Editor’s note: Sometimes inspiration comes in black and white

September 25, 2011

Not so long ago I moved into a new office and inherited a big white board.

It filled a wall, empty and blank, waiting for a idea.

For weeks I tried to ignore it. Nothing popped into my head that seemed worthy of picking up the dry erase marker.

But the emptiness haunted me. I remember my days as a tech editor, when every startup had a white board or three, covered in energetic scribbles, revenue formulas and Venn diagrams practically shouting that here was the next big thing.

So much a part of the modern business culture was the white board that The Post used to keep one around the executive dining room. At one memorable luncheon, our guest, a dotcom executive, leaped from the table to deliver an impromptu lesson on the magnificent possibilities of wireless mobile data. Squeak, squeak, squeak went his marker as he hurriedly sketched out his formula for conquering market after market. In his rendering the dominos fell one by one. In real life, his company, like so many others those days, boomed, then fizzled.

Still, the display captivated me, and I would witness many other dreamers outline their visions in black and white.

For me, there’s a power in putting thought to words. The words become objects that are no longer freighted with all the other ideas and emotions jangling around inside our heads. We can consider the ideas with detachment.

Perhaps that’s why I came to appreciate my whiteboard sessions, because seeing a business plan laid out helped me to better assess its prospects — or lack thereof — free of all the fast-talking razzmatazz.

I assumed having my own board would bring similar clarity, except when I searched for inspiration, nada.

Until last week. I suddenly found myself drowning in new projects and needing to organize my thoughts. We’re hiring staff, laying plans for a new Web channel, and brainstorming over a host of new features, all of which you will hear about in the weeks to come.

Squeak, squeak, squeak went my marker.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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