When Tools Enslave Thinking


A bad workman blames his tools

— Daphne du Maurier.

In meetings, I wish we blamed our tools more. Instead, I’ve seen that meetings so often become servants to the tools being used. You’re in a meeting and someone has spent a few minutes looking for a way to undo what was just done on screen. Or maybe the tool we’re using won’t let us paste for some reason so we all watch (and yawn) while links are copied across. Does any of this sound familiar?

Have you ever thought about why we use whiteboards? Whiteboards are thinking tools — they’re used to visualise information. What I love about them is how easy they are to use — your options for visualising, adapting and connecting ideas are only limited by your drawing abilities — and even then, lines, circles and arrows are still really easy.

When thinking about meetings and tooling we need to think about what we need to optimise for and then choose the tool — not the other way around. It’s perfectly fine to use one tool for collaboration in a meeting and another tool for the documentation of outcomes. Yes, this means that there may be a little extra work capturing outcomes — but how much lower is this cost than sacrificing quality thinking in the session in order to simplify knowledge management across the organisation?

If you need to be creative in a meeting — use a tool that enables creative thinking (probably something that is easy to use, visual and has real time collaboration). Think about your thinking and choose a tool that enables it, not just the one you’ll be using to capture outcomes and tag action owners. If you don’t, your meeting outcomes will remain stuck within the confines of your tool


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