Friday, April 12, 2013

I [Heart] Whiteboards

I recently attended CoreNet Northern California's chapter meeting at the Palace hotel (before they sold the Maxfield Parrish Pied Piper). The topic was "Inspiring Innovation in the Workplace or How to Get out of the Way of Our Talen," and one of the panelists, Uday Dandavate of Sonicrim, mentioned the effectiveness of a mobile white board in getting people, particularly engineers, to express themselves. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote at DEGW, where part of my work involved assessing the an organization's culture or zeitgeist in a very short time. Naturally, the whiteboard was a key tool. Here is what I wrote:

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


About the Author:
Bryant Rice, Vice President of Strategic Accounts, is our Workplace Warrior. He deals out strategy, perspective, and opinions. Bryant brings over 30 years of experience to SideMark as an architect, planner, workplace strategist, facilities manager and furniture manufacturer. Bryant holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology as well as a MArch and MBA in Architecture and Business Administration from the University of Illinois. To contact Bryant, email him at


  1. I love anything that is writable; whether it be boards, tables, or even entire walls! I remember drawing on my desk during class... now you can do it without getting in trouble and you can come up with some great ideas! :)

  2. Not only do whiteboards help you come up with great ideas, whiteboards help you save paper. Long gone are the days of using an easel with a big pad of paper for meetings/presentations. A whiteboard eliminates the need for pads of paper (which usually end up in the recycling anyway). Whiteboards are better for the environment!

  3. AND they are collaborative! just try to get that marker away from me, though.