Word Gets Around – Reputation and Working Out Loud

People often worry about working out loud because they believe the practice poses a risk to their reputation. In the modern networked workplace, it can be a greater risk to have no reputation or one chosen only by others.

Working Out Loud involves purposefully sharing work in progress so that others can learn and contribute. Many people used to traditional ways of working where only final artefacts are shared see this as a risk to their reputation.  They are worried that experiments, errors, revisions or even the confusion of the development of work might reflect badly on their expertise. They worry that their reputation may suffer if they share their work before it is perfect.

Reputation is an important component of the networked workplace. As our work becomes more agile and dynamic we need to make decisions on who has authority, who we can trust and who influences our decisions. Reputation plays a key role in influencing these calls.

However the best reputations are based on stories of actual work. They aren’t based on a  marketing pitch. You get a reputation not just because of the output you produce but how you produce it. A good reputation is rarely one of how someone perfectly executes 100% of the time without drama. Those stories are too unreal and too boring to share. Great reputations are people who solve problems, engage others and demonstrate their abilities working through challenges and triumphing in the end.

Surprising your stakeholders by sharing some of your challenges may be risky but it is far riskier to pretend you have none. Pretence is the way reputations are destroyed.  Building a deeper relationship by purposefully sharing the work, seeking input and creating solutions to challenges together will make your stakeholders an engine of a positive reputation.

Many people who are worried about reputation actually create for themselves the opposite risk. They share nothing of their work. That silence is not filled by people saying good things about their work. With nothing specific to attract attention or to discuss, most people won’t say anything at all. In a sceptical world, the absence of a reputation is bad news.  The silence that is created is filled by people talking about other topics or worse talking from ignorance of what is going on and why.

Word of your work gets around. To build a strong and healthy relationship, you want discussion of your work. Shape the views and conversations about your work purposefully through working out loud.

International Working Out Loud week is from 7-13 November 2016.  See wolweek.com for more details.

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