How to Implement Rose, Bud, Thorn Method

How to Implement Rose, Bud, Thorn Method

Everyone knows that feeling: your team’s completed a project, you’ve given your career’s best presentation, perhaps you’ve nailed the perfect flip of your first pancake or hit a personal record at the gym. In this momentum of forward motion, you might miss out on a crucial step—reflection.

Taking the time to pause and reflect is not rumination or dwelling in the past. Instead, it’s about gaining a deeper and well-balanced understanding of your experiences across the achievements, setbacks, and potential opportunities. 

Let us introduce you to the Rose, Bud, and Thorn exercise. It is a simple but highly effective tool for reflecting on any aspect of your life, personal or professional. So, get ready to embark on a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery.

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What is the Rose, Bud, and Thorn Exercise?

The Rose, Bud, and Thorn is a mindful, reflective activity. It prompts individuals to ponder over the different aspects of a situation or period and come up with three takeaways—Rose, Bud, and Thorns. These metaphors depict:

  • Rose (Positives): Recognize a specifically positive highlight of the experience, situation, or timeframe. It could be things that worked in your favor, noteworthy or exceptional achievements, something you’re grateful for, a particularly enjoyable memory, etc.
  • Bud (Opportunities): Moving forward, identify opportunities for further growth and development in the near future. It could be a new skill that you wish to acquire, a facet where you see room for improvement, a tool that can make your life easier, a market gap that your company could seek to fill, etc.
  • Thorn (Challenges): Acknowledge the challenges or obstacles you’ve encountered or may face in the scenario. This could be a specific difficulty that you faced, something that added to your struggles, a problem that needs to be addressed, etc.

Think of it as a lessons-learned template that adds structure to reflective activities for personal or professional growth.

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Significance of the Rose, Bud, and Thorn Exercise

Whether you use it for personal reflection or project evaluation, the Rose, Bud, and Thorn exercise offers the following benefits:

  • A balanced perspective: It helps you break out from black-and-white thinking and offers you a more balanced and realistic perspective. Rather than obsessing over how great or terrible everything was, you reflect on the positive and negative elements. Further, you convert negative experiences into opportunities for growth. Balancing challenges and successes helps you become a more well-rounded individual or team and have a more objective view
  • Mindful self-awareness: It promotes mindfulness by encouraging individuals to actively reflect on their experiences. The neutral perspective will drive self-awareness, while the balanced and objective nature of the exercise will unlock insights into strengths, challenges, and areas of improvement
  • Smarter decision-making: Focusing on the roses (positives) helps identify what’s working for you. At the same time, the analysis of thorns or prickles (challenges) highlights any gaps. When observed in the context of buds (opportunities), you may follow a problem-solving approach to make smarter decisions to get better results
  • Collaborative action: Performing this exercise in groups promotes the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. In addition to the individual roses, thorns, and buds, teams can identify these elements at a team level to facilitate smoother collaboration, harness individual strengths, offset weaknesses, and strengthen communication
  • Effective goal setting: Noticing the roses, buds, and thorns helps set or recalibrate goals. Whether it is personal or professional growth and development, this exercise drives motivation, sharpens focus, and fosters iterative growth to achieve goals more effectively. It fuels long-term and short-term goal planning so that you can develop as an individual and as a team
  • Gratitude and acceptance: It’s easy to go over game tapes when you’ve registered success. But that’s not the case if you fail. This exercise acknowledges both positive and negative components, regardless of the outcome, to cultivate healthy self-perception, kindle compassion, and develop an appreciation of things that did go right
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Who Should Use the Rose, Bud, and Thorn Technique?

Given the versatile nature of the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique, virtually anyone can use it as a tool to gain a deep understanding of themselves and their experiences. Such self-reflection catalyzes growth and development.

That said, here’s a breakdown of certain segments who will find it particularly valuable:


At an individual level, you can use the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise for personal reflection. Here are a few examples of this:

  • Processing experiences and learning from them
  • Embarking on self-development journeys
  • Gaining self-awareness and resilience


Rose, Bud, and Thorn reflective thinking exercise
Use the Rose, Bud, and Thorn reflective thinking as a team-building exercise via Whole Family Toolkit

The Rose, Bud, and Thorn exercise is a great tool for team building as it helps with:

  • Developing a shared understanding of each others’ experiences and perspectives
  • Encouraging open communication and responding with empathy
  • Leveraging individual strengths to amplify team performance
  • Brainstorming ideas for collaborative problem-solving


Leaders and managers may use the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique for:

  • Reviewing the performance of a team or individuals
  • Identifying learning opportunities or skill development requirements
  • Reflecting on wins, misses, and areas of improvement to better manage client projects
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How to Implement the Rose, Bud, and Thorn Methodology?

