Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Apr 5, 2022
Updated on
Apr 13, 2023
Table of Content

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like your project isn't going anywhere? Being unsure of whether or not you should continue is common, but it's not impossible to overcome. 

When this happens, it would be helpful to take a step back and evaluate your project. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take a break and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Other times, it would be worthwhile to get some feedback from others.

One method you can use is the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise. This retrospective activity can help you identify the weaknesses in your project and then work on fixing them.

What Is the Rose, Bud, Thorn Design Thinking?

The Rose Bud Thorn exercise is a simple and quick activity that anyone can do, whether they are familiar with design thinking or not. It can help people generate new ideas or help them understand and communicate their ideas better.

The thought exercise is based on the Rose, Bud, Thorn technique, a way of diagramming relationships between ideas. It was developed by <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">designer Edward de Bono</a> and is used in his popular thinking tool, the Six Thinking Hats.

The Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise is a great way to get started with design thinking activities or to use as a warm-up exercise for a brainstorming session. To better understand this method, you need to know the meaning of the following terms:

Rose: This is the positive highlight of the exercise. If you're reviewing your day, Rose might refer to the delicious food you have eaten or a great experience you’ve had.

Bud: This is the in-between stage and is often the most interesting part of the exercise. This is where the ideas are still developing and haven't yet blossomed into something great or terrible.

Thorn: This is the negative highlight of the exercise. It is also the easiest one to spot, as it's usually something that didn't go well, caused you pain, or made you unhappy.

The purpose of the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise is to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of your project. This way, you can determine how to best proceed with the project and the measures you will need to take to ensure success.

In addition, it inspires teams to debate and see what ideas they have. Once done, they can come to a consensus and move forward.

Last, the exercise helps gain insights from all members of the team. This leads to better buy-in and ownership of the project.

Who Is It For?

This exercise can be used by collaborative teams, such as those with developers, designers, project managers, and many others. Alternatively, it can also be done by a single person. This method can be used to take a step back and review issues with current projects so that teams or individuals can evaluate how to best approach them.

If you're having a retrospective, the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise can also serve as an icebreaker and help the team think about the project more holistically.

How Does It Work?

Although the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise can be used in different ways and various scenarios, you'll likely use it mainly at work — basically, for problem-solving cases. In this scenario, you'll find that having several roses, buds, and thorns is better than giving only one.

One example of using the Rose, Bud, Thorn activity is during the design thinking process. For instance, imagine that you're implementing a marketing strategy to develop leads for a new product. You go through a few rounds of brainstorming, but the ideas just don't seem to work. 

To use the Rose, Bud, Thorn template, have the team take a few minutes to come up with individual roses, buds, and thorns. Participants can write these down on post-its or on a whiteboard. You can also ask prompt questions to help facilitate the session better:


  • What are you most proud of in the past or current project?
  • What was your favourite part?
  • What areas should be celebrated and continued for the following projects?


  • What can be improved upon?
  • What opportunities get you excited?
  • Do you have ideas we can implement for the next projects?


  • What aspects of the project are most stressful?
  • What factors hinder our progress?
  • If we could have a redo, what would you have changed for the better?

Once everyone has written down their ideas, the facilitator can read them out loud, and the team can reach a consensus on which ideas they would most like to pursue.

What makes this thought exercise different from regular brainstorming sessions is that it sets a positive and optimistic mood. This can boost team morale, which might be exactly what your team needs at the moment to overcome thorns, develop ideas, and move on.

Rose bud thorn infographic
Rose bud thorn infographic

Final Thoughts

The Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise can be deployed effectively for engineering and design teams alike and  can be a highly effective method for boosting your bottom line. However, it is critical to remember that you must be patient and persistent with this exercise to get results. By following the advice in this article, you may start seeing positive improvements in your business and marketing performance in no time.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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