Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Whiteboarding for outliers

Whiteboarding can be a good way to generate shared understanding between people in a business (if you know what you’re doing).

Business is collaboration; is interpersonal communication. A successful business or business network is comprised of people who have an adaptable shared understanding of who they individually and collectively are; of what they’re endeavouring to achieve together and why; of how they’re endeavouring to achieve it together; and of their progress together.

That shared-understanding exists between them. It’s a dynamic, living thing that they generate through skilful, purposeful interpersonal communication: navigating the complexities and dynamics of individual perception and emotion in interpersonal relationships. Whiteboarding can represent that emerging, changing, developing shared-understanding.

Beware; everyone will assume that the whiteboard is a “power” tool. You will have to deliberately break that classroom spell. Deliberately use the whiteboard as a think-space and to express the emerging shared understanding between the people. To emphasise that, encourage everyone to physically enter the think-space by writing on it; thinking ‘aloud’ on it; sticking post-its on it; drawing on it; expressing their perspective and understanding on it.

Even put the whiteboard on the table between the people.

If that’s too weird for you, substitute paper for whiteboard and for increased visibility use a document projector to throw the image on a wall and/or to pipe it down the web to those unfortunate off-site participants. SmartBoards are also good for projecting, manipulating, transmitting and writing over images of actual documents.

Don’t abstract documents into PowerPoint bullets: highlight and write on the real documents; get your actual fingers in the picture (thrown on the wall by the document projector).

Don’t write minutes of the meeting. Save or photograph the ‘raw’ whiteboards and distribute those. They’ll be meaningful to those who were there and it’s a waste of time trying to communicate what happened to someone who wasn’t.

When you’re working with shared understanding, being there may not be everything, but its way ahead of whatever’s in second place.

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