Whiteboards for Success

I’m a major whiteboard enthusiast. Whether leading a design thinking session, client discovery, drawing out current or future states, or even to solution problems – nothing beats an expo marker gliding across a freshly cleaned (since the last group forgot to erase their work lol) whiteboard.

The collaborative spirit fostered by whiteboards, in my experience, makes it an evermore enjoyable experience. I can hand a colleague an expo and constantly invite those around the table to come be a part of the conversation and solution. I remember seeing this first-hand for the very first time with my internal consulting team when we met at one of our team offices, early in my career. We were designing what the next year of a digital transformation could look like for our client to inform our roadmap planning sessions. We were sitting around in a conference room with a 12 person table. The conversation would teeter up and down, finally I realized that we had whiteboards all around us. I took the only expo I could find along the running boards and I started jotting down the major ideas we were discussing on one board, began drawing out a potential solution on another, and identified risk/challenges/needs to accomplish on another.

I took this observation/experience and brought it to various other team sessions such as client discovery and engaging with other stakeholders in person. It truly made everyone feel invested into what we were doing. All stakeholders wanted to add their input and pour out their perspective into what was being done. This is invaluable. Getting your stakeholders to “open up” and give you deep perspective of their wants and needs is crucial to business understanding and producing results that resolve their needs. As a consultant, I recognized my part was not to know my client’s business than they knew it (these were individuals and teams with decades of experience in their industry). Instead, I was to understand the issue they were facing, ask the right questions and gather enough information to synthesize what I’ve learnt, what I know (from previous consulting, entrepreneurial, or academic experiences), and provide a fresh perspective as an outsider. This often meant working closely with the stakeholders to discover what they’ve done in the past, what’s worked, what hasn’t, and use creative, critical thinking skills to come up with new ways to solve the challenges at hand.

It starts with business understanding. It is among the most pivotal element in consulting, product management, and the success of implementing an initiative. In my experience, whiteboards are one of the best ways to get the people you need involved to buy into the collaboration and share their insights.

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