Standing up and writing on a whiteboard

I was at the board meeting of one of our startups recently. We were discussing a complex issue that many people around the table including myself were having trouble understanding. Participants were throwing around ideas about how to proceed, but since there were multiple layers to the problem with several variables affecting each layer, these ideas were difficult to internalize and evaluate at the speed of the conversation.

This happens a lot in meetings. At times like this, it’s useful for someone to stand up and write on a whiteboard the different variables being discussed, the alternatives which emerge from different combinations of each variable, and the pros and cons of each alternative. This makes it easier for participants to be on the same page during the discussion, which helps you arrive at a healthy decision much faster.

This is exactly what our startup’s founder did. He summarized the key variables of what we were talking about on the whiteboard, laid out our alternatives, and shared his proposal for how to move forward. This sparked a debate about the merits of different alternatives and we settled on one with a few deviations from that originally proposed by the founder.

When you sense that people are getting confused in a meeting, this simple act takes you a long way towards the solution.

Also published on Medium.