Step Two: Going Back to School

If you were asked to describe the first memory that comes up from grade school, what would it be?

Mine goes back to the first day of the sixth grade. My teacher was Mrs. Psyches. She looked like a teacher. Her black, shoulder-length hair was puffy, her smile bright, and her voice had a motherly quality to it. It was her eyes, though, that set her apart. They were dark and endlessly deep.

On that first day of class, we marched in, stashed our lunches, and sat down at our desks. We looked up at Mrs. Psyches, who stood to the side of her desk and in front of a green chalkboard that practically covered the entire front wall. On it read, "Choose to be here, it's where you are."

Does your memory of grade school have a chalkboard in the picture? A blackboard, as it is often called even when green, and the chalk used to write on it, is a common thread for all of us. It's how we all learned to learn.

What successful dot-com publishers have figured out, and what traditional publishers need to learn, is that their physical offices must foster greater and more efficient conditions for teaching and learning. If you walk through the offices of a dot-com-centric company, you can physically see creative thinking all over the walls. Ever visit Microsoft? Its conference rooms are wall-to-wall whiteboards. If you walk through the hallways of a traditional publishing company, you are bound to see walls covered with framed artwork and rich, vibrant colors, but you won't find any dedicated to tracking the thoughts, ideas and plans of their employees.

An online buy may be a purchased spreadsheet of impressions, but a Web site is selected based on the picture those line items form together. Good salespeople draw great pictures using the inventory they have to work with. The great ones do a better job at teaching internal teams how to visualize what they have created to sell. Ample and encouraged access to whiteboards gives them the ability to demonstrate what a program looks like to those responsible for either approving or executing it, which fosters greater confidence in selling it.

Traditional publishers are not accustomed to "idea graffiti" inside their offices, so this idea may sound crass. Dot-com publishers, on the other hand, could not operate without the squeaky sounds of their employees' thinking being played over and over again through the overt use of whiteboards.

Well before teachers figured out they needed help visually demonstrating an idea or concept in order for their students to learn more effectively, cavemen used drawings on walls to help convey an idea or concept. Pre-Internet media salespeople had no need to draw pictures of frequency discounts to sell a schedule. But today, it's about big-picture idea selling--and without whiteboarded walls, your organization is operating in the dark ages.

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