The little gesture #wol #vmm

Your gifts don’t need to be big. They just need to be gifts. 

I saw a neighbour driving in the street this morning. Being Australian males, we both raised a hand of acknowledgement. Two little waves made a gesture of greeting and respect. In regional Australia, the gesture is refined down until only a finger is raised from the steering wheel, but it is usually raised to greet each vehicle. 

Little gestures matter precisely because they are small and easy to ignore. Taking the time to recognise others specifically, is part of building community. Anyone can drift anonymously through a large city or organisation. Recognition reminds you that you have peers. 

The genius of John Stepper’s Working Out Loud is his focus on making small contributions to one’s network. All networks are built on these little moments – gifts of recognition, support or respect. Working out loud refines the giving in your networks and build a generous atmosphere of community. 

When I work with clients on enterprise social collaboration, my focus is to bring the conversation down from big set piece projects to these little gestures of community. The first three verbs of the Value Maturity Model, Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate, are foundations created by these small gifts of time, attention or value. Multiply small gifts and you multiply the power of collaboration. Most importantly of all, like a hand wave between neighbours, these gifts can be given everyday. 

Build your community with little gifts. 

May you enjoy the season of giving. Merry Christmas and a happy new year all. I look forward to further conversations with you in 2016 about the role of learning, leadership & collaboration in the future of work.

The audience for working out loud

The audience for working out loud is another worker trying to learn just like you. The audience is not the entire world.

Adopting a minimum in viable post is one way that people can overcome the barriers to working out loud. Another is to focus on the audience for your working out loud.

Many people are reluctant to work out loud because they assume their audience is the entire world. They are concerned their work in progress won’t we be appreciated by everyone.

The audience for working out loud is another struggling worker just like you. By sharing your work process, your lessons and challenges, you can significantly help an earlier version of yourself. You can also benefit from the advice of the version of you that’s a little ahead in expertise. If a post adds value to your understanding of your work, there’s a good chance it suits this audience.

There are a number of reasons why focusing on a specific audience for working out loud makes sense:
– all writing is better when the audience is clearer. What you’d write to look good for the whole world won’t be as powerful or helpful a learning opportunity for someone struggling with work challenges like you.
– clarity of the audience will help you determine where to share your work. Share where your audience is. Out loud doesn’t have to be the whole world.
– Even when you share on public social media, you are unlikely to reach a global audience. You are likely to reach people who share your interests. The clearer you are on that audience the better you will be able to attract them. Write for an audience. Write for your network. *
– Clarity of who you are writing for will help your generosity and the clarity of the contributions you want to make in your working out loud. At a minimum, Knowing what mattered to you in your work will help you know what to share to help others

Focus on the audience for your working out loud. It will help you to share and learn effectively.

*Always remember the basic advice of respect, relevance and safety in sharing on social media. These can easily be met with a genuine focus on sharing your learning.

7 Tips to Working Out Loud in Your Organisation #wol

Here are a seven simple tips to help those who want to encourage the use of working out loud in an organisation

1 Start with why

Working out loud is a change in work practices for your team. People will find it embarrassing, scary and strange. If you want change, you will need to help people to see the rationale. Explain the benefits you hope to see. Connect working out loud to your strategy. Measure and share the successes.

2 Start where your community is

If your organisation talks about work in the tearoom, don’t try to make them work out loud in a brand new technology. You will spend all your energies on the change of technology, before you get to the practices that create value. Put up a poster in the tearoom. Go where your communities currently engage and work there. If you have an enterprise social network all the better, engage its champions and heavy users.

3 Find volunteers

You promised engagement in the social network by December. If you make everyone work out loud, you will get there. Don’t. Forcing people to share defeats the generosity, the learning and the community from working out loud. It increases the chance they will try once and abandon the practice as alien. If I know you are working out loud only to meet an order, I don’t trust you more.  John Stepper starts with career talks to find volunteers for working out loud circles. Start with your volunteers and find champions. Remember you are the first volunteer and should role model the way.

4 Simple Practices

Three simple habits. Working Out Loud Circles. Huddles. Posters with questions. Post-it notes on office doors. Town Halls. Sharing photos of work. Don’t overthink it or over-specify it. Authorised use cases can get in the way of serendipity. There are lots of simple options to help people start and see the benefit.

5 Connect networks

Working out loud circles work because people enjoy the peer support as they learn new practices. How can networks in your organisation reinforce the efforts of your few initial practitioners? Make them role models in your networks to find more volunteers. Go outside the organisation and bring in people to help. The working out loud community are a generous bunch.

6 Have Fun

What’s your version of Working out loud under the stairs.  Take the stress out of the new and different by making it fun.

