Life Design

Rose, Thorn, Bud Activity for Group Presentations

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Rose, Thorn, Bud is a classic and versatile design thinking activity. I have seen it applied in workshops and meetings as part of the Define phase. I wanted to test how it would work for a group conference presentation. This post takes you through how I applied the rose, thorn, bud activity for group presentations

What is the Rose, Thorn, Bud Activity?

Rose, Thorn, Bud is an activity that provides structured reflection about a given topic, process, etc. Here is what each element represents:

  • Rose: A success. What’s working well.
  • Thorn: A challenge. What’s not working.
  • Bud: Potential. What’s something to develop.
Rose, Thorn, Bud explanation. Rose is a success. Thorn is a challenge. Bud is Potential.

Typically, team members write or state a rose, thorn, AND, bud for a given topic. Here are some examples of how this activity has been presented:

Rose, Thorn, Bud For Group Presentations


I thought this activity would work well for a group conference presentation. Some of my fellow life design educators and I presented at the 2020 Maryland Career Consortium Professional Development Conference. Our topic was, ‘Engaging Students Through Life Design‘.

The title slide of our presentation.
Special thanks to my co-presenters: Patrick Brugh, Justin Lorts, and Sonjala Williams

Outline Using Rose, Thorn, Bud

The application of life design in higher education is not widespread. We wanted to give audience members concrete examples of engaging life design activities so each of my co-presenters presented one life design activity they implemented.

Since we were a group, it was important that the presentation was cohesive. I started the presentation with a quick overview of life design and then each presenter used the Rose, Thorn, Bud framework to present their activity in 4 minutes:

  • Introducing Speaker and Activity: 1 minute
  • Rose Reflection: 1 minute
  • Thorn Reflection: 1 minute
  • Bud Reflection: 1 minute


In addition, each presenter was given the same template for their activity slide to maintain consistency across each individual presentation.

Presentation Template for Rose, Thorn, Bud Activity for MCC PD 2020

The citation and slides for our presentation can be found here:

Closing Thoughts

Rose, Thorn, Bud helped deliver reflections that spoke to various aspects of the imagining and execution of three life design activities. This framework provided the audience with consistency across presentations and, hopefully, kept their attention.

This approach also helped streamline my presenter’s preparation efforts. They could focus on a succinct reflection and messaging instead of formatting slides, figuring out how to organize all aspects of their talk, and making sure they didn’t overlap with their co-presentations, etc.

I would definitely consider using Rose, Thorn, Bud again for a group presentation. Here is my own Rose, Thorn, Bud of our presentation:

  • Rose: Audience members gave us positive feedback and we kept to time
  • Thorn: The time limitations did not provide much time for discussion
  • Bud: This activity could be used as an introduction for roundtable discussions (another type of presentation at MCC)

Have you used the Rose, Thorn, Bud activity before? Are you thinking about using this activity? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Pingback: It’s just like a garden; roses, buds, and thorns… – Honest Ella

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