Do E-Boards Foster or Hinder Collaboration?

by Dave Michels

“I believe whiteboards are an evil presence in meetings … Simply going to the board and picking up a pen changes the whole dynamic of meeting ownership, agenda, control and creates a power-dynamic that is pretty hostile to collaboration.” These are the words of Steven Sinofsky, prior president of the Windows division at Microsoft and current board member at Andreessen Horowitz.

Sinofsky admits they can be useful in certain types of brainstorming sessions, but generally advises to minimize or eliminate their use. He claims that in addition to being hostile to collaboration, whiteboards stifle participation of those unwilling to use them, and they amplify the ideas of those who do.

This advice seems in conflict with where the collaboration industry is headed – a new generation of e-whiteboards. Microsoft, Cisco, Zoom, and Google are among the vendors with a new generation of e-whiteboards that they claim improves productivity and collaboration.

I see the merits of both points of view, and have come to conclude that the two perspectives aren’t in conflict. Sinofsky is talking about actual (dumb) boards. The new variants on e-boards represent more than just a materials/format change – they represent a change in functionality.

The traditional whiteboard . . .