Here’s a step-by-step guide for implementing the Rose, Bud, and Thorn ideology—at work, schools, or at home:

Step 1: Prepare

ClickUp 3.0 Docs Subpages Simplified
Tools like ClickUp come flush with features for clear and organized documentation

Start by finding a quiet space where you can focus and brainstorm freely and without any interruptions. Once you’re comfortably settled, decide on the scope of the exercise. For example, if you’re looking to review a project at work, consider whether you wish to reflect on the project idea in its entirety or pinpoint a specific project phase.

Next, collect all the relevant documentation or inputs, such as notes, scope documents, meeting minutes, project assessment templates, etc. Finally, gather all the material you’ll require for the reflection—this could be your journal, a whiteboard, sticky notes, or even a project management tool like ClickUp.

Step 2: Reflect

Now’s when you dive into the reflection part of the exercise. Draw a table with three columns—Rose, Bud, and Thorns.

Any positive element of the project or project phase will go into the ‘Roses’ section. This includes:

  • Successes achieved: High-quality deliverables, meeting project milestones, project cost savings, etc.
  • Positive team dynamics: Efficient communication, excellent teamwork and collaboration, supportive work environment, etc.
  • Client satisfaction: Positive feedback, referral to another client, new project from the same client, etc.
  • Personal achievements: Your role in the project’s success, specific skills that came in handy, etc.

Then, shift your focus to the future to identify the ‘Buds.’ A bud is a potential rose. To discover these, identify areas where growth and improvement are practically possible. This could involve:

  • Lessons learned: Milestones that could have been met earlier, potential cost savings, quality enhancement in deliverables, effective team performance, etc.
  • Skills to develop: Talent gaps that you can fill to improve project outcomes, skills that can be refined, mission-critical skills that are currently missing, etc.
  • Areas of customer engagement: How to encourage customer participation and involvement, how to respond to customer feedback, smarter communication channels, etc.
  • Process improvements: Scope for automating some activities, developing a critical path, streamlining operational or business workflows, generating new business, better ways to execute an etc.

Finally, you fill out the ‘Thorns’—the challenges or obstacles that cropped up during the project or project phase and gave you a hard time. These could be:

  • Difficulties faced: Technical issues, unexpected constraints or roadblocks, communication breakdowns, etc.
  • Client challenges: Client disengagement or dissatisfaction, negative feedback, unfulfilled expectations, etc.
  • Team issues: Poor accountability or task ownership, communication gaps, role conflicts, improper delegation, overutilization of resources, etc.

Do note that you don’t necessarily have to go in the Rose > Buds > Thorns order. You can simply reflect on the experience and classify incidents across these three parameters.

Step 3: Plan

Performing this exercise would be in vain if it doesn’t translate to actionable planning. 

Start by analyzing your Rose, Buds, and Thorns table. Look for patterns or connections between the three elements. Alternatively, you may brainstorm solutions and develop specific action steps for capitalizing on the roses, nurturing the buds, and snipping off the thorns. The objective is to play to your strengths, address any problems, and keep improving!

Step 4: Document

Since growth and development is an ongoing process,  document everything— the Rose, Buds, Thorns table, deliberations, insights, takeaways, project-based learnings, new ideas, and plans. Such documentation can be a valuable tool for future reference and benchmarking progress.

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The Rose, Bud, and Thorn Thinking Exercise Through Examples

Let’s look at some examples of the Rose, Bud, Thorn technique to explain the concept further. We’re covering personal and professional situations to help you visualize the different applications.

Example 1: Personal analysis

Scenario: You’ve committed to a new morning workout. Tomorrow will be 30 days since you’ve been practicing it diligently. You want to celebrate by reflecting on your progress using the Rose, Bud, and Thorn exercise.

