Working Out Loud: The Use Cases

I’ve decided to dig back into my roots of IT Requirements Management practices to contribute to the public conversation and understanding of the concept of Working Out Loud. For more on my personal history contributing to this idea, read here: Working Out Loud: What Happened to Then? We’re at Now, Now!

The below is a flow of an idea of something I’d like to get rolling on, with some help. Certainly not a finished product. And the target benefactor is an individual worker…or someone coaching individual workers about adopting “working out loud” work behaviors into their daily practices.

The Idea:

Capture the “behaviors” of someone that is effective at Working Out Loud into a modular use case format, organized around typical work behaviors and how each of those can be shifted to the “new way” of working instead of how most people in today’s work environment might go about that activity. And organize those use cases / behaviors / activities using John Stepper’s Five Elements of Working Out Loud.

  • Organize it and build it in a process similar to how I used to capture and organize IT system requirements packages.
  • Work Out Loud while defining Working Out Loud :) So what does that really mean? A few things that will be critical to this working:
      1. It’s an ongoing work in progress, not a finished product. But I’m publishing it in progress, not waiting until it’s done.
      2. It’s public. You know I actually started this as in internal blog post for my company only? Bad Bryce, Bad! (Sorry. We have a new puppy in the house…habit.)
      3. Many Will Contribute. That way, it will get better as it goes and hopefully people much smarter than me will contribute to it! As a result, this post will be a living and crowdsourced table of contents that gets updated to reference new use cases / behaviors / activities are developed and shared by myself or others. As a result it must be…
      4. Modular. This is the parent post that will define the patterns and then link to the real meat of the topic. Whether those are blog posts I write for a given use case, or one that someone else decides to contribute within their own respective blog (or elsewhere).
      5. Open to Suggestions. These rules. The structure of the use cases. The use cases listed below. They are all open to improvement and change. Let me have it. Let’s make it better together.
      6. This Should be a Wiki. I know. I know. But I didn’t have a good one set up in the public domain to start from. And I didn’t want to lose the concept before my son’s basketball game today :) I can see this evolving and moving to something more like a wiki format that takes me out of the role of “curator”. Once I get more time I’ll shift it to some place where we can all work on it in that form or fashion.

Writing a Use Case:

Each detailed use case should contain the following:

  • Work Activity Description
  • The typical / default behavior of today’s worker
  • The “Working Out Loud” behavior of tomorrow’s worker
  • Benefits of shifting the behavior
  • Risk Considerations / Mitigation
  • Real Life Stories / Examples of this “new” behavior in action. What was the outcome?

Use this definition created by John Stepper and captured on the Working Out Loud wikipedia page as a guide to brainstorming the application of the behavior to daily work activities:

“Working Out Loud is working in an open, generous, connected way so you can build a purposeful network, become more effective, and access more opportunities.”

The Use Cases:

Each use case is meant to represent a typical daily work activity.

If you have some that you think I’ve missed that you’d like added, please comment or contact me directly and I can get them added. This is a work in progress and merely a suggested starting point, including the topic groupings. As we identify and write new use cases, we can regroup and come back here and link to each individual one. Or eventually move this structure into a more wiki like structure in the not too distant future:

  1. Making Your Work Visible (Observable Work / In The Flow)
    1. Seeking an answer to a question / problem
    2. Answering a question directed to you about your area of expertise
    3. Answering a question directed to you unrelated to your area of expertise
    4. Creating a presentation for a team / committee / department / town hall
    5. Collecting team input prior to starting a work deliverable
    6. Creating content for a work deliverable (WIP)
    7. Collecting feedback on an in-progress work deliverable
    8. Creating content for a work deliverable (Finished Product)
  2. Making Your Work Visible (Narrating Your Work / Above The Flow)
    1. Writing your objectives
    2. Writing a project status update to management / customers
    3. Taking meeting notes
    4. Capturing brainstormed ideas about a project / process / opportunity
    5. Sharing progress / status on an assigned task
  3. Making Work Better / Creating Shared Value by Default / Leading With Generosity
    1. Achieving awareness of work outside your direct responsibilities
    2. Coaching people outside of your team / department
    3. Discovering external resources about your role / area of expertise
    4. Leading / Participating in corporate responsibility projects
    5. Contributing to the Corporate Conversation (Engagement, Activities, Facilities, Corporate Policies, etc.)
  4. Building a Social Network / Making It All Purposeful
    1. Forming and collecting a community of experts on a topic
    2. Connecting with fellow employees on personal interests

