I love whiteboards. Of course I enjoy eliciting, prioritizing, editing thoughts from colleagues or outside groups, but I also enjoy reading them. I think whiteboards are the pictographs of modern life. Lascaux modernized.
The institutional or corporate whiteboard (refrigerator magnets still seem to rule residential settings) can unlock the secrets of an individual or community. Multiple whiteboards, wall-mounted, panel-hung or mobile, can provide insight to the zeitgeist of the building. They describe organizations, suggest processes, envision results, pose hypotheses. The use of colors, symbols, sizes and placements adds complexity to the description providing subtle clues to relative importance and effort. The pentimenti of the whiteboard can also suggest topics or challenges that have endured or returned after some time undocumented.
White boards are optimistic. They suggest multiple solutions to any problem. If you can post it, categorize it, assign it and monitor it, things are eventually going to work out. And whiteboards encourage risk taking. That’s what erasers (or your fingers) are for.
So go take a walk around any office or school and try to read the white boards. Remember to not only capture the language, but take note of the dialect (and slang). They can tell us a lot.
- Bryant Rice