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?

4 thoughts on “Working Out Loud Stories: OH – Someone Working Softly

  1. Next time that happens, just fling a piece of paper over to the other side of the desk, with a note to abandon the insanity and you would have made a great friend and new relationship, and relationships are the new currency in this digital revolution we are undergoing..

    thanks for sharing

    • I couldn’t help think about the whole Yahoo debate as I was located about 20ft from this person but couldn’t muster up the initiative to just interrupt his phone call. My introverted nature really comes out when I am around people I haven’t met before. But that’s an entirely different conversation🙂

      • My father used to tell me to carry pennies in my pocket, so if I met someone I did not know, and was bashful to introduce myself, but thought the relationship could be mutually beneficial, I was to hand the person a penny with no warning. “Penny for your thoughts”, sort of tactic would get odd looks, but surely break the ice and typically bring a smile to the stranger, thus making introductions much easier.
        It did work by the way.

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