Visualize it! – An ode to whiteboards

Two months ago I started a new job. I left nice old colleagues and got nice new colleagues. The companies are the same size. No big diff there. But there is a very visible difference in the respective offices:

  • Old workplace: 200 square metres of whiteboard surface + glass walls – all of them covered with drawings, notes and print-outs
  • New workplace: 4 square metres of hardly used whiteboard surface and empty walls

The impact on communication is tremendous. Meetings in which we talk about systems I’m not yet familiar with and no one draws a picture… I’ve always thought I’m the visual learning type. Now I’m sure of it, because without a sketch I can only follow half of what is being said. I find myself unable to picture it in my head.

Unfortunately I can’t remember what it was like before my last job…

  • Was I once better at picturing stuff in my head, then lost the ability, because visualization made it unnecessary? Like an untrained muscle?
  • Or was I never able to do it? (But since I hadn’t known that 98% understanding are possible, I didn’t realize I was missing out.)

Whatever the reason I depend on visualization, ordering whiteboards was among my first actions. And whenever someone starts to describe or explain something or make suggestions I shove a boardmarker into their hands look at them expectantly 🙂

Here’s what drawing and taking notes does for you:

  • Speed up understanding – of systems and how things work together
  • Make sure everyone has the same picture in their head
  • Keep you from going in circles in discussions by listing each possibility
  • Fix results so you can write a proper protocol and don’t lose progress

Visualization – be it on whiteboards, flipcharts, sticky notes, glass walls or whatever – makes discussions and meetings much more effective.

How much do you and those around you visualize?