This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. Our fifth reflection is on Growth Mindset.
We can be better.
Our talents are not fixed. Through effort, stretch and learning we can improve our abilities. We work every day to be better at what we do, to better fulfil our purpose and our potential.
If our talents are not perfect, that is because they never can be. There are no limits on our ability that work will not release. If our work is not perfect that too is because there is always more, always another better way to attempt. The way we do our work is but one of millions of paths to our goals. If our purpose or potential is never completely fulfilled, then that is because we strive for more. We want to make a bigger difference.
The value of working out loud is to help us see that everyone’s work is not perfect as it develops. We understand the edits, the changes, the false starts and the dead ends that lead to success. We stop comparing other people’s showreels to our own cutting room floor. We realise that embarrassment, failures and setbacks are temporary but abandonment of our purpose is final.
Working out loud brings us together with others who want to grow and to learn. We come together with others who want to improve their work and achieve their purpose in better ways. We are encouraged, challenged and supported to take on the daily work of getting better. Supported by a global community pursuing better work and a better life, we work together to grow.
We can be better. Together.
International Working Out Loud Week is from 6-12 June 2016
This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. Our fourth reflection is on Generosity.
Generosity is not new. We know how to give. Human beings are highly sophisticated animals at the fine arts of altruism, collaboration and generosity. Giving generously is what our societies do best.
In our work cultures, we some times lose the generosity of spirit that underpins humanity. Our focus on performance, on efficiency and on competition, can make generosity seem counterproductive, suspect and weak. Yet elite performance and ultimate effectiveness depend on high levels of trust. We build trust when we move beyond our own agendas. We build trust when we start to give something of us to others.
Working out loud helps us to see that our gifts can be many. We can give as simply as giving our attention to another, to truly listen to their needs or their story. We can give by recognising another and celebrating their progress in their work. We can give by providing material help, information or even just a sense of direction to someone. We can give by creating a sense of shared community in a task or a challenge and allowing others to use our networks to achieve their ends. Everyone of us can give the gift of reaching down and helping someone else up over the work we have completed to where we stand now. When we share our work visibly with a generous spirit we discover others can learn from our work and others yet may reciprocate our generosity with help, support and guidance.
Generosity is the social magic that triggers the wonderful synchronicity of working out loud. Our generous gifts inspires others, some far from our networks, to respond to our visible work. We cannot know what, when or if we will get something back in return for our generosity in working out loud. Working out loud is not a transactional exchange. Working our loud is an investment in our relationships and our networks. We invest for the future and for others. Be generous in those relationships.
The purpose of our work is to benefit others. Give a gift
International Working Out Loud Week is 6-12 June 2016
This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. Our third reflection is on Visible Work.
All our work is visible to others to some extent unless we actively seek to hide it. What the visible work element of working out loud asks us to do is to consider how we can make our work more visible to those who can benefit and those who can help.
This is not about completed work. That would be visible outcomes. The element of visible work is making work more visible to others and narrating that work in ways that enable other people to learn and to help. You may not value your work and your work process but making that work more visible to the right people might help you to understand how they value your work and how they can help you make your work more valuable.
Visible does not necessarily mean public. The audience who can see your work might be small and focused. Visible does not necessarily mean insistently distracting. Visibility is the beginning of findability. You may want to simply make your work visible where it may be found later by someone like you working on a similar problem.
Visible work is a far wider trend than working out loud in the future of work. We see visible work in Visual Management Boards, Kanban, Trello, dashboards and other tools of visual management. We see visible work in agile projects, in design thinking exercises, in ideation exercises and other environments where people need to coordinate work into one vision. The post-it note is the byte of visual work in these contexts. Visible work underpins our activity based workspaces, our collaboration solutions and many more management systems and practices. Rather than simply let the process or environment make your work visible, take control of your work and shape its visibility to help yourself and others.
Think for a minute about your invisible work – the efforts you put in, the anonymous giving, the work that gets folded into other work or slides off the end of the desk or meeting table. How rare is it that there is joy or even satisfaction in the invisible work? Most of it goes to waste. All of it is neglected. Visibility of work is a step to a better life and a better career. Start sharing your work as it happens.
International Working Out Loud Week is from 6-12 June 2016
This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. Our second reflection is on Networks.
We have always had other people involved in our work. We have always had colleagues, managers, partners, suppliers, customers, regulators and the broader community with an interest in what we do and how we do it. Every day as we do our work without even calling it networking we manage a complex series of relationships to get our work done. We don’t need to go looking for networks. We already have them.
