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Working Out Loud – Mythbusting and Tips

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Helping people feel more comfortable working in public rather than private

What is ‘working out loud’?

Working out loud is the art of narrating, and doing, our work in public. It’s about doing what we do in a visible way to our colleagues. It’s a generous way of working and we get back what we put in.

Not working out loud means we work in private at the pace we want, but we may miss out on important information. Other people cannot become engaged in what we’re working on and may feel like we’re doing things to them rather than with them. Working in isolation, giving others no visibility could also lead to duplicated effort because people don’t know what’s being worked on.

What are the benefits of working out loud?

Working out loud helps us make better decisions

Other people may have knowledge, experience and perspectives that could improve the quality of our decisions. We don’t know what we don’t know. Working out loud means people that we may not even know exist can see what we’re working on and offer input to help us make better decisions based on information from people closer to the action. If an organisation’s Product Development team works in an open way, specifications can be enriched by the insight gained from people in the Customer Support team who interact directly with customers.

Working out loud helps increase engagement

We can’t make people engaged. Engagement is an outcome. People become engaged naturally when they have the opportunity to get involved and take ownership. Working out loud makes it easier for people to get involved.

Working out loud helps organisations be more adaptable

If all decisions have to go through the ‘top’ of an organisation (Senior Leadership or Managers), it can take time to receive responses and begin acting on the new information. Organisations constantly need to respond to changes – markets, competitors, customer needs and internal. Working out loud means everyone, throughout the organisation, can immediately access the information and expertise they need to inform the best decision. When more people have more insight into the decisions that are being made, the organisation can be more aligned to strategic objectives.

Busting some myths

While helping organisations on the journey from working in private to working out loud, here are some of the myths we’ve encountered.

Myth: Too many people will get involved and it will slow me down

If we work out loud, then yes, it’s more likely that people will get involved if they are motivated. That’s the point, these contributors care about the organisation and want to help create the best work. Set expectations up front about the timeline of the project and who owns what decisions. This way, you still welcome feedback and you are also clear about roles and responsibilities.

Myth: My work isn’t relevant to others

Many people aren’t open to sharing their work publicly because they don’t think it’s relevant to others. The reality is we aren’t actually in the best position to determine if our work is relevant to other people. The other people are better suited to evaluate this. You never know who on another side of the organisation could benefit from the work you are doing, so before you post something in private, think about whether the benefits of it being in private outweigh the benefits of it being in public.

Myth: I don’t want to create more noise for other people

Previously in organisations, the recipient had very little control over what information was sent to them. For example, with email – the ‘sender’ chooses who to send email to, and the recipient has to click through, open and read each email.

Social networking brings a shift in the way that communication flows. Messages can be posted in public, and the power is shifting to the ‘receiver’. Individuals have more choice. They can follow the things they find interesting and scan through a stream of relevant messages rather than open each one individually.

Myth: I’ve been hired to do this job, other people should only do their own job

People have many skills beyond their job description. By working in the open, you can attract people with knowledge that you didn’t know about to help add value to what you’re working on.

Tips to help make the shift to working out loud

  • Make working out loud the default: Think about what you’re currently working on. Does it really need to be private? Ask: “would the benefits of working in public be greater than if I worked in private?”
  • Be confident: People will see your work. This might feel uncomfortable at first. The quality of your work could be improved by their input and advice.
  • Encourage an open culture: Will people be motivated to share? Changing culture can take a long time, though small incremental changes can make a big difference. Begin by helping our Leaders (those that set the tone) see the benefits of working out loud, and encourage them to role-model the behavior they want to inspire in others.

How would you help people feel more comfortable working out loud?

 

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5 comments
  1. Great article. To me this is the progression of the coworking paradigm, transitioning into the corporate world: A corporate social network, and “working out loud” which can activate simple but powerful collaborations.

  2. Fantastic article – great advice and the myth-busters are very useful; I’ve heard these excuses many times before! It can be a huge working-culture shift for a lot of people, but the benefits to collaboration and engagement are really worth it.

  3. Matt Partovi

    Thanks to Ant Clay for tweeting a response mentioning Bryce Williams’ article from 2010 that offers the formula: “Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work”

  4. Thanks for the reference and shout out. Nice post. If the concepts from my original post from 3 years ago is any evidence, continuing to be referenced on a fairly regular basis, and still relevant and valuable for people, working out loud works when you least expect it 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Wayne Reilly

    Quite relevant. An age old art that has been lost. In the current working environment, electronic colaboration with less travel is more prevalent. We need to make sure we can work out loud using technology to bring people together.

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