Using our step-by-step guide, you get the following table:

You’ve developed a consistent habit of waking up early in the morningYou could add more structure to your workout routine to target specific muscle groups every dayYou sometimes struggle with getting out of bed early for your workout
You notice an increase in your energy and stamina levelsYou wish to explore cardio and body-weight exercises to add varietyThere have been days when you’ve pushed yourself too hard and been tired throughout the day
You see an improvement in your strength, flexibility, and mobilityYou want to be mindful of your eating habits and adopt a healthy diet to support your fitness goalsYou are yet to see the results that you wished to achieve with this workout routine

Key takeaways: Staying consistent with your workout routine is a major win. A workout buddy or friends at the gym can help you stay accountable and motivate you to meet your fitness goals. You might also want to reevaluate your fitness goal to see if it is realistically achievable. Discover new exercise techniques and sign up for physical group activities to maximize your results and keep things interesting.

Example 2: Professional analysis

Scenario: Your company recently launched a new product, and you’re the marketing manager who orchestrated the campaign. After the first date of the product’s soft launch, you’re excited to meet your team to review performance and roadmap for the next phase.

In this case, the Rose, Bud, Thorn template would look something like this:

The website saw a lot of traffic after the campaign launchThere’s room to increase outreach by collaborating with relevant influencersThe unexpected traffic influx caused the website to crash momentarily
Social media engagement has been exceptionally high, with above-average impressions, likes, shares, and commentsAnalyze metrics and behavior on the product’s landing page to identify areas of improvementSome customers marked the promotional emails and newsletters as spam, highlighting poor targeting
20% of the target audience has preordered the product and 60% of the remaining display strong signs of intent to purchaseCollect feedback from clients who have placed preorders to gain insights into their purchase experienceA competitor launched a similar product after a few days, causing the interest in your product to fizzle out

Key takeaways: You and your team can leave behind the stress and anxiety leading to D-day and celebrate the success of the well-orchestrated campaign. Moving forward, your team can:

  • Leverage ideation techniques to brainstorm strategies for overshadowing competition
  • Optimize customer outreach programs and launch win-back campaigns for cart abandonment
  • Explore other channels to increase media coverage for the post-product launch stage
  • Brainstorm with the IT team on how to improve website performance
  • Identify influencers that align with your business values
  • Sift through customer feedback and act upon the high-priority, high-impact ones
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Practical Applications of Rose, Bud, and Thorn: Various Use Cases

We’ve consistently mentioned how the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise is a versatile tool for various applications—personal and professional. To prove this point, here is a list of some of the common use cases across industries, business value chains, and personal growth where you can apply Rose, Bud, and Thorn’s reflective thinking:

Project-based learnings

The Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique is a valuable tool during project initiation. By reflecting on past projects and associated experiences, teams can effectively plan project roadmaps, proactively address potential challenges, and deliver successful results.

Here are a few examples of some ways to use the Rose, Bud, and Thorn thinking:

  • Reflecting on thorns from previous projects of a similar nature to proactively identify potential roadblocks, issues, and constraints in the early stages of a new project
  • Reviewing roses and buds from past projects and using them as a reference to set achievable goals against realistic timelines for an upcoming project
  • Identifying thorns in teamwork, collaboration, and communication and working on these to bring together a cohesive unit that operates like a well-oiled machine

Web design and development

Image of someone making notes for web desing
Analyze your design thinking and develop concepts using the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique via Unsplash

The Rose, Bud, and Thorn assessment caters to the web design and development project’s requirement of continuous improvement and continuous deployment. Here’s how you can use it to refine design thinking while working on web design project management:

  • Translating user testing insights into actionable strategies to improve website layout during the design phase
  • Leveraging user feedback to iterate on project design, color palette, layout, etc. and make it user-centric
  • Reflecting on past web development project management experience and identifying ways to improve it

Sales and marketing

Sales and marketing teams leverage the Rose, Bud, and Thorn techniques to refine strategies and optimize campaigns. By reflecting on past successes and challenges, they can craft campaigns that maximize revenue.

Here are some ways to do so:

  • Analyzing areas of underperformance to optimize campaigns, budget utilization, and resource allocation
  • Reflecting on upselling and cross-selling opportunities from previous sales efforts
  • Evaluating customer feedback to improve customer support and service throughout the sales cycle

Informed decision-making

The Rose, Bud and Thorn technique doubles as a decision-making tool. By reflecting on past experiences, you can weigh out your options and forecast potential outcomes. Such informed decision-making helps make choices that align with your goals and values.