7 Take time

You won’t get 100% of your people doing anything any time soon. You may never. Take the time it needs for people to learn by doing and to convince each other with their success. Networks will spread success over time.

How do we make #wolweek more valuable? – Day 1

Our third International Working Out Loud week from 15-21 June 2015 is raising some familiar questions. This post is to share the current work to address these questions and invite some help in making sure that we are helping everyone get the most value out of #wolweek and the practice of working out loud. I would love your input because I think there is more we can do.

Here are the five commonest questions and the current attempts at answers:

  • How do I work out loud or get involved with #wolweek?  
    • To understand working out loud read John Stepper’s Five Elements of Working Out Loud.  Then buy his new book.  
    • If you want to understand the history, there is a family tree of #wol which is built from Dennis Pearce’s PHD dissertation that supplies all the details. Because the working out loud movement is focused on sharing and aren’t big on doctrinal disputes, nobody is claiming ownership and we embrace all related movements, especially #showyourwork. 
    • You may already be sharing your work which is great. Just make sure it is work in progress and your intent is a generous community oriented one – helping others to learn and to help you. Self-promotion might be valuable but it is not working out loud (& is much more likely to be treated as unhelpful noise)
    • To get involved, share some work in progress any way you want with others for them to learn or to help.
    • You don’t need to use technology, a hashtag or even be that public. Share with at least one other person and you are involved.
  • Why is there a week? Shouldn’t people do this every day?
    • The week is to promote the sense of community that comes from working out loud.  
    • People can experience that community in a week and can learn more about working out loud.  Hopefully people try it ongoing. 
    • The week is only a beginning and not a limit to the practice. We would love people to practice every day (we have suggestions on how to start daily practice too!)
  • Who is behind #wolweek? And who is making money from this?  
    • International Working Out Loud Week is not officially aligned with any organisation and is the barest network collaboration itself. 
    • International Working Out Loud Week is a collaboration of Austen Hunter, Jonathan Anthony and I. We loosely coordinate our activities by working out loud. We started with a conversation in a public forum and we still haven’t had a meeting or used email. We are each authorised to act to advance the organisation. We chat occasionally. That’s all the organisation we need.  
    • So far the only money involved over 3 International Working Out Loud weeks is the sub $80 budget spent on supporting the wolweek site. Nobody gets a salary as we are all volunteers just like our passionate community. There is no income because no money changes hands. No profits were harmed in the making of #wolweek.
    • If other people can benefit from wolweek because they have a product or services to sell, that’s fantastic because it all reinforces working out loud.
  • What is a #wolcircle? Why do we need 1000?

To make #wolweek valuable in its goals in promoting working out loud, we need to address these and other issues well.  We also need to ensure that we are giving people confidence to act on their new practice and advocate for the movement. The best International Working Out Loud week is one where the movement develops ways to engage others and create ever greater value from learning & collaboration.

What else can we do or say? How can we create greater value from this and any future #wolweek? Work out loud with us in the comments or on a social media network.

On the Shoulders of Giants – #wolweek

We do our best work together. 

 ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’ – Isaac Newton

On The Shoulders

My best work builds on the ideas of others. I am supported in my work by networks of people who give generously of their ideas their time and their networks.

Working out loud helps me to better leverage these networks and leverage their boost up to see just a little further. Sharing work in progress makes it open to the contributions of my network of giants. 

#wolweek is a chance to share that experience with others. This wolweek we begin a campaign to create 1000 working out loud circles so that 5000 people can benefit from the lift of others in their network in achieving a goal that matters. 

Of Giants

If you depend on giants for your view, you need to remember to feed them. If you only take from the giants, they will walk away leaving you alone.

When working out loud is practiced with generosity, you give back to others. The network gets its return and the giants will stay around to hold you up.

#wolweek is for me a chance to give back to all those who have supported me. Some of these are the inspirations and thought leaders that I try to recognise in the social streams. Others are the leaders and contributors who advocate and make change happen.

Hopefully as #wolweek grows we can give back to a wider global community too. 

Spreading the practice of working out loud will foster a mindset of making contributions to networks. That’s why spreading #wolcircles is important. A #wolcircle participant can’t be selfish in working out loud. They must give and take. 

In a globally connected world we all stand on the shoulders of giants if we work out loud with generosity.

17-24 November 2014 is International Working Out Loud Week

Work out loud. 

Let others in to the mysteries of your work. Let others find out what you know and how you do it. Let others learn from your expertise, your tips and your tricks. Let others know so that they can guide, connect, help and accelerate you.