*Initial groupings could change or break apart. This is just a first shot at it. And we may find some use cases fit within multiple top-level categories.

I’ve spent as much time as I can spare on this this morning…but as I promised…this is a work in progress. And I was hoping to have completed at least one real use case example. But that will have to come in another day or two.

More to come! Comments for improvement welcome. And a format / structure more suitable to content crowdsourcing as well.

Working Out Loud: What Happened to Then? We’re at Now, Now!

What Happened to Then? There’s a story about how I ended up in my enterprise role of change agent for Enterprise 2.0 / Social Business / Social Collaboration…whatever you want to call it.

For the first 10 years of my career at Lilly, I worked on various IT projects within the Regulatory department. And the role I typically performed best was known as “Business Integrator” or “Business Consultant.” And the biggest responsibility of that role for each and every project was to collect, synthesize and document the requirements of the ultimate business customers. We wrote these for four primary purposes:

        1. To reflect back to the business representatives that you understood what they were telling you…and had captured it completely and accurately.
        2. Requirements were the “contract” for defining how the ultimate capabilities would perform once delivered.
        3. They were intended to be THE source for the IT implementation team to scope, design, develop and test the deliverables against business expectations. Or locate and evaluate a third-party software vendor solution to get as close to the requirements as possible.
        4. And they were continually updated as a work in progress representation of the software development process as experimentation and iteration influenced changes to those requirements.

Over the years of doing this over and over, I developed my own art to being a “requirements manager,” particularly for fairly large IT systems, and eventually for projects that were evaluating and implementing third-party software packages. My “go to” method of organizing requirements into manageable chunks was using use cases.

To make a short story long, my methods began to draw some attention across other departments within the IT organization. People from other programs were wanting to my ideas and mentoring to replicate what we had done for their large scale IT programs. They wanted their people to learn what I was doing and how I was doing it. I was swamped.

We Just Passed Then! This was taking place in about 2007 / 2008, coinciding nicely with the time that our IT organization had just implemented a new “large scale enterprise collaboration suite.” As I explored what the new collaboration suite could do, I saw something that could help me better scale my knowledge sharing. Profiles, blogs and wiki libraries…oh my! It just clicked…

So I started blogging as I worked on projects. My thought processes, my tips and tricks, sources that I used for inspiration. I started using wiki pages to capture and get feedback on requirements instead of monolithic Word files. And occasionally instead of replying to an email request for someone, I would write a blog post and reply to that person with a link to my new blog post. And I set the security on all of that to be wide open across the entire company so others could see it and learn from it. I helped organize a “community” of business consultants that met once a month, brought in teams to share their stories and regularly presented to the members myself. But I also taught them how to follow along with and interact with my blog to keep the learning going between the meetings.

Then more and more requests for my time started coming in. New opportunities to consult for and lead larger IT-wide initiatives. Getting to present in front of the entire IT org at town halls or in senior leader committee meetings about updating our long standing software development lifecycle standards and implementing new requirements management training programs. Phone calls and e-mails and blog comments from people I’d never met asking me for help or thanking me for what I had shared. People asking me how to set up their blogs and wikis to look and operate like what I had done with mine.