Here’s how you can apply it:

  • Identifying decisions that led to roses (positive outcomes) and repeating them for similar situations for proven success
  • Analyzing situations from different perspectives to identify favorable consequences and potential for maximum growth
  • Identifying risks or threats associated with different decisions and developing contingency and risk mitigation plans to offset their effects

Education and capacity building

Image of people wearing a graduation cap and robes
Completed a course and want to analyze its impact on your career? Use the Rose, Bud, Thorn method via Unsplash

Educators and trainers can use the Rose, Bud, and Thorn strategy to improve their teaching methodologies and learning materials. They can reflect on their classroom sessions to identify areas where students thrived, obstacles students faced, and aspects that can be improved. This improves learning outcomes since you use it for:

  • Personalizing the students’ learning objectives and experience after the Rose, Bud, and Thorn analysis
  • Identifying areas of improvement in training or educational content and updating them to align with key learning objectives
  • Improving assessment tools by iterative development of evaluation methodologies to test learning outcomes


Healthcare professionals can utilize the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique to improve patient care. From identifying treatments that worked to staying wary of the challenges faced during recovery, the Rose, Bud, and Thorns exercise is improving healthcare by:

  • Reflecting on the patient’s medical requirements and existing or anticipated health complications to develop personalized treatment plans and supplemental care
  • Improving patient communication to develop a shared understanding and address any concerns or worries related to the treatment
  • Discovering opportunities for preventive care or alternative treatments to promote overall well-being

Acquiring a new skill

Committing to acquiring a new skill is daunting. However, with the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique, you can self-reflect on this ongoing process. Dissecting your experience across strengths, challenges, and growth opportunities allows you to chart your journey and stay motivated.

Here are some ways to apply this:

  • Reflecting on your learning journey and celebrating your own rose or milestone along the way
  • Uncovering opportunities to refine the skill and improve the learning experience through allied courses or resources
  • Employing problem-solving skills to address challenges that prevent you from staying committed to the learning process

Relationship building

Whether you’re looking at business or personal relationships, the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique helps you improve them both. By combining self-reflection and intentional communication, you can cultivate deeper connections that improve social-emotional health. Here are some ways you can use it:

  • Recognizing and acknowledging the meaningful aspects of interpersonal relationships and nurturing them
  • Uncovering areas where the relationship may benefit from collective growth and communicating them
  • Identifying challenges in the relationship and actively working toward addressing them constructively and openly to nurture stronger relationships

If you liked this exercise, you’ll like reading this The Six Thinking Hats summary.

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ClickUp: An Online Tool for Practicing Rose, Bud, and Thorn Reflection

ClickUp is an established project management tool. But did you know that you could also use it as a sandbox for practicing your mindfulness classes? Whether you’re using it for personal or professional use, the following features can facilitate this self-reflective exercise:

ClickUp Docs

use clickup relationships to link tasks and docs from the workspace
Convert your Rose, Bud, and Thorn analysis in ClickUp Docs into actionable tasks

Remember how documentation is the final stage of implementing the Rose, Bud, and Thorn technique? You’ll need a tool to create, edit, and share such documents.

Enter ClickUp Docs.

ClickUp Docs is a one-stop repository for all your documents. Use it to craft detailed documents that analyze your roses, buds, and thorns. Describe each accomplishment, setback, factors that contributed to it, how it could have been improved, and more. You can unpack insights in granular details—not just on your own but even as a team. Celebrate success, brainstorm solutions, and highlight risks, all on ClickUp Docs.

ClickUp Custom Views

ClickUp 3.0 Board view simplified
The Kanban Board View allows you to create an interactive Rose, Bud, Thorn board on ClickUp

Use ClickUp’s Kanban View to create a custom board. Divide this Board into three columns— Roses, Buds, and Thorns. Move tasks between these columns to group and categorize outcomes. Roses would be the tasks that were a success, Buds correspond to tasks with room for improvement, and Thorns are the tasks that backfired or failed to take off. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to track progress while also classifying tasks as roses, buds, and thorns, then you can choose ClickUp’s Gantt Chart View. It offers a bird’s eye view of the project. Staying focused on the big picture makes it easier to track dependencies, manage priorities, and collaborate across a visual timeline. As for whether a task is a rose, bud, or thorn, you can use the tagging feature to elaborate on this detail.