Share your work on a post it note on your office door. Write on a whiteboard. Post a note to the enterprise social network. Give a talk. Share with the world in communities, and other social tools. However you can, share your work visibly for others to find.

Show interest in the now more visible work of others. Help others to achieve their goals. Share your networks to build theirs. Recognise their achievements and their efforts. Share your insights, advice and expertise.

Work is not a secret mystery of private talents with sudden successful outcome. Work is a long iterative and collaborative process of learning together. Working out loud facilitates better outcomes and a more effective and human process.

Work out loud. There’s an adventure ahead.


Episode 6: Executive Engagement in Enterprise Social Networks / Work out Loud Week with Simon Terry | The Yaminade

Paul Woods and I discuss strategic value, leadership, authority, executive engagement and working out loud on the Yaminade podcast.

Episode 6: Executive Engagement in Enterprise Social Networks / Work out Loud Week with Simon Terry | The Yaminade

What are the Ethics of Work?

A great discussion on the ethics of working out loud broke out yesterday across my social streams prompted by a thoughtful blog post by Kandy Woodfield. The post and the many discussions it prompted have been insightful and a few key points have arisen for clarification in my strong advocacy of the benefits of working out loud:

  • While I have not been explicit on this, like other forms of social collaboration, working out loud is in my view a voluntary practice. It is not meaningful to describe an activity that involves forcing someone to work out loud as a learning experience or as social collaboration.  
  • Kandy’s call for support for learners through the vulnerability of the learning experience is critical. The objective is to better realise people’s potential and that takes a supportive culture, the right systems and the focus of leadership.

This last point for me was the clue to a broader issue that began to be discussed with many colleagues: 

What are the ethics of work?

If we are right to subject working out loud to an ethical investigation, then perhaps we should extend the same challenge to work. Many of the risks and vulnerabilities that occur in learning experiences are magnified in daily work, but occur with little consideration of the impact on the individual. Worse still work experiences are often designed by managers to exaggerate these vulnerabilities in the name of motivation or performance.

Culture creates an Environment of Support or of Risk

As young children we learn and we make mistakes freely and publicly. It is our approach to the world. As children, we mostly laugh as we learn. At times this process may be frustrating for child and parent.  Either might experience the odd temper tantrum but this learning process is expected of children. As a result, they are supported and encouraged in learning by a family and social environment. Their pace of learning is phenomenal becuse they are free to make sense, to experiment, to observe, to ask questions, to get into new environments and to try.

By the time we reach the workplace, things are not always as supportive. Mistakes are frowned on. Questions can be discouraged. Experimentation is dangerous. People have a status, a job and a place. Failure to learn adequately fast and accurately is treated a performance issue. Public sharing of shortcomings is common with leader boards, rankings, status and accreditation levels, gamification, etc. None of this has anything to do with working out loud or even learning. These practices are widely adopted as best practices from our traditional industrial management model. It is how we work.

Many of the dangers that Kandy raises for working out loud arise not because of the work is out loud, but because it is work. Traditional workplaces using industrial management thinking are often unsupportive of learning and the learner. 

To extend the argument of the blogpost, the way we work presents ethical issues. The danger comes not because of the visibility of working out loud. Mistakes will always happen. People will always be vulnerable if they are doing. The danger comes from the lack of a supportive work environment that encourages learning.

When the majority of learning is unstructured and on the job, this is a much more dangerous situation.  Everyday on the job individuals are trying to improve their performance by learning to work better.  The organisation must be hoping to see the growing benefits of an employee’s work. If we don’t support learning, all of this is at risk.  

Professional learning managers are ensuring that the 10% and the 20% of learning is managed ethically. Who is responsible for the 70% on-the-job learning? 

Leadership is the Technology of Human Potential

We need to ensure our approaches to learning and the development of the potential of people are effective and ethical wherever they occur.  Leaders at all levels in organisations need to work to create an environment that supports learning and supports learners.

We don’t need more of empty platitudes of declaring a learning organisation. The leadership hard work is considering how all the systems in the organisation support or encourage learners, learning, the sharing of knowledge and the development of personal & community potential. That is a great and highly rewarding ethical challenge for leaders in organisations everywhere.

We can start simply:

  • we can support people to learn and discuss the value of learning
  • we can coach people through the challenges of learning
  • we can encourage people to experiment with new and better ways of working
  • we create a voluntary community that shares the vulnerability of the learning experience and supports the learner with peers
  • we can support all of this with fun

A key to the rapidly changing environment of our networked economy is that organisations need to get better at learning and leveraging the potential of our people.  If we take Kandy’s query to heart in respect of on-the-job learning & the very nature of our work, organisations will be better at managing this challenge.

Our organisations will be more responsive.