I realized that there was a new way to work…and my mission was no longer to help my IT peers with requirements management. It was to be a Change Agent that would help all of my Lilly peers learn how to Work Out Loud on any topic of expertise. It had amplified my own reach and productivity, why couldn’t it do that for everyone?

When Will Then Be Now? By the middle of 2009, I had accepted a new role to take availability and adoption of our enterprise social capabilities to another level and begin teaching people all over the company the behaviors of “social collaboration”, aka Working Out Loud. And it’s about that time the practice starting becoming clearer to me and led to blog posts such as this one: When Will We Work Out Loud? Soon! 

Soon! I’m writing this story because this morning I had an idea. I’m going back to my requirements management roots (use cases) to help further the understanding and practice of Work Out Loud behaviors, in concert with and to complement the amazing work that John Stepper has shared of late: The 5 Elements of Working Out Loud.

I’m going to dig deep into my old methods of requirements use case modularization and topic hierarchy to capture the key behaviors of someone that works out loud effectively, including what one would need to shift from traditional behaviors to these new behaviors. And I’m going to build it in the true nature of Working Out Loud.

We’re At Now, Now! Click here to see my next blog post putting that idea into action…and to contribute and participate if you wish!

Working Out Loud from TEDx Indianapolis – Mix It Up!

The theme for TEDx Indianapolis this year, which I was fortunate enough to attend on October 22nd, was “Mix It Up!”, meaning learn new things from places you don’t usually look, meet new people with different perspectives, challenge your norms, etc.

TEDx Indianapolis

Instead of writing a long drawn out summary of the day, I thought I’d capture some of my favorite takeaways and tidbits from the various speakers. You can see a list of all the speakers and topics at the link to TEDx Indianapolis that I provide above, but I’ll recap a few of them that caught my attention below.

Time for Three / Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

My Summary: First of all, this strings group named Time for Three performed multiple times throughout the day, and they were amazing. They did one “mash up” with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that was incredible to hear in person, with a ton of energy and obvious instrumental skill. Check them out at time-for-three. I captured a snippet of the performance here.

Personal Action: Add them to my Spotify playlist!

Diversity Is Upside Down

My Summary: Andres Tapia talked about how the world is changing in terms of population and perception, particularly as what has typically been labeled as the “minority” is becoming more and more the actual “majority”. He presented data that proved that diverse teams, if managed well, will outperform homogeneous teams in work scenarios. However, if not managed well, diverse teams have a tendency to actually perform worse. Managing the teams is the key. I tweeted his best statement:

Question to ponder: Do you have a diverse team, but one where proper inclusion is lacking and could be improved? Think beyond traditional diversity boundaries, but also think about things such as work style, personality traits, etc. Are the methods you are using to work and collect input from that team inclusive of their strengths and ability to contribute?

Art as Practice for Being a Change Agent

My Summary: The content from Rise Wilson wasn’t much of a surprise given the title, how using various forms of art can help you open up your own creative side and inspire others around more so than with typical boring whitepapers and slide decks. But the one point she made that resonated with me was about the balancing act of being an effective change agent for any cause:

  1. Courage: Identify Gaps via critical thinking
  2. Break Rules: Quickly move from the critical mindset to a creative one in order to begin problem solving. “Knowledge is limited. Imagination is limitless.”
  3. Review & Imagine: Provide an inspiring visual to communicate your vision for significantly improving the situation. “Push boundaries of imagination to drive real change.”
  4. “Know and fear what’s at stake, and do it anyway.”

Personal Action: Use more creative representations of ideas, vision and personal reflection to inspire others and move more quickly from the point of critically identifying a gap to providing an effective improvement on the situation. It isn’t the solution itself that stalls progress, it’s usually about getting people to believe in your vision as to why it will be better than what they are already doing that is the hardest part of getting started. Practice the art (whatever the form) to improve at the art.

