Work Out Loud Behaviors: Considering Downstream Impacts of Collab Decisions

A common phrase you hear from people when trying to convince them to adopt new behaviors is WIIFM…”What’s In It for Me?”. While I’m not a fan of that mindset, personally, I understand why it’s important to help people get it. But I’ll come back to that.

I tend to lean more toward the WIIFE approach…”What’s In It for Everyone?” Unfortunately I just realized that my acronym spells “wife”…and that was totally unintentional and could get awkward depending on where I go with this. TheBrycesWife might be reading. Tread lightly…Bryce…tread lightly…:)

Put another way, most people ask about how to conduct their work & collaboration activities in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them…to save them time right now. But when we lead with that approach, what opportunities for future value are we sabatoging as a result? Are we making decisions that actively consider and understand the downstream impacts of how we create, share & collaborate, rather than the immediate benefits? Or do we typically favor immediate value over potential value?

  

Working Out Loud requires a mindset that you let go of WIIFM when you work. A mindset of actively making WIIFE decisions (there I go again) about how we are collaborating with others, and being very conscious of who “the others” could be downstream (LOST reference – 4815162342). It means that first and foremost in our work behaviors we are considering the downstream impacts  of what we share, how we share, where we share and when we share…to our immediate co-workers and our overall organization and our expertise communities and to OURSELVES.

And Working Out Loud with the downstream in mind means being aware enough to make trade-off decisions right now to enable the opportunities later. I could save myself 5 minutes of effort on a task right now by choosing to do it the WIIFM way, OR, I could WIIFE it…create it and share it in a way that it has the potential to save a collective of both known and unknown people multiple hours in future. To create additional future opportunities because it was easily discoverable, reusable and shareable beyond it’s original intent.

I see these examples play out every day, both positive examples, and examples that are ripe for repairing “a lost opportunity”. I want to do a better job of sharing examples I see as real life use cases occurs, and generically share those as “teaching moments.”
First example (which prompted me to write this post) is something you see play out every single day. And you can’t blame any one person for doing it because EVERYONE does it and has done it this way for years in many places. I’m sure you’ve seen it happen in the last month as well. But there’s a better way…

WIIFM Approach: Team needs a reference about the expectations and logistics for filling out the standard project status report in the standard project tracking tool on a weekly basis. So the Project Manager sends the entire team a PPT attachment in email with those instructions, images, etc.

WIIFM Reasoning: It was quick and easy for the PM to send that email and grab the attachment off their private hard drive/storage location. Then add some names to the email. Send. Task completed. That was easy. Move on to the next thing.

WIIFM Lost Opportunities:

  • Each team member has to keep that file in their email for future reference, eating up email quota…or pull to their own local storage for future reference. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • If there is turnover in the team, or new projects with new project leaders that weren’t on the email, new team members won’t be able to discover or retrieve that helpful resource easily, or someone else will have to dig it out to share with them in the future…if they can remember where it was. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • If something changes in the tools & processes, the PM must sent out a new copy with the updates. More space. Now you’ve got different copies flying all over the place and recipients my end up getting the current appropriate versions confused within their own local storage tools. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • Other PMs running projects outside of your team may have the same needs to share the same info or similar info with their team, and would have no way of ever knowing that such a helpful resource exists to help their teams use the project status tracking tool. But the PM saved 5 minutes.

WIIFE Approach: PM shares the resource file in a shared folder / community that all team members have access to as part of being on the team. The PM adds a static link to the resource on the team’s main collaboration hub site to be the primary point of “locating” that file in the future. And stores it in a way that the file is discoverable through the most common search & browse interfaces the team uses on a daily basis. Then, assuming not all the team have “notifications” turned on to where this was shared, the PM sends and email to the team with a link to the new resource where it resides. (+5 minutes for PM…maybe…probably not. But this is where the “tools matter too” makes an appearance as part of the “it’s not about the tools” conversation. Another post for another day.)

WIIFE Reasoning:  It took a little extra time for the PM, but the potential benefits to the team for having that as a consistent reference going forward is worth the effort…so they can focus their time on getting the work done on the projects, rather than hunting and pecking to locate the reference file again down the road.

