Evernote, "the world’s most ardent proselytizers of everything digital," uses old-fashioned whiteboards to innovate, reports Farhad Manjoo in The Wall Street Journal (10/31/13). In fact, "almost every surface" at Evernote’s Redwood City offices is painted "with IdeaPaint, a substance that makes walls amenable to dry-erase markers. Now most of the building is a canvas for brainstorming, product design, strategy war-gaming, and, of course, doodles." Nearly everywhere you turn, "you’ll see scribbles."
Evernote may have gone to the edge with whiteboards, but they "are to Silicon Valley what legal pads are to lawyers, what Excel is to accountants, or what long sleeves are to magicians," Farhad writes. "They’re an all-purpose tool of innovation, often the first place a product or company’s vision is dreamed up and designed, and a constant huddling point for future refinement." In part this is because there is no learning curve, and "the whiteboard is always on, always fully charged, and it doesn’t require that people download, install and launch software to begin using it."
Whiteboards are also "big enough to become the center of attention for a large crowd, making it an ideal space for a kind of visceral, physical collaboration." Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos favors them, and in 1997, Apple’s Steve Jobs outlined his vision "on a two-by-two grid on a whiteboard: A notebook and desktop for consumers and another pair for professionals." The whiteboard downsides are that they can’t be easily shared, searched or saved. However, Evernote compensates by snapping "photos of every whiteboard session," using the Evernote app – which "recognizes whiteboard text" — for backup.