Spinnovation: Investigating our domestic revolutions

My Summary: This was a humorous set of interesting observations by Michael Flaherty about how our households have evolved than it was about inspiring a future mindset. But it was certainly entertaining. The basic concept was about how the “spinning circle” has played such a critical role in making our domestic lives easier. Appliances mainly. The placement of appliances in the home, particularly in the kitchen. Think about it.

Interesting note: I couldn’t help but think about how the name of our internal enterprise social network, “The Loop,” came to be as he was giving this quick talk. Our goals were to innovate how we as a company collaborate and share, by expanding each of our “inner circles” larger than ever before feasible. Also personally expanding our potential “sphere of influence” in our areas of expertise. Are we practicing “enterprise spinnovation”?   :)

Massive-scale Online Collaboration

This was a video they showed during lunch that was fascinating about how the CAPTCHA security system led to massive digitization of books. And now how similar “crowdsourced” efforts are being used to translate the web! Basically, take something that people are doing on a massive scale anyway, and turn it into an innovative, helpful solution IN THE PROCESS of doing that thing, instead of as another stand alone initiative.

Watch here:

Education and Ideas by Removing Structure

My Summary: The most memorable part about Christian Long‘s talk was when he took 8 high school kids on an RV for 30 days on a trip…with no maps…no directions…no plans. Just a mission to show respect for one another, avoid interstates and to capture the experience as they went and to daydream daily. They literally flipped coins at intersections to determine which way to go. They found and explored parts of this huge country where few people rarely actually go anymore. The kids took pictures, captured journals, wrote blog posts, etc. Many told him years later it was a life defining experience for them.

What Could We Do?: Sure, structure in business is good. But a little chaos and coin flipping here and there may result in some new lines of thinking and innovative ideas. Remove boundaries and pre-defined paths. Go where the road takes us. Daydream. Change a part of ourselves in the process…and see what type of “unplanned” output results?

Healthcare as a Topic at TEDx Indianapolis

My Summary: Two topics that had healthcare related impact resonated with me. First, Chad Priest described a working vision for designing the healthcare provider of the future…and it isn’t what you’d originally think. It was about the role that NON-healthcare professionals play in providing education about and providing services more geared toward healthcare prevention (vs treatment). One example he provided was that of lawyers that educate landlords about the potential impact of poor living conditions on children’s health and their liability in such situations. How might that change their behaviors and reduce poor living conditions for asthmatic children? Or the role of big data technology companies using online activity to detect potential outbreaks before they grow and other trends in certain areas of the world that could lead to new insights. In essence, he was describing a healthcare world with higher crowdsourcing of unique expertise, resulting in more diverse cross-field networking about upstream conditions that result in downstream adverse health impacts. And if more of those non-traditional voices are brought to the table, we can improve our success rate of healthcare prevention, while continuing with our strengths in healthcare treatment. Thus making many more of us in society actual “healthcare providers”.

The second being this TEDx video of how a teenaged boy, with some intrinsic motivation and the power of the internet, changed the detection possibilities of pancreatic cancer…and who knows what else:

Watch it here:

Additionally, Jeffrey Kline spoke about the signals in a person’s face that are important to detecting and diagnosing serious health issues…how complex it may be to rely on various technology algorithms that could leverage the knowledge and tendencies involved. (A diagnostic selfie app?)

Mixing It Up: Your World and Another World

My Summary: I’m actually going to combine three presenters on this one topic. Both, in general and in their own unique ways, encouraged us to seek learning and inspiration from outside our normal channels and experiences.

Doug McColgin focused on how we conduct our networking activities today and how it is not working well for most of us. Usually we look in one of three places for networking opportunities:

  1. Within our company AND our field of expertise / industry,
  2. Within our company BUT outside our field of expertise,
  3. Outside our company but still within our field of expertise / industry.

He encouraged us to consider the 4th quadrant more often to bring new unique ideas: Network with people with which you share little common ground to really discover new and unique ideas for not only your local area of work, but which may be transformational to your field/industry as well!

