• 10.17.08

On the Road with Fast Company: It’s Raining Creativity in Seattle

What’s on your employees’ minds today? Get on the elevator and read the office graffiti.

I’ve seen plenty of whiteboard-crazed companies over the years.  Tech conference rooms made entirely of whiteboards. Designers’ offices with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards (to encourage ideas from every height, I suppose). At the Googleplex, I marveled at a huge idea wall out in the open, near the lobby, where Googlers riff.


While reporting in Seattle last week, I encountered my first whiteboard elevator. Three walls and plenty of markers. I doubt the company expects anyone to dash off an algorithm between floors, but this being a terrifically caffeinated city, you never know.

Instead, the result is office graffiti, an anonymous company-wide conversation. One person writes, “I’m Joe the plumber, and I’m an elite liberal.” Someone else responds, “I am Joe’s plumber.”

Sure, it can become a goofy forum, but it also serves as a creative outlet for employees and provides an interesting view into what people are thinking about in the organization. Got a burning question you want to ask colleagues anonymously as opposed to a company-wide email? A suggestion? A complaint? This is the place.

The subtle message of the whiteboard elevator is this: Express yourselves more, share an idea or two, have a little fun at the office. And in the process, maybe eliminate those awkward elevator silences. Scribbles, after all, get people talking.

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug.