Working Out Loud can generate a lot of confusion for people who are new to the term. Being clear on whether your goals are best advanced by a Chat, a Conversation, or a Collaboration will help the effectiveness of your working out loud.
The Many Interactions of Working Out Loud
Working Out Loud involves sharing work purposefully with communities that can help your work or can learn from it. The concept is deliberately a broad one. The concept covers a lot of different kinds of interactions.
There is no one right way to work out loud. John Stepper has written a fabulous book on one approach to working out loud to achieve personal and career goals. Jane Bozarth has an equally great book full of examples of people showing their work in many and varied ways and for many reasons. The WOLWeek website has a range of interviews with Working Out Loud practitioners and many practices are described. There are more approaches.
Working Out Loud is inherently adaptive. There is no one perfect way because nobody else has exactly your situation, your needs, and your network. Learning how to navigate networks through generosity, transparency, and collaboration is a big part of the challenge and the source of the benefits of working out loud.
Chats, Conversations, and Collaborations as Working Out Loud
One way to reduce the confusion around working out loud and to improve the effectiveness of your practice is to be clear on what it is that you are looking for when you work out loud. Are you looking for a Chat (shared information), a Conversation (shared understanding), or a Collaboration (shared work)? Each of these kinds of interactions involves a different level of engagement and add a different amount of value to your work. Each of these will require you to have a different relationship with and deliver different value to the other people involved in the interactions.
Understanding which interaction will best support your goals will help you choose the community and the approach. Many people get disappointed when they work out loud on twitter and they don’t get an immediate response that advances their work. Others get frustrated that people working out loud use twitter and appear to be engaging in self-promotion. In both cases, we are seeing a misalignment between the individual and the expectations of their networks.
More Effective Interactions
Reflecting on the desired interactions and the best communities to support them can help you improve your working out loud. After alll omproving the effectiveness of your Working Out Loud is an ongoing adaptive exercise:
Look for Shared Goals: If someone doesn’t share your goals then even a Chat is a distraction. Both Conversations and Collaborations require strong goal alignment. Look for individuals and communities who share your goals.
Invest in Relationships First: People are more likely to give if they see you as equally generous. People are more likely to care if they think you care. People are more likely to notice if you have noticed them. Use Chats, Conversations, and Collaborations to build relationships in your networks. Remember that in transparent networks people see not just your interactions with them but with others as well. You will have a reputation that is the sum of your interactions.
Choose Networks that Suit the Interaction You Want: Communities each have a dominant mode of interaction. Is it chatty? Do people help each other or engage in long debates? Pick communities that are suited to the interaction that will best suit your work. If you are looking for a richer interaction, such as a collaboration to solve a difficult work challenge, then choose networks where the relationships will support that interaction or where people share common approaches to interaction. No community is 100% one mode but aligning to the dominant approach first will help you be most effective and allow you to branch out later.
Be Clear on the Purpose of Your Working Out Loud: Ask for the help you need. Be clear on the kind of responses that will advance your work. Help others to best help you and also reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding or embarrassment.
Start Small and Experiment: The adaptive nature of Working Out Loud means that it will take some experimentation for you to develop your own approach, develop relationships and to find the networks and interactions that best foster your work. Start small and experiment to learn how best to leverage working out loud in your work.