Since whiteboards were first introduced to offices in the 1990s, they have become an essential tool for every organization — how they are being used, however, can have a huge impact on the success of your company.
One of the most beneficial ways is as an idea whiteboard.
Idea whiteboard systems come with a host of benefits like being the start to building your idea management system, but to reap these benefits is only possible if the following three key building blocks are in place: whiteboards, support from management, and governance. They are best used for a small team of up to 12 people.
1. The Whiteboard
Whiteboards have proven to significantly improve idea generation, serving three important purposes:
- It allows team members to focus on important performance indicators
- A constantly visual reminder of an idea keeps it at the forefront of a member’s mind
- It adds a positive sense of competitiveness and accomplishment
Not only does every person in our sales and marketing team here at SoapBox have his or her own whiteboard to track key metrics, but the whiteboards are also used to formulate and track the progression of ideas, sketch out concepts, identify blocks, and more.
Here is one example of what a progressive whiteboard should look like:
A whiteboard similar to the one above is essential when it comes to goal setting and achievement. By having this information prominently displayed at all times, teams and individual team members are continually reminded of their goals and feel more accountable and more compelled to find a way to reach them (i.e. try new avenues to complete a task, seek the assistance of resourceful staff, etc.).
2. Support from Management
Idea systems that are backed by a supportive leadership team are far more likely to succeed than those that are not. For this idea system to work, management needs to be on board for the project, or better yet, be completely involved (i.e. management should have their own whiteboards where they can align team ideas to priorities). Having idea whiteboards publicly displayed also expedites the approval process from other teams and managers.
Team leaders can take a number of steps to help maintain a stream of high quality ideas, increase the rate of implementation, and ultimately meet performance goals:
- Focus on the small ideas. Small ideas are approved of more quickly as they have less distance to travel up the organizational ladder and are less resource intensive making them ideal for small teams.
- Implement what you can. Ideas are nothing without execution, and the creative spirit amongst your team will quickly dissipate if nothing comes of their ideas.
- Consistent brainstorming must be a part of your organization’s culture. Encourage the constant flow of ideas. Set aside a concrete period of time every day or week for constructive brainstorming (i.e. ten minutes at the end of each work day — see below).
- Track an idea’s progress. As a leader, your goal should be to make the implementation process run as smoothly as possible by regularly checking in with your employees.
The Ten Minute Idea Scrum Agenda
At SoapBox we like to scrum every morning in each of our own teams. We stand in our boardroom and each of us goes around to talk about what they accomplished the day before and what they plan to work on today. Use the following three topics to guide each person in your idea scrum.
- Progress on current ideas: Check in and make sure that ideas that have already been approved and implemented are moving closer towards completion.
- Blocks: Are there any hurdles that are stopping the implementation of an idea? Is it something that can be solved amongst the team or does it require an extra push from management? Do what you can to pave as smooth of a pathway for the implementation of your team’s ideas to reduce frustration.
- New Ideas: Use performance metrics as the focus for idea generation. For example, you may have come across a problem throughout a particular process. Ask the team for their ideas on how it can be fixed.
Idea whiteboards are a useful tool for any organization in any industry, but will only work if everyone has the right attitude, and that particular building block starts with you. Never forget that as a leader, you are a part of the team. You share in their struggles just as you share in their successes. The idea generation process should not be something you simply hand off to your team. Get actively involved by engaging with team members, encouraging brainstorming, and ensuring that these ideas are implemented.