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Working Out Loud: What it is, How to Start

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Working Out Loud: What it is, How to Start

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The term “Working Out Loud” is becoming more popular in recent years, and it’s a great way to describe the new way that people are working. When Bryce Williams coined the term in 2010, he defined Working Out Loud with a simple formula:

Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work.

John Stepper expands on this idea, noting that Working Out Loud isn’t about mindless broadcasts. It should be purposeful – helping you get things done and to making the output better. Here are the five elements of Working Out Loud, according to Stepper:

  • Make your work visible – post it somewhere people can find it
  • Make work better – find ways to improve it
  • Lead with generosity – frame posts as contributions rather than self-promotion
  • Build a social network – develop real relationships
  • Make it all purposeful – stay focused on a goal

I think this is a great set of guidelines to begin Working Out Loud. I would add the following recommendations to someone trying to spark interest in Working Out Loud at their organization:

  • Create a space for Working Out Loud. Look for a solution that allows you to share different types of content (docs, photos, links, videos, etc.), and includes advanced search capabilities and social networking features.
  • Provide coaching and mentorship. Some people will be afraid or uncomfortable about sharing, others will share too much, or too often. It’s useful to have someone who can be a sounding board for what and when to share, and to provide feedback along the way.
  • Make it easy. Choose a solution that’s easy-to-use and includes mobile apps, browser extensions, email compatibility, single sign-on, and integrates with commonly used applications.
  • Give an incentive for participation. This may include public recognition that can be as simple as a mention in an email, or doing something a little more elaborate like giving gift cards to reward content that spurs conversation.
  • Model the behavior you want to see. For employees to feel more comfortable sharing their work, they need to see it happening at the highest levels. That means that the CEO needs to be fully bought in and participating in Working Out Loud – showing their own work and asking for feedback.

Stepper also provides some recommendations for individuals who want to begin Working Out Loud, but don’t know how:

  • Find relevant people and content. There are different ways to do this by using search engines, hashtags, keywords, and lists
  • Put your work where others can see it. This can be an internal platform or an external social network like Twitter or LinkedIn
  • Make it part of your routine. This could mean scheduling time on your calendar to build these skills
  • Give back by liking, commenting, sharing interesting content, and connecting people

Often, it’s the public recognition that first hooks people on Working Out Loud. Soon, they begin to see the positive impact others feedback has on their work. They find they have a voice in their organization, and their expertise is sought by others.

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