Jeb Banner related the experiences of starting up a band and running a band to the entrepreneurial spirit…and how musicians and often great employees as we result. In words that I took to mean, “Don’t just be a cog in the machine, but your whole self to the table” he summed his talk up with, “Don’t just play music. Write music!”

And Tasha Jones inspired with her stories of re-mixing: mixing up classical literature (Shakespeare) with R&B (Tupac) to teach children. Her challenge to all of us:

Making Work Human Again

Finally, in what may have been the coolest of the talks, Patti Digh wrapped up the session in an impactful way. The primary message was to consider being “human” at work again. For years we’ve possibly focused diversity efforts on the wrong conversation and forgotten about the diversity that exists in each and every one of us. I think these three tweets best summarize what she had to say:

It was a lot of fun to go, meet new people, and listen to different perspectives. I definitely felt “mixed up” coming out of there!

Working Out Loud: Three Years Later

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In about one month, my first blog post about Working Out Loud will be three years old: When Will We Work Out Loud? Soon!

Club Championship

I’ve been thinking about adding it to the family picture.

But during recent months I’ve started to feel a bit hypocritical on the topic. Do I practice what I preach within my place of work? Yes, fairly consistently. I’m the fastest converter of an email transaction into reusable knowledge this side of the Mississippi. However, I’ve been severely lacking in the amount of sharing and engaging I do in the real open. In the public domain.

Cheerleading

The ironic part about my relative public silence on the topic has been that the blog post (in all of its Spaceballs glory) will receive 10 times more views during 2013 than it did during all of 2011-2012 combined. But certainly not by my doing. We all have the likes of John Stepper, Luis Suarez, Dennis Pearce, Julian Stodd (among others) to thank for so eloquently enhancing, advancing and amplifying the message.

In fact, finding John’s and my blogs spotlighted in the recently released “Social Collaboration for Dummies” book by David F. Carr partly inspired today’s post. I realized that each pingback I receive and each reference I serendipitously discover gives me a sense of pride similar to what I tend to feel watching my own children achieve. It’s been fun to witness what feels like a mini-movement taking off. Just this past week alone you saw references to “working out loud” on Twitter at #jiveworld, and simultaneously at the #DevLearn conference happening across town in Vegas.

(No offense John, but the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw us referenced together in David’s book was “Social Collaboration By Dummies, for Dummies!”) :). But it’s also proof that the concept works.

Full transparency note: I received a complimentary e-copy of Social Collaboration for Dummies from David.

FFL Coach

Can I blame my relative silence on an amazing summer of golf club tournament championships, coaching flag football, watching 3rd grade cheerleading events, helping the kids practice piano, and raising a new puppy? Well, I basically just did. But I know as well as anyone that personal discipline is really to blame. But the weather’s turning around here, so as I turn on the heat, I can more easily turn up the volume.

So how have things changed in the last three years with respect to Working Out Loud? I can think of no better way to reflect than through references to my old trusty…Spaceballs!