WIIFE Reaslized Opportunities:

  • No need to keep the email from the PM, it saves email space, and no worries about using email as a home for any type of meaningful work content. It was just a notification to create awareness that a new resource exists in a collaboration area / folders, AND that a link has been added in that area so all team members can easily navigate to it in the future. WIIFM: Team members are appreciative to the PM for having an easy to locate resource for future reference. They reduce the “looking for stuff” distraction later.
  • As new members join the team or new people that weren’t on the email need to use the project status tracking tool, the link is there for continued reference and no need to bother other team members of the PM to dig it up again and send it in another email. WIIFM: PM saves time in the future from people constantly asking for a copy of the resource, and eliminating the need to locate and email again over and over because someone lost it or was not on the original email.
  • If something changes, you don’t have to worry about multiple copies of the older version flying around, and you don’t have to redistribute copies to everyone for them to keep locally. You just update the source where it lies, and from now forward, that some link people know and love as their place to find the reference is still the most current and helpful resources to complete the status report task in the right way. WIIFM: As a PM, I don’t have to play referee when people have outdated resources or get confused about where to find the latest information and come back to the PM for help.
  • Because the PM shared it in a project area that is targeted to the team but ALSO open to the entire organization, that content is discoverable via the most common organizational search engines…making it discoverable and reusable by other PMs that are using the same organizational status tracking tool…and to which those PMs can point their own teams for a good point of reference. WIIFM: The PM gets some public reputation points, from other PMs and management appreciative for the knowledge sharing and for enabling reuse and saving them time and trouble as a result. OR, other PMs may jump in with their own best practices and helpful suggestions to make the process easier for any and all using the same sets of tools and processes…helping the team of the PM that originally shared the resource. 

So taking the hypothetical 5 minutes to adopt a WIIFE behavior instead of a WIIFM behavior not only considers the downstream impacts of our choices, but returns even greater overall savings throughout an organization than the originally donated 5 minutes of time. 

Luckily WIIFM does eventually make an appearance…it just happens further downstream for the PM, and not just during one short moment, but in a continual and more impactful manner. By building up appreciation from others and a reputation for being helpful, making lives easier for peers, being generous, and by putting your skills and knowledge on display to emerge as a thought leader and expert on various topics…to garner more respect from your peers that see and respect how you approach your work. And you’re planting Roots!

That’s our primary challenge as WOL coaches and practitioners…to help those around us to think more about the downstream impacts of their collaboration decisions than the impact to themselves in the moment. To encourage shifts in behavior toward the WIIFE mindset with examples, stories and by suggesting effective alternatives to the predominant work mindset of WIIFM.

McBryver: Well…Almost

The day before we left for a week long vacation, I thought I’d broken my lawn mower. I was mowing, had about 4 minutes of mowing left to do…and I accidentally ran over a pine tree branch (I was blinded by upper branch pine needles!). All of a sudden…the mower just stopped running. And I wasn’t smart enough in the ways of lawn machinery to know why.

Wow, a story on this blog that’s not about Working Out Loud? Hang tight…

My first inclination, like any experienced handy man, was to just let the mower rest for a week. It must have been over-exerted. And nothing like a little rest helps a Briggs & Stratton engine…right? Well…turns out…not so much.

I tried again tonight. And you wouldn’t believe it…but a little rest didn’t help heal my mower! Whodathunk? Now what?

To the interwebs! Even someone that thinks mechanical engines need some sleep eye can learn from the internet. I searched through multiple product support sites. Manufacturer sites. User manuals. Nothing. 

But then…after about one hour of searching…I came across a thread between three people. “I drove my mower through a bush, now it won’t start. It will sputter a bit, but then quit.” Bush. Pine tree. Close enough…

“Me too, I have the exact same problem!” Pattern recognized

“I do too, right after I went through a bush!” Trend.

Turns out, by suggestions in that thread, I suspected that a spring had been knocked loose from the choke mechanism. I searched my yard and couldn’t find that spring anywhere. But getting a replacement part was going to take a week. And I didn’t know for sure if that was actually the fix or not, but I wanted to figure out if it was for sure before ordering that expensive $3 spring. 

