In praise of whiteboards
15 Friday Jan 2016
I mentioned in my last post that we moved homes in the fall and I’ve been busily (or languidly) setting up my new home office ever since. Since I LOVE to organize, this activity fills me with glee as I add each piece of art or furniture or storage solution to make my working life easier.
Over the holidays I took a big plunge and ordered a 6 x 4 foot whiteboard for the wall. Now, I realize that a whiteboard might not be a typical “need” for many home offices but as a learning designer and facilitator and someone who thinks often about how small activities fit into overall lessons and courses, this is a tool that I can use all the time. In my pre-whiteboard days you could have often found me writing on those huge flipchart-sized Post It notes or tons of stickies on my office walls; now I’m going to go with the argument that a huge whiteboard is much kinder to our environment!
One afternoon after my whiteboard arrived, my husband, dad and I got the daunting task of figuring out how to install it. You’ll laugh that my husband and I were a little worried about knocking holes into our walls with our medium level of “handiness”. In a brand new house, each hole in the wall that WE put in makes us hurt just a little! Thank goodness the company had an instruction video as to how to hang the board. We watched it many, many times before and during the task!
You’re going to laugh, but now that my whiteboard is installed it makes me SO happy to look at it and use it. I really do think better when I can write something, sit back and look at it, mull it over, rearrange things, write and wipe off, leave it on for a few days, mull some more, revise. You know the drill. Give me a whiteboard marker and a board and some time to think and I can make some sort of magic happen.
The good thing is, other people have whiteboards too. 🙂 The other day I was offsite, planning a course for one of my clients with a subject matter expert and early in our meeting as we began to talk about how the course would work I jumped up from my chair and grabbed a whiteboard marker. I started writing on the board and we kept on talking. We asked each other questions and our ideas flowed, changing and morphing as we went along, and I captured our plan on the board. What a flow state! It took us almost two hours but by the end we had a whiteboard-full of our design approach for the course and we felt really good about what we had accomplished so far. As much as you know that I believe in working together with people online, sometimes you just can’t match the energy that results from two people together in real time in a room…with markers and a whiteboard to capture our ideas.
This approach might not work for everyone but for me it really does. Seeing ideas visually – even if they’re just text – allows me to “interrogate” those initial thoughts and decide if they’re worth keeping or if I can do better. Even better if someone else is collaborating with me as part of the process.
I often get people telling me that there is no way that they could work at home, like I often do. But with the right tools and the ability to connect with others both online and offline as the needs arise, I’m in just the right place.