  • I’m My Own Best Friend – People are realizing that shifting what you are already doing to a style more conducive to “Working Out Loud” doesn’t just benefit their colleagues and organizations down stream, it increases the Return on Effort (ROE) they get for the time put into the exact same work. More visibility. More potential amplification and recognition for the same amount of work. My three year old blog post is an example of its very own point.
  • You Went Over My Helmet? – We now understand better that one of the most common roadblock associated with Working Out Loud is the fear of potential retribution for bypassing “proper channels of communication” through the enterprise hierarchy. This is an area that I think we need to continue to evolve, share real success stories to give people the tools and confidence to tackle Working Out Loud in a manner that makes them feel at least a little more “safe”…and not subject to “THAT!” What success stories do you have to share that may help people feel more comfortable in this regard?
  • The Bleeps, The Sweeps and The Creeps – The What? The What? And the What? We’re doing a better job of speaking a language that real business practitioners can understand. Instead of terms like “Enterprise 2.0″, “Facebook for the Enterprise” and “Social Networking,” which we used heavily in 2010, terms such as “Working Out Loud”, “Narrating Your Work” and “Higher Return on YOUR Effort” are resonating better with our business counterparts. Even my older post about Horizontal Collaboration has maintained a consistent flow of visits.
  • Ludicrous Speed! – I think three years ago, we were optimistic to think that by 2013 we would have achieved a much higher success rate of “light bulbs” and adoption within large enterprises. Now we are more realistic about how long such a significant shift in behavior and culture will take. We’re now more encouraged by baby steps and daily incremental progress vs. our expectations that “social” was about to “go viral” in 2010 and not getting on the train immediate was a competitive disadvantage. Susan Scrupski captured some industry sentiment on this topic back in 2012. Maybe Light Speed is good enough for now :). I know I don’t look good in plaid, personally.
  • 1,2,3,4,5 – Security and Social. I think we’ve done a lot in the last three years to help dispel concerns around compliance and security related to “social in the enterprise”. In 2010, the main concerns I was dealing with were protecting the loss of IP, preventing people from providing “wrong answers” and inappropriate employee behavior. Now it seems there are enough success stories and examples that the conversation has shifted more to adoption and helping demonstrate the value of shifting our collaboration behaviors. We’ve demonstrated that being “social” doesn’t necessarily open up new risks, but can in fact be more successful at bringing risk to the forefront earlier and when there is still a chance to remedy the issue…in contrast to when inappropriate behaviors occurr out of pure naivete, in private channels, and aren’t discovered until it is too late to remedy…leaving only damage control to come to the rescue.

So in summary, the most concrete conclusion we can make after three years is that…everything I’ve learned about Working Out Loud…I learned from watching hours of Spaceballs in college :)

I’d love to hear your perspective of how things have changed in the last three years for you with respect to Working Out Loud, and what do you see coming in the next three years?


Working Out Loud Stories: It works with sensitive stuff too!

Last year I was giving a presentation at an internal conference to a global group of emergent leaders within our company (leaders of our employee resources groups), talking about the benefits and behaviors of Social Business. As is my norm, I had the term “Work Out Loud” placed throughout the presentation to support the concepts.

I like to keep my talks interactive, so there were quite a few questions and a good amount of dialogue. Near the close as I was fielding questions, a gentleman stood up and suggested:

“I agree with what you are describing, in general. But you better stop using ‘Work Out Loud’ in this company because you will freak people out, they’ll fear compliance ramifications, and they won’t take anything you say seriously. You’re doing yourself more harm than good when you say that.”

How did I respond? Read on to find out…

Opening Up Behaviors, Not Information Security

Every piece of information has an appropriate audience. Sometimes that definition is easy to understand, other times not. Working Out Loud means maximizing the potential outcomes of the work we do by being as inclusive as possible to the widest appropriate audience. It’s not an invitation to be irresponsible.

Usually, in an act of control or a reaction from fear, we assume the appropriate audience is smaller than it really could be, likely because that boundary has not been clearly defined for us. I simply try to coach people to seek to understand the outer limits of the boundaries, to invite more value from network effects, instead of operating on an “until I’m informed by someone else that you need to know” basis.

Believe it or not I actually have an example from this week where I did some work in private with a small group of people, and consider it a win for Working Out Loud.

I was invited to contribute to some research that is somewhat sensitive, even within the company. My introduction to the effort and the work already completed? Somebody that was previously “in” on the conversation, apparently circling through about 6-8 people from different parts of the world, forwarded 12 emails to me so I’d be up to speed.

Egads! Talk about a painful example of email trees to weave through. To add to the issue, most of the participants are not people I’ve routinely worked with, nor met in person. A true example of a “swarm” team.

