“Working out loud”: Your personal content strategy

While collaboration platforms are increasingly attractive to enterprises, most people still don’t know how to use them at work.

After a brief introduction, individuals are quick to understand the concepts: the power of networks, the potential for shaping their reputation, the extraordinary commercial possibilities.

But they struggle with what they should actually do.

Here’s a good place to start.

Beware the YACCs!

Two of the most common objections I hear are “I don’t have enough time” and “I don’t know what to post.” That’s because people often think of using a collaboration platform as an extra thing to do. An additional way to communicate.

And people at work are already overloaded: email, phone, voice mail, mobile phone, mobile phone voice mail, instant messenger, group chat, desktop video, desktop video messages.

The last thing anyone wants is Yet Another Communications Channel.

So, instead of focusing on communicating in new ways, it’s important that collaboration and contribution is in line with the work people do every day.

Working out loud

Recognizing this, Bryce Williams coined the term “working out loud” and defined it this way:

 “Working out loud = Narrating your work + Observable work”  

For Bryce, narrating your work is “journaling…what you are doing in an open way.” And making your work observable is “creating/modifying/storing your work in places that others can see it, follow it, and contribute to it IN PROCESS.”

This used to be impractical with most communications tools. (You’d never send email to a large group about things you’re doing throughout the day.) But modern collaboration platforms combine rich content-handling with Twitter-like activity feeds that make it easy to skim large amounts of content quickly.

That combination opens up new possibilities.

Observable work

The vast majority of people at work are uncomfortable blogging or tweeting. They’re simply not used to it and some may never be.

But everybody works. They create documents and presentations. They schedule and attend events. They comment on other people’s work.

Collaboration platforms make all of that work visible. Every one of those actions can be communicated to your social network without any extra effort.

“John Stepper just uploaded ‘Banking & social media’ in Social Media Community”

Simply by using a collaboration platform to store your material, you make you and your work visible in real-time. And, better still, your work (projects, documents, discussions) is now searchable and discoverable. People will find you any time they’re looking for content related to what you’re doing.

Narrating your work

In 2009, Dave Winer wrote about “Narrating your work” - the practice of providing a brief, running commentary on your work as you do it.

Later, in an extremely helpful article entitled “Do’s and Don’ts for your work’s social platform”, Andrew McAfee also encouraged people to narrate their work:

“Talk both about work in progress (the projects you’re in the middle of, how they’re coming, what you’re learning, and so on), and finished goods (the projects, reports, presentations, etc. you’ve executed). This lets others discover what you know and what you’re good at. It also makes you easier to find, and so increases the chances you can be a helpful colleague to someone. Finally, it builds your personal reputation and ‘brand.’”

Confused about what to write? Simply post about what you’re working on every day. Who you’re meeting with. The research you’re doing. Articles you find relevant. Lessons you learned. Mistakes you made.

The form factor of short posts that are easy-to-skim make this kind of narration practical – for both the author and the audience.

It’s a start

It only takes a few posts before people start seeing the benefits. Being able to work out loud allows employees to make connections – finding people and content relevant to their work – like never before.

As Stowe Boyd writes:

“..bringing activities out of closed repositories and applications, and pulling them into the open increases the likelihood of learning key information earlier…working out loud leads to succeeding (or failing) more quickly…makes a company more intelligent: quicker to improve, and more resilient in the context of uncertainty.”

People already familiar with social tools understand this. For the rest, they’ll have to begin using the tools and experience it for themselves.

Working out loud is the most practical way for them to start.

About John Stepper

Driving adoption of collaboration and social media platforms at Deutsche Bank. (Opinions here are my own.)
This entry was posted in Social Business, Working out loud and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to “Working out loud”: Your personal content strategy

  1. brianinroma says:

    Reblogged this on buridansblog and commented:
    Working out loud results in serendipitous opportunities. See more on the subject here: http://buridansblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/dont-fear-the-dragons-why-the-social-web-should-be-part-of-your-work-day/

  2. Right John. Working out loud is a good start. Senior management of a large organization must leverage the power of social to communicate with the team on their vision, goals, etc. They should use this platform for driving trust and transparency in the organization. People can collaborate with leaders, leaders can collaborate with their team and so on.

