generated, ask participants to decide how to categorize them. Make header labels on sticky notes for the categories.
  6. Ask the team to discuss each item, and move the item to an appropriate category.
  7. Prioritize the categories and (optionally) prioritize items within each category.


Distribute markers and sticky note pads to each participant. Write the problem, issue, or question on a flip chart or white board. Collect all responses, using an appropriate brainstorming or creative thinking technique (see Brainstorming and Lateral Thinking). Underlining one or two key words on the "sticky" can help the display. Once all contributions have been made, ask the team how to organize the contributions. Discuss each contribution and, based on understanding and consensus, move the response to the appropriate group or category. Clarify groupings, and prioritize. Evaluate and/or review, as appropriate, in context of the situation which generated the need for displayed thinking.

When scoping out or identifying an enterprise's value streams, the facilitator uses the Displayed Thinking technique to help the project team think of the enterprise as a group of black boxes. The black box represents a value stream and exists to meet the needs of its customer. Drawing a bunch of boxes and leaving them unnamed, visually demonstrates that pieces of the enterprise will be looked at in a new way. Use the Displayed Thinking technique to raise the appropriate issues for each black box. Displayed Thinking can also be used as an ice-breaker at the beginning of a workshop and/or workshop module to help build rapport, build a "team," and/or to energize the group.

last edited by: erin decaprio on Sep 24, 2006 10:26 AM login/register to edit this page

Comments (3)

Login/join to subscribe

"Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs."

- Scott Adams