Collaboration is a word that’s often thrown around in the working world and while you might roll your eyes at the thought of yet another meeting, if done in the right way it can be very productive – and dare we say, fun! With the average office worker spending 6 hours per week in meetings, and managers spending 23, it has never been more important to keep everyone engaged, and awake!
Everyone’s mind works differently, and therefore not everyone would benefit from traditional meetings in the same way. With so many different perspectives, ideas and unique problem-solving strategies, finding a way to get thoughts written down can sometimes be a challenge.
People thrive in working environments that encourage open thinking and communication, and whiteboards or writeable walls can be a fantastic tool for making that happen. If your workplace is ready for new ways of working together, here are some collaboration techniques to use with a whiteboard wall. But, before we get into those, let’s look a little closer as to why whiteboards (and whiteboard-painted walls) are a fantastic tool for any business.
The why of whiteboard working
New ways of thinking
Most office workers spend their time writing on their keyboards. But, when you set up collaborative meetings, everyone involved will be using their minds in new ways. For example, when outlining new processes or next steps in a project, whiteboarding sessions provide a much larger canvas and therefore, more potential for ideas.
It’s not boring
Let’s face it. Sometimes, meetings and planning sessions can be a little…dry. A good whiteboarding session will mix it all up in new and engaging ways. And, by having multiple meeting participants taking their turn to use the whiteboard in their own way, they will naturally feel more engaged and open with their thoughts and collaborative mindset.
Encourage participants to draw fun visuals that relate to the meeting topic with different markers to make the whiteboarding session more interesting and to change up your traditional meetings.
As soon as you see someone opening up PowerPoint, you know your chances for a fun time are slim to none. When using a whiteboard or writable surface, the ideas, solutions and processes are happening live, and right in front of everyone else. This kind of group participation is perfect for getting input from all participants, who can jump up to draw and write down their thoughts.
Techniques for effective whiteboarding collaboration sessions
So, now that you know the why of whiteboards, here are a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of your next collaborative whiteboard session:
1. Don’t lose focus
Whiteboard sessions can be fun, and while we don’t want to suppress creativity, there does need to be some direction. To keep the meeting purpose and agenda in focus, write out the title and goal of the meeting at the top of your whiteboard to keep everyone on the same page. That way you can still have an interactive session and keep things focused at the same time.
2. Start out clean
Chances are that the whiteboard already has all manner of scribbles and doodles on it from a previous meeting, so you’re going to want to start yours with a clean slate. This will maximise the writeable space and will help people feel visually organized. However, before you wipe the board clean, take a picture of it with your phone just in case someone hasn’t done so already. Also, make sure to use darker colours on a white surface, otherwise people might find it hard to make out what’s being written.
3. Organize the chaos
Productive whiteboard sessions will quickly descend into a frenzy of ideas, doodles, flows and diagrams, which is great! But, if things start to look too disorganized and cluttered, the gold might get lost amongst all the scribbles. To avoid this, try organizing ideas into sections, categories, tables and columns to keep some kind of order. Not only will this help keep thinking in a good direction, but it’ll also make taking down the final ideas a lot easier.
4. Leave space for stragglers
During whiteboarding, people can get excited with their ideas and start talking over each other. Now, we love an active brainstorm, but its important to have somewhere for the ideas to go. If the conversation is going off course and you want to keep them for another project, create a space or box on your whiteboard to ‘park’ them. Then, at the end of the meeting you can revisit the ideas that didn’t quite fit and see if you missed out on any gems that can be used somewhere else.
5. Get people moving
The great thing about whiteboards and writable walls is that meeting participants don’t have to stay still. If you’re having a brainstorming session or discussion, encourage people to get on their feet and illustrate their ideas or points onto the whiteboard. Gently toss them marker pens when its their turn and keep things active, creative and fun.
6. Take pictures
This might go without saying, but it bears repeating: always take pictures of the work before leaving the meeting. You never know who might go in after you and wipe it all away for their own workshop. Create a folder on your computer for the pictures and then make notes based on what ideas were generated.
7. Use whiteboard paint
Why stop there? You can create writable surfaces on just about anything, including desks and even furniture if you feel like it. By having multiple areas for creative expression (and not just one space), everyone will have the chance to write down ideas the moment they pop into their head.For more ideas on how to engage your staff with writable walls, check out this list of fun and productive team-building games you can play in your workplace. Ok, now get out there and collaborate!