  3. Adding this to my course for my students to review. We’re doing ‘organizing your digital life’ this week and this is perfect. Cheers.

  4. Some great tangible steps on ‘where to even start’ John, thanks for sharing this.

  5. Rachel Miller. Twitter: @AllthingsIC says:

    So true about YACCs! Great post John, thanks for sharing, Rachel.

  6. Pingback: Engage, out loud | Harold Jarche

  7. John, great piece as usual. As you know, I’m a proponent of “working out loud” but how do you prescribe this treatment when the majority of work a firm does is confidential client work. such as that of a consulting firm, which prohibits members of a client team from saying anything about their work to others in the firm? If you tell them to post generic updates of their work they probably won’t take it seriously (and might take them extra time to figure out how to say something without saying it), and it isn’t going to be much use for others if it’s too generic. The need to maintain client confidentiality can be a roadblock to adoption.

    • John Stepper says:

      Thanks, Rob. That’s an important point. There are many more restrictions (and sensitivities) when it comes to client data or, in banking, with price-sensitive information (aka material, non-public information).

      But it’s also a red herring of sorts. How much of a firm’s work is really about such information? In a firm like yours or mine, there are tens of thousands of people who rarely even come in contact with such information. And for most of the remaining people, it’s a minority of what they do. Yes, there are exceptions – corporate finance working on secret deals – but they’re just that. Exceptions.

      Our approach is to focus on the 95% case and get more and more people used to working out loud. We’ll use that time and the learning that takes place to help us handle the exceptions later on.

    • James Dellow says:

      Generally speaking I’m with John on this point, however I appreciate Rob’s situation working in a large international accounting firms – there can be all sort of issues with differences between local firm operating models, client conflicts and legislative differences across jurisdictions. Its not quite the same situation as other organisations.

      That said, “working out loud” doesn’t need to include 170,000 people all of the time. Enterprise social business tools address this by providing difference places to work out loud – some completely open and others more private – and I think knowledge workers can be guided to make the right decisions about what to share where.

  8. Pingback: Social Business Forum Milano: Day 2 « oracleidentitymanagement

  9. Pingback: What social business is. And isn’t. | johnstepper

  10. Pingback: “How’s work?” | johnstepper

  11. Alas, any use of the word “loud” brings with it a string of negative associations (noise, disturbance, impolite, brash, self-centric, egotistic, etc.), so perhaps “working out in the open” would be a better phrase to adopt?

  12. Pingback: How Great Leaders Reduce Managerial Blind Spots | Yammer Blog

  13. Pingback: A framework for changing habits at work | johnstepper

  14. Pingback: Engage, out loud. | Tech Chatter

  15. Pingback: Avoiding learned helplessness at work | johnstepper

  16. Pingback: Through the blissful darkness of ignorance, with concepts-lights at my side | Agile KM for me… and you?

  17. Pingback: “It’s just the internet at work.” | johnstepper

  18. Pingback: When are the best years of your life? | johnstepper

  19. Pingback: Finding and managing information in a research environment – an ILRI KommsKlinics session « Maarifa – Knowledge and Information at ILRI

  20. Pingback: Reputation patterns: Becoming an expert in your firm | johnstepper

  21. Pingback: Some nice surprises | johnstepper

  22. Pingback: The paradox of “they” | johnstepper

  23. Pingback: Harvesting insights (5) KM / Over rated or under the radar | Agile KM for me… and you?

  24. Pingback: If someone offered you free career insurance, would you take it? | johnstepper

  25. Pingback: The end is always the beginning, and the beginning but an end | social business, collaboration, ideas

  26. Pingback: Dear reader | johnstepper

  27. thebrandingguy says:

    I believe we are moving towards “working out loud”, the concept you described so well in your post. It is closely connected to being completely transparent at work.

