2016-11-08-11-21-05

Meet The Whiteboard of Opportunity

I have a personal motto. “Make more, consume less, reduce friction”.

That last part, “reduce friction” is something I try to adhere to in my work as a web developer. Most of us have had frustrating experiences on the web and now value good user experience so I won’t explain any further.

But sometimes adding a little friction and some constraints can yield results. For example, two classic examples come to mind. When we search for flights online, there is a deliberate delay before the results are returned to us. The job is artificially slowed down. This is because if the results were returned in milliseconds, many people would have the feeling that the website hadn’t “worked hard enough” searching through all possible results. So adding in a few seconds of delay actually, counter-intuitively, improves the satisfaction and trust in the process. Imagine if the same was true when you searched on Google? You’d get very frustrated and consider using another search engine. The other classic example is money sorting machines. Again, a delay is often added to the process before returning the result. In addition to the delay, a recorded sound of money being sorted is played! All of this is done to reassure you that the machines are working had for you and checking your money very thoroughly.

Now don’t go adding artificial delays and friction into the processes of your own website without a lot of professional user-testing. The chances are you’ll just irk more people than you’ll please.

I wanted to tell you about a little experiment that we’ve been running at Betacowork that is deliberately low tech, introduces constraints and friction that could be overcome if we did it digitally and which probably has a reduced reach, but I think leads to better results.

Drumroll …. Introducing “The Whiteboard of Opportunity”

The whiteboard is just an extension of the regular meeting – called a rodeo – we have where coworkers introduce themselves, tell people what they can offer and let us know if they need to help to get business done. But you have to convey this in 30 seconds so that everyone gets a chance to speak. Then, if you can help someone with tips or if you need the services someone if offering, that is discussed in more detail over coffee.

We started with a blank canvas:

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We write our name, what we do and what we want on the whiteboard.

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Then this starts to happen.2016-11-08-11-21-05

After the meeting, the whiteboard goes back in to the coworking rooms and others can check it, add their own names and start making connections.

The whiteboard has been to two Rodeo meetings and is currently on tour. You can find it in the quiet room. And it’s pretty full.

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So Where’s The Friction and Constraints?

Well the first constraint is that we only write the first name of the person. So there’s a little bit of friction because you have to leave your desk to go looking for the person if you want to contact them. You can’t just email them unless you already know them.

The board moves around the building so you have to go to the board. Normally communication lands in your inbox. The whiteboard favours people who come to the coworking space ( not all members do ), but that’s fine because we still have the group email list for people that need to ask questions.

The bare minimum of information that we write on the board also help the pitches at the rodeo meeting be more focussed. If you can see someone writing what you are saying, you naturally adapt what you say to help them understand.

The end result is one person offering one thing and asking for one thing. Nice and simple.

The fact that we stand there in the café with this big whiteboard means people can see what we’re doing. This generated some interest from other companies in the building who are looking for talent.

Does It Work?

Contacts and business connections are made at the Rodeo anyway so there’s additional value there.

Contacts have also been made after the Rodeo by people who were not present at the meeting so I see that as a good outcome. We have the usual kind of matching that you’d expect in a coworking space. You know the kind of thing. Startup founder, meets mobile app developer. Graphic designer meets advertising agency. Distributor meets product supplier etc etc.

Now, as we know, Ramon is all about serendipity and the kinds of serendipitous encounters that coworking spaces facilitate.  I have to admit, this one new connection that just happened, surprised me. Ben, who is working on a language learning tool using short news and documentary videos put his name and project on the whiteboard. The next day, he was discovered by someone who did a thesis on language learning via video.

The moral of the story is, if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

See you at the next Rodeo.

About Gilbert West

Gilbert is a web application developer. Find out more at gilbertwest.com
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