So I went and got a spring from one of my kids’ pens in the house (don’t tell them), connected it to the choke mechanism and the metal thingy the real spring should connect to…pulled the rip chord…and voila…the darn thing started again! Now, the choke was clearly in the wrong position due to the springs being of different tension, because it sounded about an octave higher than it should, but it started and kept running! So I couldn’t mow yet. But I knew ordering that part would get us back to functional. 
Mcgyver would have been proud. But he’s no McBryver!! Right? No? 

Short story long…

If those random customers of my exact same mower had not chosen to “Work Out Loud” to solve their mower problem, I’d probably have taken it to a repair shop and spent $50 to get a tiny $3 spring replaced.

Make the choice to increase your impact on others. Help people without ever knowing you’ve done so. Work Out Loud when trying to solve problems that other people likely will encounter at one point or another. 

The impact of sharing what you don’t know can provide just as much value as sharing what you do know. 

Appreciating the People Side of Working Out Loud

We just got home late last night from a week long special family visit in across three states. I’m watching my daughter’s gymnastics practice this morning as I write this. My son is reading next to me. My wife is Jazzercizing today. And I have a tee time in 90 minutes.    

  

It’s all normal stuff for this normal person. It’s who I am. 

During that trip I made a stop in Louisville, KY to talk about Working Out Loud at the EFM IT Symposium (Louisville also happens to be where most of my family lives). 

I’ve talked enough on the topic that few reactions or questions surprise me anymore. But this group caught me off guard a little…in a pleasant way. 

Of course I talked about the personal productivity and business efficiency impacts we’ve observed when people apply WOL concepts to how hey go about things. 

But I also don’t shy away from sharing about the human benefits we see, even in a work environment. The connections created. People helping one another directly or emotionally. Observable culture shifts from people talking at one another to talking with one another. Conversation that is now more about understanding than convincing, as it tended to lean toward 3-4 years ago. 
Most of the questions and “recognition of value” reactions I received from that primarily IT audience in Louisville revolved around the potential to realize some of the more human benefits in the workplace. A desire to bring the human back to the work. 

I’m not used to that. For years I’ve always have to defend those benefits against the “social tools at work can’t be about social, it has to be about work” mindset. 

I think it can be about both. I think it must be about both. I’m thrilled people took that away from my talk. It made me feel good about that day of “work”. 

Then I left and took those same parts of me to spend some time with family that I don’t get to see often enough. 

 The same person. The same motivation to be there for and to help people…at work…at home…and across three states. The same person that wants to go set the course record at the golf course this afternoon (even though I know I’m not prepared for that…yet!) 

A Few Deflated Footballs…

Admission. I usually post more business related type topics on this blog. But, I’m also an avid Colts fan. And I know better than to blame the Colts’ 38 point loss in the AFC Championship game to the superior New England Deflatriots on a few deflated footballs. Let’s just get that out of the way and get on to enjoying the comedy gold that is a controversy about suspiciously deflated balls.

Now to the fun part. The light bulb moment. The New England Deflatriots AFC Championship #DeflateGate controversy and A Few Good Men?

A perfect marriage. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to imagine…”A Few Deflated Footballs”:

[Coach Belichick chuckles while on the witness stand]

Luck: Is this funny, sir?

Coach Belichick[face falls to a look of disgust] No, it isn’t. It’s tragic.

Luck: Do you have an answer to the question, Coach? What happened to the deflated footballs?

Coach Belichick: Absolutely. My answer is I don’t have the first damn clue. Maybe the balls deflated due to the dropping temperatures. And maybe the Colts footballs were deflated too. I’m an educated man, but I’m afraid I can’t speak intelligently about the pressure properties of an NFL football. What I do know is that we won the AFC Championship 45-7. Now, are these the questions I was really called here to answer? Refs squeezing balls and Football PSI? Please tell me that you have something more, Grizzly Adams. Your team lost decisively. Please tell me their star quarterback hasn’t pinned their hopes to a deflated football.