  28. Pingback: Working out loud & the rise of the introverts | johnstepper

  29. Pingback: Working out loud: leveraging other networks | johnstepper

  30. Pingback: Everyone wants to be appreciated | Albert Marrero

  31. Pingback: The story of Jordi Muñoz, CEO | johnstepper

  32. Pingback: Travailler tout haut

  33. Pingback: The Influencer checklist | johnstepper

  34. Pingback: Working out loud: Getting started | johnstepper

  35. Pingback: Working Out Loud « Mike Taylor

  36. Pingback: The ABCs of Community & Stakeholder Engagement

  37. Pingback: What I’m up to: February – The Presentation Tier

  38. Pingback: If Yahoo! employees worked out loud… | johnstepper

  39. Pingback: Working out loud: my own story | johnstepper

  40. Pingback: Communication is Not a Four-Letter Word | Yammer Blog

  41. Pingback: Working out loud when you’re looking for a new career | johnstepper

  42. Pingback: Salesforce Chatter Notifications | JodieM.com.au

  43. Pingback: “So she posted her solution online, and then…” | johnstepper

  44. Pingback: First steps | Albert Marrero

  45. Pingback: First Steps towards A Long Journey | Albert Marrero

  46. Pingback: Adaptive Digital Publishing – Current Work & Ideas | Tim Klapdor

  47. Pingback: Things to do on your network now it’s live. | Socially Learning

  48. Pingback: Where do I start? | Pensift

  49. Pingback: Moving away from Command and Control | JodieM.com.au

  50. Pingback: You don’t have to take it any more | johnstepper

  51. Pingback: Time to short-cut getting Intel IT employees on Social Media | Lead and Live from the Heart

  52. Pingback: Working out loud – a great explanation | Making the time

  53. Pingback: Communication is Not a Four-Letter Word - The Yammer Blog | The Yammer Blog

  54. Pingback: How Great Leaders Reduce Managerial Blind Spots - The Yammer Blog | The Yammer Blog

  55. Pingback: The doctor at the fast food convention | johnstepper

  56. Pingback: Working Out Loud in Berlin | johnstepper

  57. Pingback: Unlocking potential in your organization | johnstepper

  58. Pingback: Working Out Loud: the 12-week program | johnstepper

  59. Pingback: The Co-Evolution of Big Data and Big Psyche – An Emerging Perspective | gonna.grow.wings

  60. Pingback: The 5 elements of Working Out Loud | johnstepper

  61. John Stepper says:

    A lot of happened since this post, including the phrase “Working Out Loud” being used more often. (There’s even a wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_Out_Loud )

    Here’s the definition I’m using now:

    “Working Out Loud: working in a an open, generous, connected way that enables you to build a purposeful social network, one that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

    The 5 main elements – making your work visible, building your network, leading with generosity, continually learning, and making it all purposeful – are described here:
    http://johnstepper.com/2014/01/04/the-5-elements-of-working-out-loud/

    The hard part, though, isn’t defining Working Out Loud or understanding it. It’s changing your habits so that it becomes your natural way of working. The best way I’ve found to do that is with consistent practice over time, ideally with a coach or friend. More on the 12-week program is here:
    http://johnstepper.com/2013/11/23/working-out-loud-the-12-week-program/

    The book slated for later this year is intended to pull all of these ideas together in a coherent, practicable way.

  62. Pingback: Working Out Loud - Bring the now into your work - enterprise 2.0 blog

  63. Pingback: Marshall Kirkpatrick's Blog » Making Social Business a Habit: Working Out Loud

  64. Pingback: Working in a networked world – 10 rules to guide you : socialWRKS

  65. Pingback: The Five Monkeys Experiment (with a new lesson) | johnstepper

  66. Pingback: Finding your purpose: A reflective practitioner works out loud | Mara Tolja

  67. Pingback: Working out loud | Learning and Working | Scoop.it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s