• Rob

Where Did My Whiteboard Go?

I have to admit it, I love a whiteboard. Despite having terrible handwriting and being a poor speller, I find myself drawn to a whiteboard (no pun intended) to pull the team together onto the same page before jumping into detailed project planning. Like everyone else missing certain aspects of work from the old days, I miss my whiteboard.

This is the next article in a series where I reflect on things that I learned in my early career as a fighter pilot (hence the picture of an F-16 in a dogfight) and try to relate them to today's challenges.

When you are pilot in the military, an awful lot of time is spent briefing for flights and debriefing the flights that you just finished. As an example, I would say the total time taken to prepare and run through all the lessons learned from each flight is close to 3 hours for a 1-hour flight. Much of this time was spent around the whiteboard drawing out the plans for the dogfight, and afterwards illustrating what actually happened. The fact that there is a common workspace to flush out our lessons learned effectively really kept us all focused on constantly improving.

I have also learned over my business career that having a common picture of the problem we are trying to solve or articulation of our common solution is critical to galvanising a team. Too often I feel that people jump into planning tasks before they really understand where they are headed.

Working in the strategy and innovation space for the last 8 years has confirmed in my mind that the creation of something new always requires a strong collaborative spirit. Many successful sessions started with a whiteboard, some post-it notes and some type of design framework. The fusion of some structure to guide the conversation (a framework) and fluidity of reworking on the fly (the whiteboard and post-its) provides the best solution. Having all the participants contribute and be part of the process really helps to gain buy-in to any project.

With office-working seeming to be a thing of the past, how can we recreate this experience in the digital world? Luckily there are tools like Miro or Mural. As with most of the new SaaS collaborative tools, I am amazed at the value you can get for a reasonable price considering what these tools offer. Using Miro on a regular basis has allowed my team to create, align and edit without even being in the same space. Our productivity, and more importantly agreement around a single shared picture, has turbocharged the team.

I am sure there are a few more whiteboard junkies out there craving a space to co-create with your teams. Luckily the digital tools are catching up fast (and sometimes even better than a whiteboard (blasphemy I know!).