Working Out Loud #WOL

I’ve started to ‘Work Out Loud’. The term ‘Working out loud’ (WOL) was coined by Bryce Williams and is a way of gaining value from collaboration, often through social networks.

Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work

John Stepper says it is making your work visible, sharing it with others so that through social collaboration, your work will improve. In an attempt to change the way I work, I decided to give it a go.

Rather than talking about my work with my colleagues, I decided to post about it to my internal social collaboration site. However the digital workplace can become socially isolating as we squirrel away at our own work in our own world, sometimes more closely connected to our computer than we are to our colleagues. The physical location of where we work is changing. In the workplace of the future where flexible working is the norm, we won’t have the same desks to come to each morning and working from home or at different hours to our colleague’s means collaborating and interacting online has to become the norm.

The first hurdle to WOL was I was doing it in isolation, rather than it being something my whole team was doing.

Lesson 1 – WOL needs more than one person to work.

Next was my ‘obsession’ with my email. Do I judge my productivity on the amount of emails I send and receive? My inbox was a trap and if I started each day looking at my emails my ability to share my work and talk about it ‘out loud’ was hampered. I needed to start my day with the working habits I want to drive through the rest of my day..

Lesson 2 – work is more than your inbox and ticking off that task list. It will still be there when you come back – but the great idea you want to share with your colleagues or providing input to colleague’s idea or client project might not be.

Lesson 3 was unexpected. Many people don’t want to share ideas and learnings. “Knowledge is power” is their mantra and they are reluctant to work collaboratively in case their ideas are no longer their own, or they’re afraid to be challenged or to be seen as wrong. I found this challenging, as a fundamental principle of WOL is the benefit of collaboration – not only enriching your work, but the work of your colleagues.

The mantra must change – collaboration is power, knowledge is just a benefit.

I can’t pretend WOL was quite the great success I had hoped for, it was much harder than I thought, but it did challenge me to think about my work habits especially not to be afraid of sharing a half thought through idea. In the WOL world, sharing it will only make it better.

Perseverance is important – any new habit takes time to develop. So with perseverance and a continuing focus on collaboration, I will continue to work out loud. In fact – in writing and posting this I have just made the first big step.


6 thoughts on “Working Out Loud #WOL

  1. Hello, Josh. I liked your viewing WOL as a habit. Even though we know there are better ways of working, the current ways are so ingrained that it’s difficult to change them. You asked via LinkedIn for a comment here and a pointer to resources, so here goes.

    The original definition of working out loud was narrowly focused on making work visible. That was good but raises the questions of What work? Why? For whose benefit?

    I tried to answer those questions – and broaden the definition – with this post and with a book available in Feb/March:

    Then, to your point about it being a habit, I developed a guided mastery program and peer support groups (aka working out loud circles), so anyone could develop those habits.

    My aim is to help people access a better career and life. Working out loud is a way to do that. It’s a phrase for approaching things in a more open, generous, connected way. In some ways, it’s just “Dale Carnegie meets the Internet”. But when people make a habit of it, they’re better able to reach their goals and feel better about what they do each day.

  2. Sharia, lol you know how it goes, everything needs a ‘name’ or a gimmick but at least it says what it is.

    Anyway you and Alain bring up valid points. One-on-one is really important, and I feel with new the tools like Lync we have at our disposal which makes conferencing and video calling so easy that we don’t take the opportunity to take a walk and see someone. That type of contact I think is so much more valuable, we just need to get used to taking the opportunity of that face to face and one on one time when we have it. I think that it will be a learning curve everyone will have to go through as I like to think I know which communication and collaboration tool to use which will best with the person I’m working with so I have to be adaptable to meet the situation.

    To Alain’s point I also think this is a learning curve people will go through, as they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I’m not one of those people that shares everything, however I don’t think it’s bad to overshare when you’re finding your feet and take learnings from what works and what doesn’t, what’s useful for others and what’s not. It’s important to remember people follow people as well as communities of interest/practice. I may ‘follow’ someone or take an interest in what they say not because of what they do or have similar interests it maybe I find them entertaining, humorous, or even controversial. Nevertheless I still have something to take away or provide input to or even share what they have to say. So Alain I would say a purpose needs to be there (just like having a purpose for anything we do) but our purposes are different and as long as we are aware of that.

    Thanks for your comments.

  3. Great conversation starter Josh.
    I am a big believer in Working Out Loud. Never put a name to the concept until now.
    However, I do believe there needs to be a good balance between posting things to social hubs and fostering that one-on-one conversations with your colleagues. I am careful to always post content to social hubs that would be of value to a wider group (in terms of improving their general knowledge of an industry, status updates on regulatory activity, case studies and learnings etc.). Sometimes hub posts can also very easily turn into email inbox cloggers that people don’t read.
    But those one-on-one conversations with colleagues allows a more open discussion on your day-to-day work, projects and experiences. These types of interactions tend to be retained in your longer term memory and are often valuable when you need to track down someone with particular expertise. Despite all the great technological advances today, nothing has come close to replacing the value in face-to-face interactions.

  4. Although I am a big believer of collaboration, I realised I don’t share the millennial need to share everything I do or think. I always try to think of the purpose of this communication: is it to inform, develop thoughts, provoke a laugh, drive an action? There is a fine line between “WOL” and overshare. Have you thought to add that dimension (purpose) to collaboration?

  5. Thanks Jacinta, do you think it’s something you can do quite easily in your role or would use see too many barriers. On the flip side what would you see as the benefits?

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