A meeting room without a flipchart is decaffeinated coffee. The absence of a flipchart insinuates possibly lots of talking, perhaps a conference or video call, but not necessarily the rolling up of sleeves and ‘working on something’. The flipchart implies brainstorming, getting things out in the air, a licence to throw up ideas and the possibility of capturing them.
Ah! Capturing! Captive these ideas become this once on the flipchart. Eventually complex thoughts will be de-constructed into bullet point lines. Bullet point lines will grow in numbers and a second sheet will be required. Perhaps a third. Then something magic will happen in all those brains in the room. Magic because for some reasons it comes in sync: Prioritize! Prioritization is merciless murder. ‘We need to get it down to the key three’, or the key five if we are generous.
(I sometimes have this mental picture of people waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain with The Tablet announcing: “I’ve got 10 commandments’, and the Jews shout back ‘Prioritize!’, ‘Give us the top three!’).
Flipcharts will be wallpaper by now. People feel good with all these white sheets around, full of colours, letters, circles, arrows, bullets… It means productivity, offspring, worth, capacity, good brains, progress. Occasionally, an extra-terrestrial invasion of yellow post-it’s land on the flipcharts by the hand and command of the Categorization Squad. The take-over converts the multi-coloured sheets into tall, white buildings with lots of little yellow windows. The room becomes a city full of buildings of the same size, all next to each other. The meeting room is now a Disney-coloured supermarket of captive ideas.
But now it’s time to debrief, to stand up and tell what the flipchart says. Perhaps one of the sheets survives and will be taken away in a briefcase to new territories, uncomfortably folded for traveling. For the rest, left behind, death is approaching. Prolonged agony at first, then they will remain piled together, one on top of the other, perhaps for months. All mixed up. Those financial projection sheets laying together with the sheets full of circles and arrows from the previous session with the marketing visitors, and these themselves beneath a sheet from an obscure brainstorming session on where to build a plant, and all of these sheets rest on top of a list of pristinely described, never achieved, completely forgotten meeting objectives.
The flipchart is the largest corporate graveyard of ideas. Their individual biographies are the Lost Scrolls of corporate memory.