Steven Johnson emphasizes the importance of allowing ideas to cross-pollinate; meaning that when one idea marries another idea or when one idea is built upon another idea, the result is a better, more refined idea.
Synergizing ideas is one aspect where “white-boarding” (to brainstorm random ideas on a whiteboard) plays an important part.
But did you realize, what else could a white-board at your workplace do to your company culture and to your early employees’ morale?
The sight of a white-board at a startups’ office is symbolic of many things – of constant outflow of ideas, of analysis, of progress, of creativity, of collaboration and of team work. It’s at the heart and the genesis of all of startups’ activities.
Am I being over-whelmed with white-board? Maybe, but that’s not the point. The point I am trying to emphasize is the importance and significance of a white-board especially in the early days of a startup when you begin to employ your early employees.
Sense of ownership – If you hang a white-board in a corner and then ask your early employees to throw whatever ideas they get, it can improve their sense of ownership by leaps and bounds. One works best only when one feels that his work is contributing towards a benefit. Almost all of the founders demand ownership from early employees, but do we consciously make an effort to arouse the sense of ownership from our early employees?
Early employees are people who bring a fresh, different point of view than founders. Why? Simply because they are detached, and that detachment makes them see things that founders often times fail to see.
Make utmost use of white-board. Leave it there and ask your early employees to throw ideas, don’t judge their ideas. Let them just come up with it. At the end of 2 days or weekly, go through all the ideas on white-board and genuinely walk through them from an analysis point of view. Allow them to criticize, comment, and suggest ways of doing things differently if you are really interested in the benefit of your startup.
Once the sense of ownership is established, it will naturally improve their morale and keep them motivated. And when they really see their ideas put into implementation, you would have given them stories to tell to their peers, future employers etc.
The more you give to them, the greater benefit comes back to you like a boomerang.
Most people join early stage startups because inherently they want to maximize their learning by doing and at some point wish to start on their own. Rarely would someone join early stages of a startup purely because of money (because there’s not money in early days). So, when one joins early, they want to be heard, be felt an integral part of the team and wish to see the impact.
Unless they experience all of it, the whole point of joining a startup in its early days is defeated.
So, if you still don’t see a white-board hanging in a corner of your workspace, it’s worth getting one and start an all inclusive collaborative culture at your workplace!
By the way, in case you wondered why I wrote this article; I still remember my days at an early stage startup I worked in where a white-board was made accessible to me and my ideas were not only appreciated but taken on board as well. Whatever time I spent at that startup was a tremendous learning curve for me.
If they had not given me a chance to speak, I would not have been able to understand the difference between being theoretical and being practical.
Do you have other points to share as to how a white-board improved your startup culture? Share your experiences, thoughts and opinions below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
NIDHI KAPOOR - Nidhi is the co-founder of FounderMates. She holds an MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship from Imperial College, London. Prior to starting FounderMates.com, she worked with 2 reputable startups in London. One of the startups was as young as a year old where she was the first hire while another was almost 5 years old. This has been an enriching experience for her in understanding the dynamics and needs of a startup across a broad spectrum.
Nidhi can be contacted at email@example.com