Simon Terry

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The Adaptive Nature of Working Out Loud

Leveraging our expertise leads us in straight lines to our usual solutions. Leveraging the expertise of a network creates new adaptive possibilities.

The Entropic Silo of Expertise

Expertise is incredibly important to success in business and in life. Talent people will outperform amateurs.  However, without care expertise can create a narrowing of the possibilities to solve problems and improve work.

Expertise usually comes allied to experience. Having done it before, the answers seem obvious. This ability to quickly apply past solutions can lead experts to develop a sense of uniqueness and even ego around their expertise. If it is perceived there is no value asking others or to ask others might imply a vulnerability in expertise, experts begin to experience the entropy of lack of feedback. Working in isolation and implementing familiar patterns without much reflection, the expert is vulnerable to changing needs, changing circumstances and external innovation. Worse still, an expertise that is not shared is trapped in that person’s head and not able to be learned from or leveraged by others. For an organisation, this creates increasing key person risks.

For an expert the requirements of a solution may seem far more complex than for actual users. A simple example is the temptation for a proud expert to design out any risk of failure. This risk aversion reflects their desire to be associated with a superior solution. That solution may also be more expensive, slower and over specified for the actual user.

The Adaptive Nature of Working Out Loud

To change and adapt to our systems, we need to experience vulnerability. We need a lack of clarity and a sense of disequilibrium to force us to reflect on the need for changes to make our work more effective. Working out loud can supply this disequilibrium to push us from our silos of expertise and to consider the diverse ideas and inputs of others.

The disequilibrium of  exposing our expertise to the needs and desires of our users is a highly generative one. Importantly it brings purpose and goals back into the forefront of the expert’s work. Critically too, this form of working out loud can enable experts with different approaches to the same issue to connect across disciplines to develop novel approaches to meet user needs.

Importantly to be vulnerable, we need a safe space to share. Creating a environment in which people have the shared purpose, trust and confidence to work out loud is an essential pre-requisite.  This space might be created in the small group dynamics of a working out loud circle or in a trusted community of peers or even in public. Wherever it is created their will be adaptive leaders who take on the role of maintaining the environment and safety in the group.  They will also play the role of stirring up tensions to force the group to reflect on their networks and other ways of solving challenges. Working out loud needs leaders who can create these safe spaces and also influence interactions to leverage rather than break down under tension.

If your organisation is rich in technical expertise, such as law, engineering, healthcare or any specific business discipline, there is a significant benefit in working out loud to foster adaptation in your experts. Use working out loud to connect your experts to users, other experts and stakeholders and you will see new adaptive potential.


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