Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portable White board: Effective discussions using the A3 method.

Mouneer mind maps A3 discussion

The A3 effective meetings
The easiest way for effective out-of-the-office discussions/meetings.
Recently I have started a new way to conduct productive meetings or discussions; I call this simple setting "The A3". Anyone who enjoys conducting discussions to solve problems, explain ideas, or explore solutions through simple sketching on a whiteboard or a flipchart, will certainly find The A3 very useful.

The source of inspiration to do that are:
  1. The back of the napkin book. http://www.amazon.com/Back-Napkin-Solving-Problems-Pictures/dp/1591841992
  2. The RSA Animate amazing videos. http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/
  3. and recently how Edward De Bono , the lateral thinking guru conducts his seminars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_de_Bono
  4. Alistair Cockburn communication effectiveness diagram
Using pictures, graphs and drawings is very effective in getting every discussion participant on the same page; as humans we ignore the important visual aspect of conveying our thoughts and only rely on spoken or written words. The communication fidelity is at maximum when a group of people is doing their discussion on a white board or a big white paper with sharpies.

The book that I have been recommending is "The back of a napkin" that explains with beautiful simplicity why, and how to use sketching for conveying thoughts between people.

Now here’s what you can do to get started with the A3:
1. Get a dozen or more of A3 white papers and always carry them in you.
2. Get fine Sharpie (permanent ink pen) in 4 different colors; red, blue, black, green. You may have yellow and other colors as well.
3. Next time you meet with someone or a group of maximum 4 people in a café , during lunch or anywhere where there are no whiteboards or flipcharts, spread an A3 paper sheet or A3 transparent sheet (for reuse) and use it as your discussion board.

Alright, I have the A3 , the color sharpies and my friend sitting at Starbucks and ready to discuss a new business idea, to decide topics for our next community gathering, to come out with the first version of your school project presentation, or to explain a difficult physics topic , what do we do next?

The answer is : start utilizing the power or drawing and put your hands, eyes and mind’s eyes into action; draw mind maps, charts , graphs, objects, people, timelines, formulas etc... to communicate. Start practicing and maybe read more about mind mapping , simple sketching, and how our mind works. You will be amazed of how much we are missing for not using the visual factor in conveying thoughts.

Reasons to use for the A3 method:
1. It is the portal/mobile flipchart.
2. It helps having a focused meeting/discussion.
3. It gets your discussion to have a time rhythm rather than having an open ended discussion. Once the A3 is full, this signals the end of a cycle. You can then stop and review what you have reached at that point and decide if you need another cycle.
4. It is very engaging.
5. It is an archive with mental images to your discussions.

Try it and post your feedback.

See the following videos for how useful sketching is and how effective it is a a method of communication:


Unknown said...

I just liked the idea ...!

you know, there is an Italian restaurant here in Doha provide a big white sheet on each table with some wax color pens...

the idea is to entertain the customers specially children but what if we spread this idea for some other cafes in Cairo which are famous as places to study/Read ..Like Cilantro in front of AUC!! it'll be very effective way to communicate

mouneer said...

Yes! that would be a great analogue human way to entertain and communicate. And the cost is minimal, with enormous impact.

Mohammed Alaa said...

Actually I saw this idea in Citystars but i'm not sure about the name of the restaurant. it's beside NordSea and On the border what i remember is that it's an Italian restaurant :(

Shady M. Najib said...

Also, if you're not eager to buy a book talking about it directly, you might need to look for a couple of talks/videos by Dan Roam on MIX & PDC (2009?) about his book/method..