[Luck hesitates, dumbfounded]

Coach Belichick: Do you have any more questions for me, 12?

Commisioner Goddell: Mr. Luck? [pause] Do you have anything further for this witness? I’m now required by NFL owners to dig much deeper into issues than I have in the past.

[Belichick defiantly gets up to leave the courtroom]

Coach Belichick: Thanks, Roger. I love Phoenix.

Luck: Excuse me. I didn’t dismiss you.

Coach Belichick: I beg your pardon?

Luck: I’m not through with my examination. Sit down.

Coach Belichick: Coach.

Luck: What’s that?

Coach Belichick: I would appreciate it if he would address me as “Coach” or “Sir.” I believe I’ve earned it.

Commissioner Goddell: Mr. Luck will address the witness as “Coach” or “Sir.”

Coach Belichick[to Goddell] I don’t know what the hell kind of league you’re running here.

Commissioner Goddell: And the witness will address me as “Commissioner.” I’m quite certain I’ve earned it. Or had at one point prior to this season. Take your seat, Coach.

Luck: A moment ago, you said that you ordered Tom Brady to tell the ball boys that the footballs weren’t to be touched.

Belichick: That’s right.

Luck: And Brady was clear on what you wanted?

Belichick: Crystal.

Luck: Any chance Brady ignored the order?

Belichick: Ignored the order?

Luck: Any chance he forgot about it?

Belichick: No.

Luck: Any chance Tom Brady went to the sideline and said, “the old man is wrong”?

Belichick: No.

Luck: When Tom Brady spoke to the ball boys and ordered them not to touch the footballs, any chance they ignored him?

Belichick: You ever played for a championship team, son?

Luck: No, sir.

Belichick: Ever played in a Super Bowl?

Luck: No, sir.

Belichick: Ever put your team on your back during a game winning drive to hoist a Lombardi trophy?

Luck: No, sir.

Belichick: We follow orders, son. We follow orders or we lose. It’s that simple. Are we clear?

Luck: Yes, sir.

Belichick: Are we clear?!

Luck: Crystal. Coach, I just have one more question before I put D’Qwell Jackson and the game officials on the stand. If you gave an order that the footballs weren’t to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would the footballs be deflated? Why would it be necessary for the NFL to inspect the footballs at half time?

Belichick: The footballs were low quality footballs. They arrived flat…

Luck: That’s not what you said. You said the temperature likely changed the footballs.

Belichick: That’s correct.

Luck: You said you were unaware of the deflated footballs. I said “you had no idea”? You said…

Belichick: I recall what I said.

Luck: I could have Troy Vincent read back to you…

Belichick: I know what I said! I don’t have to have it read back to me, like I’m…

Luck: Then why the deflated balls? Coach?

Belichick: Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.

Luck: No, sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands. Your men follow orders or teams lose championships. So the balls shouldn’t have been deflated, should they, Coach?

Belichick: You nearded, little bastard.

Kraft: Commish, I’d like to ask for recess. Maybe a party at my place?

Luck: I’d like an answer to the question, Commish.

Commish: The commish will wait for an answer. I’ve learned my lesson this year. Is there a video of the balls actually being deflated available? No. Okay, just checking.

Luck: If Tom Brady gave an order that the footballs weren’t to be touched, then why were the balls deflated? Coach? Tom Brady ordered the deflated footballs, didn’t he? Because that’s what you told Tom Brady to do!

Kraft: Objection!

Luck: And when the refs found out, you blamed the ball boys! You had Brady lie on the radio, Gronk tweet a funny photo, and you blamed the ball boys!

Kraft: Damn it, Luck!

Luck: You coerced Tom Brady!

Commish: Consider yourself on the commisioner’s exempt list!

Luck: Coach Belichick, did you order the footballs to be deflated AFTER they were inspected by the officials?!

Commish: You don’t have to answer that question! (Unless of course there’s video evidence…)

Belichick: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?

Luck: I think I’m entitled!

Belichick: You want answers?!

Luck: I want the truth!