Being “new” to the effort I could have succumbed to the pattern already emerging. But I couldn’t bring myself to contribute to the information mess any further. I started a private wiki page and invited every person I had seen in the email trees as contributors. I summarized what I gleaned as important from the emails. I added my own brainstorming and perspectives, links to external research, and I added comments to it as my note taking method as I talked in person with my “team members.”

At first it was just me, capturing my stuff. Pulling content from emails sent by others to keep the resource current. But through conversations and metrics I could tell other people were checking it out. 3 people had bookmarked the page. But the emails were still flowing on the topic.

Finally, someone asked me via email to provide a specific framing of ideas. I did, by adding it to the wiki page and replying to his request with a link. That day I had two of the “team members” add comments to the page! Slowly but surely through my consistent behaviors I was helping the team realize the value of consolidated knowledge capture, of sharing in a place where all team members could contribute instead of creating email trees that resulted in a high number of “side conversations” on the topic.

I had “worked out loud” on a sensitive subject in an appropriate way and hopefully added value to the initiative by making the objectives, inputs and recommendations easier to retrieve for everyone involved. The ultimate value and outcome are yet to be known.

And for the sake of brevity, I won’t even get into the details of how I was able to engage a broader internal community to contribute to the research by posting a series of questions in a generalized fashion. Ultimately protecting what was sensitive, but crowdsourcing potential ideas and solutions nonetheless.

So how did I respond to the question during the presentation that day? (I am paraphrasing myself here because I likely wasn’t as succinct on my feet :) )

“I appreciate the feedback. Thank you. But this is an important change for all of us, and if I keep diluting the point in order to be accepted by all, I’m not helping anyone evolve to the extent we need. For those that aren’t ready to hear it, so be it. I’m focused on helping those that are ready.”

Working Out Loud Stories: OH – Someone Working Softly

I’ll help translate a little for those not down with the lingo: OH = Overheard.

This week I had the unique experience of overhearing an example of working softly. They were killing me softly with their example, one time…one time. (Sorry, couldn’t resist) It was a situation where understanding how to work out loud, and having an understanding of methods to utilize how others have worked out loud would have saved this person some time and some pain.

OK, here’s the situation…

I work in an open style work environment where desks are first come first served, and some days you can be working around people you’ve never met…as I was on this day. I was chugging away on my own work (hopefully not writing an email for the sake of my #socbiz street cred), when I innocently overheard a phone conversation between someone I didn’t know and our IT help desk.

Some background first. A few hundred early adopters are receiving an operating system upgrade that isn’t widespread across the company yet, and thus there are a few behaviors that are new to all of us, unique to the early adopters, and thus not widely known to the help desk yet (through no fault of their own). Our early adopters have been using a social community to share learnings, tips and troubleshoot issues with the new OS.

One specific issue that a few people came across and used the community to solve was related to viewing streaming video. I happened to come across the same problem myself earlier, so I knew of the exact thread which contained the answer, which was about a 30 second setting change.

Back to my new friend on the phone. He was reporting the same problem to a rep at the help desk, and I could hear them walking through some trial and error steps that I knew weren’t going to help. If I had known the person’s name I could have IM’d him a link to the thread. But I didn’t feel right interrupting the phone call. So I decided to wait.

Twenty minutes later, he was still on the phone, now logging a ticket that would escalate the issue to another tier of support to get back with him later. But I had to run to a meeting, so couldn’t let him know what I knew until I got back. But when I returned an hour later, he was gone and I still didn’t know his name. So unless we ran into one another again, I had lost my opportunity to help…my way.

I figured he had spent at least 30 minutes on the phone without getting his issue resolved, and who knows what he has gone through since or if he ever even found the solution? Even if it had taken him 15 minutes of his work time searching our community platform to find the answer, he would have come out ahead. A skill that investing 15 minutes to learn more about would have already paid him back in time savings.

Or, if he had posted his issue as a new question in the 700+ person community, someone aware of the already existing thread probably would have replied in less than 30 minutes with a link to the easy solution. And during that time he likely could have gone back to other tasks.

