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What is whiteboarding? Everything you need to know

Lauren Grabau

Lauren Grabau

April 28, 2021

How many times a week (or day) did you get called up to the whiteboard in school to solve a math problem or figure out a grammatical mistake? It used to feel commonplace — and sometimes nerve-wracking. But now — when was the last time you saw anyone whiteboarding (aside from your devs)? We’re about to change that!

Set on a path to join anachronisms like “hanging up the phone” or “making a Xerox,” “whiteboarding” is a great business practice you might not already be doing. But how exactly does one “whiteboard?” Do you need a real whiteboard for it? And is it right for your team?

We’re going to explore all those questions and more. Grab your Expo marker and get ready!

What is whiteboarding?

Well, to be frank, it’s about what it sounds like: Whiteboarding is when you use a whiteboard. More specifically, whiteboarding is when you use a whiteboard (or an online whiteboard) to help you track thoughts and ideas during a meeting. You can write down goals, important considerations, new ideas, and even organize all of these thoughts during the meeting itself.

Fortunately, in our ever-growing world of remote work, you don’t need to be huddled around a physical whiteboard anymore. There are lots of great online resources to help simulate the experience of being in a room and brainstorming together. We recommend our tool, Cacoo, for all of your online diagramming needs. But it’s especially useful for online whiteboarding.

Benefits of whiteboarding

We’ve already touched on a few, but let’s get more into the specific benefits of online whiteboarding.

1. It encourages collaboration

When whiteboarding, many people can be involved at once. While the discussion is happening, other members can organize and add to the board. Plus, the interactivity keeps everyone actively engaged.

2. It’s easy to do remotely

If you have a team that’s dispersed around the country (or the world), it’s an easy way to get everyone to work collaboratively online. The distance becomes irrelevant when everyone can add and edit the whiteboard in real time.

3. It aids visual thinking and learning

Many people find it difficult to fully understand how a project or process fits together just by talking or hearing about it. By adding a visual element as you discuss and problem-solve, your whole team will be on the same page.

Whiteboarding techniques and tips

Just like everything else, there are some best practices when it comes to whiteboarding. You may discover new rules along the way that work for your team, but if you’re just getting started, it’s best to start with these:

1. Set aside off-topic points

Oftentimes, someone brings up a point that is important but doesn’t quite fit in with the current focus of the conversation. Maybe it’ll be helpful further down the line, or perhaps it’ll be more beneficial to bring it up with another team. If that’s the case, write it down to the side in a section devoted to off-topic points. That way, you can move on, but not forget that the matter was brought up.

2. Organization is key

Make sure you (and your team) organize your whiteboarding sessions in a way everyone understands. It might be helpful to create a key that lays out the usage of different placement, colors, font sizes, etc. You can then upload it to your team’s Wiki for easy reference. Be sure that everyone follows these guidelines throughout each whiteboarding meeting. It wouldn’t hurt if you took a few minutes at the end of the first few to clean up the space you’re working in, making sure everything is properly formatted for the next meeting.

3. Encourage creativity

Working in a visual format instead of a clunky, prescribed spreadsheet can do wonders for your team’s creativity! Make sure you encourage freeform thinking or even set aside time during your brainstorming session for more out-of-the-box ideas. Whether it goes in the main area of your whiteboard or off to the side, make sure you note anything possibly helpful that your team comes up with.

4. Take turns

Working in a whiteboard format can provide the quieter members of your team the opportunity to come out of their shells a bit. You can stop more talkative people from dominating a brainstorming session by taking turns or specifically making sure everyone gets a few minutes of talking and editing time per meeting.

5. Set an agenda

Last, but definitely not least, is to make sure you set a clear agenda. Make certain everyone attending knows ahead of time what your whiteboarding session will focus on. This will help your team stay on the main point. You can type up a memo in your meeting invite to make sure everyone knows exactly what will be discussed. If you think it might help, you can even encourage your team to do some research on their own or come to the meeting with five ideas each person is ready to share.

Final thoughts

Whiteboarding can really take your team’s brainstorming sessions to the next level. And, luckily, they aren’t too hard to get started. Start with a free account on Cacoo to gain access to real-time collaboration features, a huge library of templates and shapes, video and in-app chat, and more. It’ll be like you’re all sitting in the same room again.

See how quickly adding this visual element improves your team’s problem-solving and planning processes!



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