A few weeks ago Business Matters Magazine ran an article featuring how some UK-based startups spark creativity and collaboration in their offices. The article details that Epson UK—a leader in worldwide digital imaging technology—recently conducted research amongst 500 entrepreneurs, which found that over 70 percent of new businesses utilize dry-erase technology on a daily basis.
And in even more recent news, whiteboards took center stage at this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with each team—North Carolina, Syracuse, Villanova, Oklahoma—all utilizing dry-erase surfaces for strategizing last-minute plays. Both articles came as a surprise to no one in the Magnatag office, as we use our whiteboards just as frequently as we ship them.
The cool thing about dry-erase boards is they’ve been around for decades; outlasting the likes of typewriters, personal pagers, and even witnessing eight separate actors dawn the famous Batman cowl.
So why is it that in an age where practically everything is digital, the popularity and demand of dry-erase systems has never been larger?
To put it simply: Everyone needs an reliable resource for sharing and communicating ideas, and dry-erase surfaces fit the bill perfectly. Ideas—even in the most pure form—start simple, and only grow with time and collaboration; making the whiteboard an exceptional fit for rapid, nonlinear thought trains.
Think about it: You’re a young, bright-minded entrepreneur, just starting to establish your brand and organize a startup team. Do you have a dedicated space for group meetings? What tools are you going to use for brainstorming sessions? Or perhaps you have spent the past six months of your life fighting for a chance to coach your team to the finals of a national tournament, and you finally have an opportunity to accomplish what you started. The only problem is that your team is down by two points with a total of ten seconds left on the clock. Do you set up a simple pick and role, or try something dynamic to catch the defense off guard? All eyes are on you and your plan of action; how are you going to get the message across to your athletes?
The key to communication is clarity; if you’re unable to describe your idea to an eight-year old, chances are it is too complex to begin with. That’s why simple, comprehensive, ideas are considered to be the archetypal pattern for brainstorming and quick problem solving strategies.
Look back at the above scenarios: An up-and-coming entrepreneur that’s brainstorming business opportunities with their team won’t possibly be able to create an entire business model within a few minutes of strategizing. Any entrepreneur worth their salt will tell you that one of the many secrets to success is surrounding yourself with individuals that will challenge your ideas and inspire new ones. To take that concept a step further; at some point or another, the company in discussion was just a small idea that was only built upon through collaboration and feedback from others. So with that being said, many entrepreneurs understand the importance of developing strategies by starting with small ideas and letting them grow onwards.
While on the other end of the spectrum, a coach is tasked with visualizing an in-game strategy for their athletes with just over a minute on the clock. The challenge for the coach in this situation is figuring out how to convey an instruction to a large group of athletes within the confines of a time restriction. Of course, one option is to lecture the athletes in hopes that they will retain said game plan, but in the case of the Final Four coaches, presenting information from a visual perspective proved to be more viable. When discussing ball movement and coverage opportunities, it’s much easier—from an athlete’s standpoint—to absorb information from a visually, as images can easily translate to body movement.
In today’s day and age it seems like everyone is obsessed with tech; whether it is the newest iteration of the iPhone or the release of new management software, there’s a strong precedent set in place that implies that the latest tech is always the best—but clearly that’s not always the case. Dry-erase technology has endured the test of time because from a practicality standpoint, it’s a masterful tool; extremely simple yet powerful, whiteboards prove that oftentimes simple form and function trump complex technology.