Belichick: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that only values championships, and those championships have to be won to cement your legacy. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lucky Luck guy? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep about flat footballs and you curse Tom Brady. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Tom Brady’s legacy, while respected, needs another Super Bowl. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at practice, you want me to win championships. You need me to win championships. We use words like “teamwork”, “rivalries”, “toughness”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent chasing something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the rivalry and ratings that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a football, and try to beat my secondary. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

Luck: Did you order the deflated footballs?

Belichick: I coached a team that kicked your—-

Luck: Did you order the deflated footballs?!!

Belichick: YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!!

Coach Belichick[Commish dismisses the jury] What is this? What’s going on? I did what it takes to win, I’d do it again! [stands up defiantly] I’m gonna win the Super Bowl and I’m going to $%*&! Disney World!

Commisioner Goddell: You’re not going anywhere, Coach. Refs… eject the Coach!

[Refs grab Belichick]

Commisioner Goddell: Mr. Kraft?

Coach Belichick: What the hell is this?

Mr. Kraft: Coach Belichick, you are a schmuck. I told you that after Spygate…

Coach Belichick[while Kraft continues lighting in to him] I’m being accused of cheating? Is that what this is? I’m being accused of cheating? This is funny. That’s what this is. This is… [turning to Luck and lunging at him] I’m gonna rip the beard out of your face one hair at a time and shove fully inflated footballs into your huge ass mouth! You messed with the wrong defensive mastermind!

Mr. Kraft: Coach Belichick, do you understand the impact you’ve had on our team’s legacy?

Coach Belichick: You f’ing people. You have no idea how to win a championship. All you did was weaken the NFL today, Luck. That’s all you did. You “deflated” the game you love. Good “Luck”, son.

Luck: Don’t call me son. I’m a quarterback, of the Indianapolis Colts. And you’re a cheating, lying son of a bitch. Beli-cheat is excused.

Credit: Adapted from the original movie quotes from “A Few Good Men” found at WikiQuote.com

Shifting Out Loud #WOLWeek

This week here on my blog started with Working Out Loud Behaviors to Develop during #WOLWeek.

Which was followed by Asking Out Loud #WOLWeek.

Next on my list of xOL behaviors…

Shifting Out Loud (SOL) = Open Leadership* + Open Innovation**

Sometimes, Working Out Loud need not be focused just on facilitating a process, a task, or a project. In fact, if that’s your only target for realizing value from the open exchange of ideas and information within your organization (which I am guessing is primarily populated by human beings), you’re missing out on an even larger opportunity.

“Shift” happens…when passionate people with new ideas, thought-provoking questions and an ability to lead from the bottom-up are provided an avenue to have their “cause” amplified more quickly and with less effort than any previously available options. Particularly when the leaders of the shift are emergent leaders as opposed to appointed leaders. Or when the “lone nut” can inspire some “fast followers” to help accelerate the significant shift.

  • Via Open Leadership, people have an opportunity to shift thinking and gain momentum with peers at an unprecedented rate. Sharing what inspires them, providing reasoning while work is in progress, collecting buy-in, creating awareness of the downstream impacts of their work, collecting input on how to course correct before it’s too late. Appearing more authentic vs. being always coming across as a spin-master.
  • Via Open Innovation, shared ideas beget other new related ideas. They prompt improvements via feedback that a single expert may miss on their new idea. Shared ideas can trigger support from corners of an organization not previously considered or reached.

IMG_0002.JPG

This may be the most difficult of the “xOL” concepts for me to describe, because theory and promises don’t do justice to some of the stories I’ve had the pleasure of observing over the last four years. And each played out thanks in large part to one or more people combining their passion and courage with Working Out Loud in a way that led to significant shifts in an overall organization, or at least a visible and influential subset of people within that organization. Some with immediate results, some over the course of multiple years and thousands of people. And most examples originating from the bottom of the organizational structure, not the top. Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to, I am not able to share specifics about the stories. I really wish I could share more to support this concept. That’s what’s made this post so difficult to write. It’s harder to say less than to say more:).