ClickUp Brain

Rose, bud, thorn analysis generated by ClickUp Brain
ClickUp Brain can perform the analysis for you, allowing you to validate your insights

ClickUp Brain is more than an AI assistant. It is a neural network that connects tasks, docs, people, and all of your company’s knowledge base to make it more accessible, navigable, and searchable. Such detailed transparency into the organization’s digital space makes ClickUp Brain highly efficient in conducting in-depth analysis.

You can use ClickUp Brain while practicing the Rose, Bud, and Thorn thinking exercises. It can identify the Rose, Buds, and Thorns for you so that you can cross-verify and validate your observations. At the same time, it can help you brainstorm new ideas for converting buds into roses.

ClickUp Goals 

ClickUp 3.0 Golas simplified
Set well-defined and measurable goals to follow up on your Rose, Bud, and Thorn exercise

ClickUp Goals are designed to help you achieve measurable success faster. Setting timelines, defining success metrics, assigning priorities, and tracking progress automatically lays a solid foundation for a goal-focused Rose, Bud, Thorn analysis

For instance, if you’ve met a goal earlier than you anticipated, it would be a Rose. The variation in KPIs against benchmark values shows room for improvement—Bud. You may even transform these buds into actionable goals and put them on track to bloom into roses. Or you can take this as a learning moment to optimize your goals and make them more realistic. Finally, any challenges along the way to achieving the goal would be the prickly Thorns. 

ClickUp Whiteboards

ClickUp 3.0 Whiteboards Collaboration
Reflect on your performance and brainstorm with your team using ClickUp Whiteboards

ClickUp Whiteboards are effective tools for collective brainstorming. Think of them as a visual counterpart of ClickUp Docs. Start by using them for team-based reflections and identify the roses, buds, and thorns during a project or its phase. Then work together to identify possible solutions to the problems identified. ClickUp Whiteboards makes it easy to translate your team’s ideas into tasks, workflows, Docs, and more. Having everything in one platform minimizes the possibility of any drop-offs or integration issues.

ClickUp Templates

Let’s talk about the templates available on ClickUp.

ClickUp has a rich library of templates for different use cases, industries, projects, etc. They are 100% customizable and save you time by offering you a prebuilt structure for your reflection exercise.

Some templates that you can use for Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise include:

Reflect on your project using the ClickUp Project Retrospective template and evaluate whether it was a success or a failure
  • ClickUp Project Retrospective: This beginner-friendly template allows you to evaluate whether a project or a phase was a hit or a miss. It also enables you to explore what could be done differently to get positive outcomes and prevent failures. Such retrospection empowers you to review team performance against set goals and objectives and make smarter decisions in future projects
Use the ClickUp Sprint Retrospective Brainstorm to gain valuable insights in minimal time
  • ClickUp Sprint Retrospective Brainstorm: This template analyzes a project to lend clarity on what went right, what could be done better, and what bombed. While it is tailored for running sprints during agile development, you can use it for various projects. Analyze the progress of your sprints, brainstorm ideas or solutions to improve sprint outcomes, reflect on the highs, lows, and could-have-been of every sprint, and identify trends and patterns over multiple sprints with this template
Follow the ClickUp Corrective Action Plan template to steer your project back on the path to success
  • ClickUp Corrective Action Plan: Simply reflecting on projects is not enough. You need to fix any mistakes and steer the project back on track. Here’s where this beginner-level template comes in handy. It organizes and illustrates all your data to display gaps in processes and policies and identify possible root causes of issues to help you develop a comprehensive corrective action plan
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Mindfulness to Make Life a Bed of Roses (Despite the Thorns!)

The Rose, Bud, and Thorns exercise isn’t just for grand projects or life-altering decisions. It is a powerful tool for cultivating a growth mindset as you reflect on your week or even your day. For instance, a student can use it in school to identify what brought them joy, areas where they can improve their study habits, and revisit challenging concepts. Similarly, professionals may use it to improve their work habits as they identify the roses, buds, and thorns. 

Taking the time to write down these moments—big or small—develops mindfulness and gratitude. You appreciate the small wins that made you proud while also recognizing avenues of growth and working toward them. Incorporating this small practice into your routine unlocks a world of personal and professional development.

If you’re looking for a way to make this reflective exercise a habit while organizing your thoughts and reflections, then ClickUp is a great platform. From setting reminders to centralizing data, ClickUp helps you improve: one rose, one bud, and one thorn at a time.

To experience the platform for yourself, sign up for a free ClickUp account today.

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