With global connection through digital networks, our ability to see and connect to the networks of people around our work is now greater than ever. With greater connection comes greater demands for transparency, accountability and engagement. With greater connection comes greater opportunities for new information and for learning. Even if we wanted to do our work on a remote island, we would struggle to escape connection to these networks and their demands.
Working Out Loud challenges us to think of the role these networks play in our work and the role that we play in our networks. Working out loud doesn’t add any complexity to the work or to the networks. That complexity is already there. Working out loud asks us some key questions: Who would benefit from greater visibility to our work? From whom can we benefit if they knew more about our work and our challenges? Working out loud does not demand that we engage the whole world all day. Working Out Loud asks that we share with those in our networks for whom our work matters in a meaningful way.
People who do not participate in networks are treated by the network like a blockage. They lose influence as the network routes around them seeking to engage in the necessary interactions. The value of Working Out Loud is it asks us to consider what role we should play in our networks and how we can better use our networks in our work. That is a critical element for anyone in the future of work.
International Working Out Loud Week is from 6-12 June 2016
This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections.
We start with Purpose. Purposefulness in working out loud helps unify all the other elements of working out loud: the mindfulness of networks, the visible sharing, the generosity and the growth mindset.
We work for a purpose. We work to have some impact on others. We work to make ourselves and our world a better place. That purpose should be at the heart of our working out loud too.
Working out loud should be directed to some end. Working out loud cannot be a random broadcast of activity. We share our work visibly and narrate our work so that others can benefit, whether through a greater understanding of our work, through opportunities to collaborate or have input or through learning about the process we take when we work. Our purpose inspires us to use whatever practices will help us have greater effect.
Purpose should shape the networks and communities with whom we share our work. Our purpose reflects a desire to use our skills, networks and capabilities to help others. With whom we work out loud should be shaped by these same people. We should work out loud to benefit from and benefit those best placed to engage with our purpose.
Generosity is inherent in purpose. Purpose leads outside the building of our work, outside our own narrow concerns and encourages us to reflect on how our work can give to the world. This generous mindset helps us assuage the common self-centred fears of sharing our work as it happens – fear of loss, fear of embarrassment and fear of unfairness.
Purpose also sustains us in our growth mindset. There are obstacles in any work. There are many obstacles in adopting a practice of working out loud. There is also no one right universal way of working out loud that will suit every person, situation and purpose. We embrace all the practices and approaches that have been created to foster purposeful sharing of work because any practice may be of benefit to someone. There are many schools of working out loud. People may be inspired by the ideas and practices of Bryce Williams, John Stepper, Jane Bozarth, Harold Jarche, Sahana Chattopadhyay, Helen Blunden, Dennis Pearce, Jonathan Anthony, Catherine Shinners, Ayelet Baron, Lesley Crook, Isabel De Clercq, Bert Vries, Simon Terry and many more. Focusing on how we can learn together, how we can help each other to achieve more and how we can move beyond the setbacks is important to taking our work and this new practice to the world.
Purpose is the reason at the heart of our work, our life and our careers. As we seek to use working out loud ‘for a better life and career’ we must be guided by purpose in our practice.
International Working Out Loud Week runs from 6-12 June 2016.
Every day we experience the little gestures of community: the train passenger who moves over to let you in, the barista who smiles and remembers you, the neighbour who waves or the helping hand from a stranger in a shopping centre .
Little gestures build community because they help us understand the role of generosity, sharing, individual recognition and relationships. Little gestures unwind the corporate, the general, the machine, the process and the impersonal transactions of our lives. These gestures create community because they are not required and because they signal an effort to create reciprocal value.
Little gestures are a practice. These gestures require us to be mindful of our networks and ask how we can create human relationships from them. Practices like working out loud that make us more purposeful and generous in our networks reinforce this practice.
Not everyone is allowed to work out loud. Those who can must value their opportunities and seek to help others to share.
I was reading an article in the newspaper on the weekend about a new book by Tara Moss on “Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls”. The discussion in the book of barriers to women speaking up and the techniques that can assist caused me to reflect on the barriers many people face in sharing their work out loud.
Not everyone can work out loud. The real pressures that hold people back can be social, gender, hierarchy or the culture of their organisation. For many people, the expectation in their organisation is that someone with their position, role or work will keep silent, do what they are told and just deliver. Something as simple as talking out loud about your work with others is a privilege.
As a privilege, working out loud is something that needs to be used with respect. I have always stressed that working out loud is a choice. We cannot mandate it, because that choice will not suit many and may not be available to all.
As a privilege, working out loud should be used to benefit others. If you can work out loud, you have a contribution to make. Those who can speak out have an opportunity to help others to be heard. Those who can speak out can support others who may face barriers or abuse. Those who can speak out have an opportunity to role model better ways and to fight for changes that give voices to others in their organisation and their society.