Or even better yet, imagine if I had been someone he knew better, overhearing that phone call, and if I would have had the comfort level to just jump in? Ambient awareness and word of mouth could have brought value to the situation even if the thread itself wasn’t directly used to fix the problem.

No matter how you slice it, this situation could have been helped by thinking with a “working out loud” mindset first. Or if I had the guts to interrupt the phone call…but I was taught to not interrupt people :)

Do you have any stories of obvious lost opportunities from people NOT working out loud?

Working Out Loud Stories: Reply with a Link Instead

When I consult with people at work, trying my best to profess the magic of working out loud, a very common reaction I hear is, “I can’t shift my behaviors because everyone else I am working with is still just sending and reading emails. They don’t check [insert your online social platform here].”

A certain parental bridge analogy immediately comes to mind…and you could succumb to the behavior of others and waste your time when replying to something that involves the sharing of your reusable knowledge…or you could decide to maximize the return on your effort by working in a way that captures the knowledge you’re about to share in a more visible and reusable manner…replying with merely a link to your answer…instead of yet another tucked away email message full of content that few will ever find again.

Working Out Loud about Working Out Loud:

Late last year, I was forwarded an email with a request from a senior executive for successful examples of sales and marketing making use of social collaboration within our organization. I started an email listing a few communities that I knew of that were generating positive outcomes. At first my logic was “This was a private request, and this individual may not access our social business platform on a regular basis, so email would be the best response.”

As I was writing it, I realized how many other people may find that information useful. So I decided to instead create a wiki page and reply to the request with a link to my page. And I posted the page in a community focused on the practice of social business within the organization.

I included 9 communities in my initial list and replied to the email with a link to my new wiki page. and believe it or not I didn’t get any flack for replying with a link instead of putting the answer in an email body.

Within a couple hours of me posting the new page, I had someone from Europe editing the page to add their own examples that I had missed. Then a month later a few more were added…with some likes and bookmarks collected along the way as well. It had become a crowdsourced list of great examples that I continued to use as an educational resource for people working in sales and marketing.

The interactions could have ended there and I would have told you it was a success story because I converted the value from one person to tens of people at that point. But wait…there’s more…

About six months later, I had a conference call with some peers who asked me once again for good examples of internal sales and marketing communities. And once again I found myself typing an email with a link to that wiki page to help them find it. “Bryce! Walk the talk, dude!”

I listened to my inner voice and I shared the link with them via an open status update with mentions. First of all, sending people a link of something I had shared in the past and could find in less than a minute saved me a lot of time vs trying to recreate such a list again. Not to mention that the contributions of others had made it better, with a more global perspective added.

That simple shift in behavior led to more people discovering the 6-month-old resource and commenting about how helpful it was. It had some renewed life. Some people shared it within their own communities, some community managers shared it because they were proud for being openly recognized for the work they had done within that community. And quite a few people started joining communities they didn’t know existed within their field of interest / expertise.

As of today, the list I started with 9 example communities is up to 30, crowdsourced by the community and now on revision 12. It has a few hundred views and will continue to gather more.

Shifting one simple email request out into the open created value for others and made my life easier for future requests. And then months later, choosing to share that reference with others via an open method instead of email helped to resurface the wiki page and increase its value even further. The domino effects of that one initial decision to work out loud were in full motion.

Don’t think that every example has to go viral with thousands of hits to be a successful outcome of working out loud. As soon as that wiki page went from one view to two views I had increased the return I got and that my company got from that initial interaction…for what amounted to the same effort on my part.

I’ll throw in the disclaimer to not “shift” conversations where there is a risk you could reveal something the other parties involved may deem sensitive…but consider if generalizing your response in the name of sharing may work? Or ask for permission to post the answer / interaction more openly due to the potential for shared value.

Have you experienced any similar examples of one decision to be more transparent resulted in value you didn’t see coming?