Simon Terry

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A Key Question for Working Out Loud

“What to Share Where” guides have become very popular given the breadth of collaboration tools available in an organisation and beyond. They have even generated a parody. Helping people make sense of the opportunities to work out loud is important. However, prescriptive solutions can work against the opportunities that come from sharing work. Not all work fits the formula. Not all tools support community. The bigger opportunity is to encourage people to reflect on the communities that best support the purpose of their work.

The Right Community for Working Out Loud

Concerns about the audience for working out loud dominate the discussion of the topic. Many people get concerned that out loud means total transparency. They worry that to work out loud they must share their work with everyone.  There is no one size fits all answer for working out loud.

The right community matters more than size or the tool used to share. Any form of sharing is making work more public. We need to recognise that there are lots of different channels for conversations and that each channel may have different participants using the tool in different ways. Just because a tool has a dominant pattern of use doesn’t mean everyone we may want to engage uses it in that way.  The tool matters less than the connections it creates and the connections matter less than the sense of community. The right community is one that values your work, has an ability to learn or assist your work and allows you to build deeper relationships.

A Key Question for Working Out Loud

We can start small and expand the community around our work over time as we grow in confidence and learn the value of working out loud. The networks we use to reach our community can be big or small. They can use technology or not.

The key question that we need to ask each time we want to share work is:

“Where is the best community to share this work?”

The answer to that question won’t be the same for every piece of work we do. We might share with one other person, a small group, a team, a business unit, an organisation, a community, a network or the world depending on the work. At times the answer is not to share. Often we won’t be able to predict the best answer and may have to experiment with different networks to learn a way that works for us, our community and the work. In these scenarios, a bias to openness helps us to learn more. Reflecting on the right community, brings our human collaborators to the centre of the question of where to share.

Better effectiveness of work and better relationships come from creating an ongoing reflection about the value of sharing work with others and the right communities in which to do so. This reflection puts the human opportunity of working out loud before the tool or the work. That is far more valuable than the outcome of following any prescriptive formula.


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