If you can work out loud, use that privilege to help others.
Design your organisation for the potential of its people and their capabilities, not the limits of an expertise.
I recently noticed that Capability or Competency? Mindsets matter was the second most read post on this blog. Part of the appeal of that post is that it addresses a critical shift in mindset for those grappling with the new dynamics of the future of work. We stand facing an organisational version of the personal insight Marshall Goldsmith described succinctly as “What Got Me Here Won’t Get Me There”
The Core Competency concept introduced by Prahalad and Hamel refined a concept that had been strong in management for decades. It is undoubtedly true that organisations compete by being better, more competent, at something than their competitors. However the mindset of being more competent differs from a competency. This subtlety was often lost as core competency flowed into the mainstream of management thinking.
The focus on core competencies created a mindset that organisation gets to choose its competencies as part of a strategic planning process and should set targets for competencies to fulfil its strategy. While Prahalad and Hamel spoke of the need for organisations to look forward to assess and build their competencies, much of the focus in organisations has been historical. The biggest outcome of the discussion of core competency has been a narrowing of organisational ambition and a focusing of activity on historical strengths. “That’s not our core competency” is more common than “We can leverage core competencies”.
Influenced by themes that go back to the beginning of scientific management, we have turned core competencies into rigid processes, standards and policies. We have judged these competencies by what sustained competitive advantage in past markets. We have spent less time on the changing customer perceptions of value and the ongoing dynamics of the future marketplace driven by new competitors. The list is long of disrupted organisations who felt safe because a new entrant lacked their core competencies. In many cases the infrastructure to reinforce and sustain these core competencies became a burden in their ability to adapt and survive.
The Big Learning mindset that pervades the future of work highlights that competitive advantage in the next century is based on the ability to build the capabilities required to compete in an environment of uncertainty. Rather than specifying a fixed goal of competency, we seek to build an open capability to fulfil our strategic intent and our customers’ needs as they arise.
Adapting organisations to foster autonomy, learning and change is what enables people to build the practical capabilities necessary to learn, grow and execute. The process you inherit is less important than the customer insight you gain in working to meet your customer needs. Prahalad and Hamel reinforced that in Competing for the Future their update of the core competencies discussion. The discussion on the need for organisations to build open capabilities that can help manage and drive adaptation. These capabilities include openness to their networks and environment, collaboration, ability to learn, share and drive change. Critical too is the development of purpose as the new focus for organisational activity and the inherent rationale for groups of people to come together in work to benefit others.
Design for Capabilities
Responsive Organisations need to design for a capability-led response to a uncertain future. They need to develop core Big Learning practices like working out loud, personal knowledge management, adaptive leadership and experimentation. They need to design their organisations to allow individuals and the collective to focus on the realisation of purpose.
This organisational design will leverage networks, transparency, autonomy, experimentation and the inherent motivation of employees in ways that we have not yet seen. Developing a new competency in holocracy, agile, lean product development, design thinking, big data or any other single practice is not enough. An organisation must build the capability to continuously adapt to customer needs in a changing market.
Ultimately, it will also focus organisations more strongly on realising the potential of people, customers and other stakeholders. We need to design our organisations to build the capabilities that realise human potential. That can only help make work more human.
Last year there were over 200 posts to this blog. I have been blogging almost daily for more than eight years now, first internally for five years at NAB and then for the last three years on this blog. I write on many of the days I don’t publish, leaving some ideas for future research and development. The near daily process of working out loud on ideas has been amazingly productive and a wonderful source of new relationships and opportunities.
Last week I needed to put together two different talks on working out loud, one for the AITD Conference and another for Intranets2016. As I sat down to work through those talks I discovered I was able to draw on a reservoir of ideas that I had thought through, blogged and turned into images. Having a ready source of my thoughts helped me to see new connections and new opportunities:
Blogging can make putting together a talk easier. The ideas, thinking & images are already sorted & tested. #wol. #AITD2016
Blogging has also become a deeply ingrained habit over time. When I began trying to blog daily I used BJ Fogg’s tiny habit approach to get me started. My blog post each day was the work I did while I drank my first coffee. I would never have forecast when I began that thinking out loud would become the way I work through so many challenges. When I have an idea or a challenge to consider my first thought is to start working through how I would blog it. Now I am much more alert each day to the insights and the opportunities. I am always looking for connections and querying how what I read relates to past and future blogposts. I have learned to be much more concise in my thinking and expression. Most importantly I have learned to let more of myself out in the process. The latter has played a key role in creating and deepening relationships.