I can only relay that the impacts are visible changes in people behavior, personal understanding, information resourcefulness, attracting masses behind a previously unstated idea/problem. And most interestingly, helping to shift an established (or previously unseen) culture on major societal issues that you’d think should be taboo in the work place, but really prove to be crucial to building a “human” community culture at work instead of a “robot” task culture in an enterprise.

When you can watch the ESN activity within such a large company “from above” over the course of 4-5 years like I’ve had the pleasure to do, you can see the shifts as they occur. You can appreciate where they started, what triggered them, and where they ended up. Unlike most, you can see the full picture behind the shift. And it’s all captured…the story having unfolded on it’s own…documented…retrievable. Open.

Do you feel like you have the methods and tools to start a movement in your org from the bottom up? How might you inspire a “shift” of what sometimes seems an immovable object by sharing more about your passions and ideas?

 

*Open Leadership – Credit: Charlene Li

**Open Innovation – Credit: Henry Chesbrough

Connecting Out Loud #WOLWeek

This week here on my blog started with Working Out Loud Behaviors to Develop during #WOLWeek.

Which was followed by Asking Out Loud #WOLWeek.

And then there was Shifting Out Loud #WOLWeek.

Next on my list of xOL behaviors…

Connecting Out Loud (COL) = Bringing Whole Self To Work + Being Human at Work + Culture of Understanding

IMG_0001.JPG

“So…Bryce…is this supposed to be a business network or a social network?”

It’s whatever the people within our company need it to be.

“So…people can only use it to talk about work, right?”

Nope, they can use it for whatever purpose they want in order to connect with other people in our company…regardless of topic…provided it is consistent with existing conduct policies.

“Won’t that distract people from doing their real job?”

Did you ever think their lives already distract them from their job, and some help, advice, relief or community support might be just what they need to get back to being productive?

 

My guess is if you are reading this, you’ve been part of a similar conversation.

I don’t know any better way to support this point than with some examples and stories:

  • Thanks to a cycling themed community, people are motivating one another to ride their bikes to work more often. They’re healthier. Community Support.
  • Same cycling community, a person got started to leave work one day, only to discover a flat bike tire and no way to get home. Posted their dilemma in the community with their mobile. 10 minutes later a stranger with a tire pump was standing at their bike to help them get on their way.
  • There’s a crowdsourced wiki page of the best places in town to have lunch. It’s part of the Foodie Network.
  • People help one another find good vets for their pets, good pediatricians for their children. That stuff takes time and mental capacity. Imagine the time spent calling around or surfing the internet if you didn’t have local and trusted peers to give advice based on experience?
  • Holiday recipes to make for the visiting families.
  • Understanding how to deal with certain traffic / parking pains, knowing alternate places to go thanks to how peers have done it.
  • Using the community to coordinate a quarterly half-marathon training program.
  • Advice for good gifts to get kids of certain ages for birthdays and holidays. Asking questions such as iPad or Kindle? And where to find good deals.
  • Raising money to help save an abandoned and and badly abused dog that is close to being put to sleep.
  • Using the community to spontaneously organize an organic t-shirt exchange when a large scale t-shirt distribution messed up who got what sizes.
  • Someone desperately wanting to find a vending machine on campus with 12oz cans instead of 20oz bottles, getting a response from a few people with ideas. But then, a facilities person with the complete list of vending machines and types provided….within the day.

I could do this all day.

These are things people usually deal with at work in some capacity, or it’s on their mind at work keeping them from being productive. Except their normal help options usually are slow and time consuming. But tools like these at work make getting advice, solutions, answers and connections WAY faster and easier than just leaving all the robots to fend for themselves at work. Clear your mind, and the work will follow.

I can’t tell you personally how many people I’ve interacted with via our communities for “social” purposes…only to find it WAY easier to begin working with them if / when the time comes up that we actually need to do real work together. Particularly for me as an introvert, having those barriers broken down somewhat helps me get to productive with those individuals way more quickly.

Not to mention that as a community manager, each of these people are getting used to the very tools you want them to use for work purposes, getting ideas how that handy functionality could be used for good instead of evil!!!!  (Okay, just kidding there. Seeing if you’re still paying attention.)

