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
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.