Last week I was explaining my blogging process to a friend and I found myself saying ‘It’s just like breathing’. I surprised myself with how casually I referred to the process, but it was true. Persistent practice moved me forward to a different relationship to my working out loud. Because the habits are deeply engrained the stress and anxiety of writing slips away a little more. What is left is the joy of thinking, sharing and making new connections.
Networks give people access to more people than ever before. However, they can also create new inconveniences by allowing people to free ride. Networks are fostered when people are encouraged others to making contributions to others first and to consider in their approaches the value created for others in their requests. These actions, like purposeful and generous working out loud, rebuild the goodwill that free riders consume.
The Network Externality of Free Riders
In economics, an externality is a cost imposed on other people who did not choose to incur it. Free riding is where a person consumes more than their share of a common resource. Every network depends on common resource of goodwill in continuing connection. A common barrier to the development of collaboration in networks is the network externality of thoughtlessness and free riding.
Great networks build up goodwill among the members which facilitates collaboration through trust, shared connection and a sense of reciprocal benefits. Free riders are members of those networks who don’t contribute to the general goodwill.
The Externality of Thoughtlessnesss
Thoughtless activities in networks consume goodwill because they impose costs on others in the network without any return:
Noise: It takes time and effort to filter out noise. Creating noise in networks is costly to everyone. Noise can include repetitive posts, broadcast messages, long rambling messages, diversions from purpose, spam and other forms of low value messages.
Laziness: Failing to check that the question you ask has not been answered already or that the answer is not readily available. Let me Google That For You is a great example of a solution to this common occurrence.
Confusion: Making a unclear request of the network. In many cases questions are far easier to ask than to answer well. Many people do not think through what others need to be able to answer their query. It takes time and effort to clarify what the issue is and what answers or assistance will be helpful.
Selfishness: Making request of others for effort without giving anything back. We have all been asked to help others in our networks. The better requests are respectful of the individual and the network. Most of the requests that come through Linkedin have a clear benefit to the other person but much less consideration on how I might be interested in helping. Responding to these requests takes time and effort which lowers the value of the network and the priority of responding at all.
Lack of Follow-through: Making requests that are ambit claims, have unnecessary urgency or where you are not prepared to invest in follow through on the responses others will make. A common issue is when people ask for urgent help and then disappear again without responding to even acknowledge the answers given to their query.
Unclear Benefit: Making unclear offers of benefits. If you suggest something offers ‘exposure’, ‘mutual benefit’, ‘rewards’, ‘an opportunity’ or similar it helps to quantify this in your request. Leaving it for others to discover the meaning of your obscurity imposes costs on others and on you.
There are many more examples. While it may be easy to decline all poorly framed requests, some times opportunity lurks under the thoughtlessness. The challenge is that the time and effort to respond, to clarify, to negotiate mutual benefit and to help can unduly burden network participants. Suddenly people withdraw from helping others in the network because the collective experience is burdensome.
Sidenote: Recognise Your Own Value In Networks
Under an avalanche of requests for free time, free help, free speaking engagements, free advice, offers of ‘exposure’ and general lack of consideration, it can be tempting to decide that you have to acquiesce because the whole system works this way. This is even more the case when you are told ‘everyone else’ seems to be doing things on this basis. We are still learning how to manage relationships at scales, timeliness and distances that have never been possible before in human history. Remember always you have choices. The best way to make choices is to respect the value you bring, set your own strategy and set your own rules for the value exchange. That way you take and miss the opportunities you choose, not others. Ask people you trust to help you assess the value you create, if you can’t do it yourself. Grace, humble respect for the value you create and a focus on reciprocity can make magic happen.
Replenishing Goodwill with Purpose, Contributions and Serendipity
One of the reasons that I am a advocate of John Stepper’s work in promoting the value of working out loud is that John has made explicit the value of making contributions to others. Making purposeful contributions to people in your network builds goodwill. It is a great way to start a relationship. People are more likely to assist you if they have seen you making contributions to others. Most importantly of all to make a contribution to another person you need to take the time to think of that other person and their needs.
Goodwill erodes if it is not actively restored by reciprocal benefits in a network. Creating goodwill through consistent contributions to others and serendipitous benefits helps the networks deliver net benefits to participants overcoming the costs imposed by the thoughtless and the deliberate free riders. The more people make purposeful contributions to others the more likely the balance will be a net positive one. For this reason many early online forums excluded lurkers in an effort to foster purposeful participation and reciprocity. The champions, change agents and connectors at the heart of your network will be some of the most purposeful, considerate and generous individuals that you know.
Fostering a culture of working out loud that is purposeful and generous will help any network overcome the challenges of occasional free-riding.