But the culture of understanding element of this is important. It brings a more human and comfortable feel to the online interactions, even if those are business related conversations.

I can attest visually seeing a shift over the years of seeing people talk “at” each other via the online community, with an intent to tell people what they know…to people being better at talking “with” each other and approaching conversation with an intent of understanding others. And that culture element through the feel of our network / community transcends the personal conversations AND the business-related conversations.

Humanize your work network by letting the people be people while working. It might actually help humanize the work at little bit. Particularly in a company like mine where caring for the customer is at the heart of what we do. It helps to also care for the people you work with to set that tone.

 

Okay, it’s Friday. This is the least organized and most “random” or my posts on this so far, but I wanted to publish another one before I checked out for the weekend. Thanks for reading! I have one or two more in store before #wolweek is officially done on Sunday.

Thanks!

Asking Out Loud #wolweek

During the countdown leading up to #wolweek, I wrote this post about some additional Work Out Loud behaviors to recognize and practice. Let’s dive deeper into one of them.

Asking Out Loud = Reuse Awareness + Expertise Discovery

asking for help

Many moons ago as we were trying to increase adoption within our ESN, it didn’t take long for a trend to emerge. We didn’t limit what types of communities people could create. We wanted creativity and need to be easily met with a low barrier to entry, and that helped us to identify the greatest areas of opportunity in the organization where “social collaboration” could improve work outcomes.

The most common early trend was that communities were popping up for the sole purpose of collecting a critical mass of experts on a given process, practice or technology…that other people could then use as a place to post questions and get fast answers. Created as an alternative to sending email blasts, battling search engines, calling a help desk, screaming over cube walls, or desperately walking around department floors holding a sign that asks for help.

People started to realize that using these Q&A communities to ask their questions resulted in new outcomes vs. more traditional work methods:

  • Shotgunning the request into a community instead of targeting it to a bottleneck process usually resulted in a faster answer. It removes the problem of being stopped in your tracks by “Busy” or “Not Available” experts.
  • Those looking for help could keep working on other stuff while waiting for the answer to arrive because it is an asynchronous interaction. Whereas many other methods (aside from email) are synchronous and kept them from making progress on other work while they problem solved.
  • For the benefit of the experts, capturing what they know IN THE OPEN makes the outcome of the interaction reusable for others via search or references. And could potentially deflect future requests that come their way…so they can be more productive later! Not to mention the potential recognition and open tracking of what they’ve contributed to the organization (personal reputation management, performance management, etc).

But for this to really work, congregating experts into the proper communities wasn’t even half the battle. There’s a behavior to instill in everyone else within an organization that’s even more important to making it successful.

Asking Out Loud.

The key was teaching people to change their behaviors to recognize an opportunity for Asking for help Out Loud vs traditional hunt and seek methods. Let’s dive into the formula of key Asking Out Loud behaviors:

  • Reuse Awareness: The ability to identify an opportunity, when searching for something or troubleshooting a problem you are experiencing, where the answer / solution has value beyond yourself. Because it’s the people that identify this opportunity, shift their behavior from the old way, and initiate the open interactions that will lead to newly captured knowledge that make this behavior click. Where Working Out Loud as a concept recognized the sharers of knowledge, Asking Out Loud recognizes the value of the people that admit they don’t know something and make the decision to initiate their request for help in a way that will result in shared and reusable knowledge.
  • Expertise Discovery: There are really two parts to this. First being the skill to identify the right context and/or community to leverage for “Search Then Ask” activities. Specifically when asking a new question, understanding which online audience to target to maximize the chances of reaching engaged experts that can either answer the question or lead you to someone that can. The other is knowing how to effectively search, filter and browse existing knowledge stores of openly shared information before asking a new question which may have already been answered.

So while recognizing those that are Working Out Loud and show up as prolific sharers in your online communities, make sure to give just as much praise (if not more) to those that realize the value of asking for help through open and “social” communities. Because in many cases…if they’d never asked…the knowledge would never have been captured.