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.”
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?
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?
This is hard for me to believe, but I wrote this post about Working Out Loud over 2 years ago: When Will We Work Out Loud? Soon! Then I went quiet (irony?) on this blog and also to a degree on Twitter, not so coincidentally coinciding with the launch of our internal employee social network.
Trust me, I’ve done plenty of working slightly muffled within our walls to spread the word and trying to educate folks about better ways of getting work done. But I have since felt a bit hypocritical not continuing the Work Out Loud theme more in the public domain.
Yet that Spaceballs themed blog post has taken on a life of its own continuing to draw in readers and references from bloggers on a fairly regular basis. (Take note of the hidden Working Out Loud value statement there for a minute. Kind of like when people joke about the wealthy making money while they sleep because their money works for them…I’m hopefully still helping people when I sleep because I’ve Worked Out Loud a time or two in my life. Helping me sleep better at night.)
Fortunately for everyone, John Stepper has done an outstanding job of developing his blog into a weekly must read on social collaboration, working out loud, and other future work concepts. His posts are my routine accompaniment to Saturday morning coffee. He must wake up much earlier than I do on the weekends 🙂 And the concept continues to get referenced in various blogs and articles on Social Business and Social Collaboration.
I’ve also struggled with how to balance my desires to share more publicly while respecting company policies regarding the use of social media. It takes a little extra energy to understand where the lines need to be in terms of what I can share and what I should not while writing posts like these…and still trying to be informative and useful…not just a bunch of generic theory that does little to further the conversation or the education of potential readers.
I’ve always been a person that was better at identifying stories and relating those to value than sounding like a genius in theory or deep analysis. So that’s what I want to focus on. Real stories of people Working Out Loud and generating value and outcomes greater than had they not done so. And hopefully the stories will trigger new ideas and inspire new action toward the cause of changing how work gets done and how knowledge is shared.
I’m cheating with my first story. You just read it. One blog post written on a whim over two years ago, sarcastically relating serious business concepts to Dark Helmet and Colnel Sandurz, continuing to provide value to thousands of readers to this day. I certainly never imagined as I wrote it, what the concept could become as a result. And it is mostly thanks to how others have further expanded on and applied the concept in ways I am not capable. (Embedded lesson #2 here for those taking notes.)
What types of stories have you observed thanks to someone Working Out Loud that had a positive impact on an outcome? Your stories will most certainly trigger reminders of more examples that I have experienced and can’t wait to share in future posts.
Anyone ever tell you you’re wasting your time with social media? They don’t see the value it could bring to them?
Fortunately, I’ve found tons of value by connecting daily via “social networks” focused on social collaboration, golf, football, entertainment and life. But if you still have doubt, maybe my little story about how a few Tweets led to immeasurable “ROI” with one of my greatest passions, the Indianapolis Colts.
I wrote this blog post on New Year’s Day about the Twitter engagement with fans of Colts owner Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay). But that was BEFORE I found out I had been selected as a winner of one of his contests which I had been trying to win for the previous 36 hours. Recently re-reading the post I realized I certainly wrote it assuming I wouldn’t win because of how many people were trying and how few winners were left to be announced. I still think that the blog post contributed to me being part of the final winner announcement less than 24 hours before the game, but we’ll never know, will we?
So here is my story from the point I found out I had won…until we found out the Colts had won the AFC South division and the #3 seed in the playoffs:
Fold – As the darkness arrived New Year’s day, I decided I had neglected my wife and children long enough following the fan response to @JimIrsay’s tweets and contests, trying to find ways to prove myself as a dedicated fan worthy of winning, and writing a blog post about the whole experience. I also didn’t want to be a person publishing a tweet-a-minute to draw attention to myself with little substance. So, I published my new blog post, tweeted it a few times to draw some attention, then put the mobile away and started getting the kids ready for bed and folding laundry. I stopped following the tweets. Then my phone buzzed. It was a Direct Messages from Jimmy Land (@jland23). Jimmy was a perfect stranger, but one of the first winners selected by Jim Irsay the previous day, and he and I happened to connect had been exchanging tweets the better part of Friday and Saturday:
I didn’t believe Jimmy Land, had to check and see it for myself. Low and behold, Jimmy Colt had thumbed my name on his BlackBerry! I spent the next 4 hours in shock, tweeting some more, scrambling for kid care options so my wife could join me and reworking tailgating plans and ticket plans with friends and neighbors (I already had a ticket in section 612 I was going to use for the game).
Coincidence? I think NOT! – So I get a phone call from Irsay’s representative late Saturday night to talk logistics for winning, and I knew things were going my way when she and I discovered via phone that her First, Middle and Last Name were the EXACT SAME as my 5 year old daughter’s! Are you kidding me? She informed me I would be getting TWO free tickets to the game and ONE suite pass to Jim Irsay’s suite for before the game to meet Jim with the rest of the group, but that we would be returning to our seats before the game started and watching the game from there. Sounds good to me!
PPppppppp-rrrrrrriiiiiuuussssssss with 7777777777000000001111111111111 bbbbbballlllllsssss – It was cold Sunday, especially in the shade. It was a sunny day, and when we were in the sun it didn’t feel too bad. But the Prius being offered for the Sunday 1pm giveaway was parked in front of Lucas Oil Stadium in the shade! Typing on a mobile was not easy, and obviously neither was counting the number of balls you can stuff in a Prius. I didn’t win, and I guessed “147” when the answer was “701.” I tweeted my answer before I knew the balls were not all regulation size!!!
