Imagine a workplace where the buzz of live dialogue could be heard around every corner instead of the noise of silence. You observe your coworkers chatting enthusiastically in small groups to your left and right about a blackboard, of all things (or, a chalkboard depending on the term used when you were growing up). The board is overflowing with ideas. There is discussion, concept rubbing out, and idea addition. Before continuing, onlookers pause, reflect, and contribute their “two cents worth.” For more details Confiavel
This is typical procedure at the Waterloo, Ontario-based Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. It was established in 2001 to foster discoveries in cosmology, quantum gravity, string theory, and other cosmological puzzles by Research in Motion’s president Mike Lazardis. The researchers can sit, cycle, or wander around and reflect without interruption from administrative or teaching tasks.
While most of us don’t have the luxury of just thinking, we do have the freedom to increase the chances of impromptu collaboration. Conversations over the water cooler and in the hallway are legendary for leading to new connections, innovations, and breakthroughs in decision-making. If a blackboard would help the creative process, why not install one?
This might be difficult to market. It is ingrained in our society to avoid such things. First in elementary school, then in college and university, where traces might still be found in former lecture halls, we left chalkboards behind. Even flip charts are difficult to locate in our contemporary structures. When in meetings, we are instead engrossed in our personal notebooks, PPT presentations, or computers. None of these are sophisticated enough to spark our group’s creative energies.
We can observe the magic of the chalkboard in action in the crime show “Numbers.” One of the primary problem-solvers is regularly seen in front of his chalkboard thinking about different algorithms and linkages as he attempts to unravel the secrets of a crime. University coworkers stop by to contribute to his musings. For complex calculations and data research, a computer is nearby. Additionally, there is a lot of idling around and exchanging ideas. High tech and high touch work well together.
Such situations are not unknown to us. Low-tech flip charts and other interactive group thinking exercises are frequently used in retreats and workshops to encourage “out of the box” thinking. However, flip charts and even chalkboards are uncommon outside of these locations or the on-site conference rooms.