Rose, Thorn, Bud

Understand what's working, what's not, and areas of opportunity
Contributed by

Jerry Becker

Published April 07, 2021

What Is Rose, Thorn, Bud?

Rose, Thorn, Bud (RTB) is a team practice born in the Design Thinking community. It is extremely versatile and can be used as a team retrospective, customer journey analysis, or in conjunction with an ideation session to help prioritize ideas for development.

In a RTB session, participants share their thoughts about a particular topic and list ideas or thoughts on different-colored stickies that define that thought/idea as something that isn't working well, something that IS working well, and ideas that have a lot of potential if further developed.

It's a great way to ideate or analyze as a team and collaboratively prioritize what to do next.

Why Do Rose, Thorn, Bud?

RTB is a great way to ideate or analyze as a team and collaboratively prioritize what to do next. It allows everyone on the team to participate in sharing, analyzing ideas, and even building upon ideas to help set the direction of next steps for the team, whether it be product/project-related or as a self-reflection of how the team is working together so far.

How to do Rose, Thorn, Bud?

First, here are the definitions of terms:
a. Rose = something that is working well or something positive
b. Thorn = something that isn’t working or something negative
c. Bud = an area of opportunity or idea yet to be explored

Now that we're on the same page with our terms, let's talk about how to facilitate this!


  1. On a whiteboard or digital whiteboarding tool, create 3 columns and label them "Rose," "Thorn," and "Bud."
  2. Write the topic of analysis above the columns to give the team direction (e.g. "How did this last week go as a team?" or "The customer journey of discovering our application")
  3. Give participants 3 pads of stickies - one red, one blue, and one green. Also give them a sharpie (if facilitating remotely, just use the 3 stickie colors mentioned above)
  4. Give the team 10-15 minutes of silent generation to write down ideas/thoughts on appropriately-colored stickies according to their category (Red = rose, Blue = thorn, Green = bud). One idea per stickie.
  5. Have participants put their stickies up on the board in the appropriate column
  6. Cluster stickies based on themes and label these themed categories with a different-colored stickie (this is called affinity mapping)
  7. Review stickies as a team and identify action-items that can help improve work going forward (e.g. ideas for improving pain points communicated in "thorns" or how to further develop ideas that are "buds").
  8. Assign action items to team members and set up a follow-up meeting to discuss progress/results

Look at Rose, Thorn, Bud

Links we love

Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Rose, Thorn, Bud practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.

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