Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise: Enhancing Team Collaboration

Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise: Enhancing Team Collaboration

Have you ever found yourself questioning the progress of your project or contemplating whether to continue with your current strategy? It’s not uncommon to face such uncertainties. In such situations, stepping back and re-evaluating your project can be invaluable.

Taking a break or seeking feedback might be just what you need. A useful tool in this scenario is the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise, which aids in pinpointing and addressing project weaknesses.

Overview of the Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise

The Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise is a straightforward and effective tool that can be utilized by anyone, regardless of their familiarity with design thinking. Originating from Edward de Bono’s diagramming technique within his renowned Six Thinking Hats, this method serves as an excellent starting point for design thinking or as a preliminary activity in brainstorming sessions.

  • Rose: Represents the positive aspects of the exercise. For example, in a daily review, it could highlight enjoyable experiences or achievements.
  • Bud: Focuses on potential or developing ideas that are yet to fully mature.
  • Thorn: Identifies the negative aspects or challenges encountered.

This exercise not only highlights the strengths and weaknesses of a project but also fosters team debate, leading to consensus and enhanced project ownership.

Target Audience

This method is versatile, suitable for use by collaborative teams—including developers, designers, and project managers—or even by individuals. It’s particularly beneficial for retrospectives or as an icebreaker to encourage holistic thinking about projects.

Extended Procedure for Implementing the Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise

The effectiveness of the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise can be maximized with proper preparation and timing. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to prepare for and conduct this activity, ensuring it yields the most beneficial results for your team or project review.

Participants can jot down their thoughts on post-its or a whiteboard. Prompting questions can facilitate deeper insights. After gathering all inputs, a facilitator can guide the team to reach an agreement on the most valuable ideas to pursue.


  1. Setting the Stage:
    • Venue: Choose a comfortable and quiet space conducive to open communication.
    • Materials: Provide materials such as post-it notes, markers, and a whiteboard or large paper sheets.
    • Scheduling: Allocate sufficient time during a team meeting or specific session dedicated to this exercise—typically, 30 to 60 minutes depending on the team size and project complexity.
  2. Pre-Session Communication:
    • Inform team members about the exercise in advance, including its purpose and what they can expect. This helps participants think about their inputs beforehand.
    • Optionally, send out pre-session material or brief guidelines on how to identify Roses, Buds, and Thorns.

Conducting the Exercise

  1. Introduction (5-10 minutes):
    • Begin with a brief overview of the Rose, Bud, Thorn concept.
    • Explain the objectives and the importance of each element (Rose, Bud, Thorn) to set a clear context.
  2. Individual Reflection (10-15 minutes):
    • Ask participants to individually reflect on the project or topic and write down their Roses, Buds, and Thorns on separate post-it notes.
    • Encourage honest and thoughtful contributions, emphasizing that all types of feedback are valuable.
  3. Group Sharing (10-20 minutes):
    • Have each participant present their post-it notes and stick them on the whiteboard under the respective categories.
    • This visual aggregation helps in understanding the collective perspective of the team.
  4. Discussion and Analysis (10-15 minutes):
    • Facilitate a discussion around the posted items, focusing on understanding why certain experiences were positive, potential, or negative.
    • Encourage participants to explore how the Buds can be nurtured into Roses and how Thorns can be mitigated or eliminated.
  5. Consensus and Action Planning (5-10 minutes):
    • Guide the team to reach a consensus on the most critical Roses to celebrate and maintain, Buds to develop further, and Thorns to address.
    • Assign action items and responsibilities for addressing Buds and Thorns, and plan ways to replicate or build on Roses.


  • Review and Accountability:
    • Set a follow-up meeting to review progress on the action items established during the exercise.
    • This not only ensures that actionable steps are being implemented but also maintains the momentum generated from the session.

By thoroughly preparing for and timing each phase of the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise, teams can achieve deeper insights, foster a proactive work environment, and drive meaningful improvements in their projects and processes.


This exercise sets a positive and optimistic tone, potentially boosting team morale and enabling the team to overcome challenges, refine ideas, and advance projects.


The Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise is not only effective for engineering and design teams but also beneficial across various disciplines. It encourages patience and persistence, which can lead to significant improvements in business and marketing outcomes.

By integrating this exercise into your project management or brainstorming processes, you may begin to see notable enhancements in your team’s performance and project results.