Will Call Tweet Up – We all had to pick up our tickets and Suite passes from Will Call. One of my favorite moments of the day (again, being someone in the “social” profession) was when a bunch of complete strangers, having only shared a few tweets with one another, immediately recognized each other like they’d been friends for years. I arrived at the window and quickly was able to say, “Hey, you’re @AmyMack74! And you’re @jland23.” It was a really cool moment thanks to the use of Twitter to allow the participants and winners to have already established their own sense of “community,” purely via the act of participating.
Pre-game Pep Talk – So we arrive at the suite, do some more meet and greets…most sounding eerily similar to “Nice to meet you Chris, what was your twitter name? Ah, @dunkman42, of course! Great to meet you in person!” Then Mr. Irsay came to meet us all and talk to us a bit before the game. What a great talk he gave. He covered topics about his life, from growing up knowing and learning from Johnny Unitas and Bubba Smith, lessons his late father taught him, dealing with the death of his sister, dealing with the potential pending NFL lock-out and the implications that could have on the 2012 Super Bowl that is scheduled to be here in Indy. He talked about a visit he made to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco and his meetings with their CEO as he was obviously thinking and planning ahead about how to effectively leverage their service to best engage his fan base. It must have been a good meeting, because he has done things pretty darn well in my opinion. And as a huge NFL fan, my favorite story, when at Lamar Hunt’s funeral a few years ago (deceased owner of the Chiefs), former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue put his arm around Irsay and told him “He was the last of his generation of owners. It is your time to carry on the legacy of the founders of the NFL, the people that have raised you in this league, and it is your time to now to lead us.” Of course that line is paraphrased, but that is how I heard it. Great story telling.
Another memorable moment was when he stopped everything in his tracks when a women entered the room, and gave her a hug and had a private conversation with her, and you could see she was a little shaken up. I didn’t know it at the time, but later found out she was the mother of a young man that had passed away in Iraq or Afghanistan serving our country, and he treated her to the same experience he treated us. It was a special moment for sure.
Then near the end of the talk he made a passing remark about “…when we take you guys down to the field…” and you could see the faces of each person in the room immediately light up. You mean we get to go on the field??!!?? It is only one hour before game time, there are going to be players roaming around, practice punts booming, fans looking at us jealously! Awesome!
Nobody Puts @TheBrycesWife in a Corner! Except @JimIrsay – So as all of the excitement above comes to a close, we are instructed to take our regular tickets and go watch the game from the seats associated with the free tickets we received for winning. I will never complain about free seats, but I was a little surprised to find out we were in the top row of the corner of the stadium. Thought we may get some nice seats, but cool, no biggie. My wife and I are there, having a good time, I don’t need to exercise again that evening after climbing all the stairs. And one more positive? If I stand up the entire game, nobody is going to yell at me from behind!
About one series into the game, however, my cell phone rings. It is one of Jim’s aides. He says I am welcome to use my suite pass to return and hang out, eat, drink, be merry for the rest of the game! Suite!! Dude! Sweet! Dude!!! Oh, but I only have one Suite Pass. What is @TheBrycesWife going to do the whole time? Is a loving husband, like myself, really going to leave his wife all by her lonsesome in the stratosphere of a huge stadium just to go hang out in the owner’s suite during a division clinching Colts game?
See ya honey…meet you at the car! Zoom…
Back in the Suite – To little surprise, I returned to the suite to find many of my new friends hanging out with one another, all with a similar family abandonment story to share. “But how often to you get this opportunity?”, we all convinced each other, so we could enjoy our guilt-free game together. I know I am forgetting some of the other winners I met, so I apologize, but it was great meeting all of you: @AmyMack74, @TaxMegan, @dunkman42, @naturallysassy1, @Mr_Focker, @badtippy, @jland23, @ssimonindc, @LynnieLynn77 and @amcarter. You guys rock!
Unexpected encounter of the day? During the first half someone informed me that IRL driver Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) was also roaming around the suite with us. I had seen him in the suite, but not recognized him as Rahal until it was pointed out to me. So I didn’t think much of it. But during the 3rd quarter as I was standing watching the game, Graham and his girlfriend Katie Osborne (@ktmosborne) came up behind me and asked which of our group was the person that had requested to have a picture taken with him. Well, turns out it was @jland23, who happened to disappear for the better part of 30 minutes! So I was looking around and informed them he wasn’t around at the moment. I fully expected Graham to go back to his business and forget about us. But he didn’t. He and Katie stood and talked with myself and some of the group for the rest of the game! Most of the 3rd and 4th quarters. We talked football, racing, golf, workout methods (I was quiet during that portion of the conversation), Ohio sports (he grew up in Columbus) and more. What a great, down to earth guy for a 22 year old IRL super star. Oh yeah, and he got his ticket because AJ Foyt and Casey Irsay couldn’t make it that day! Ha.
This is @Mr_Focker and @GrahamRahal. I’m not in the picture (my batteries died!) but I am just off the left edge, I promise!! No, really, I am. Seriously.
Really enjoyed meeting Graham and Katie. And of course as we were leaving the suite I couldn’t resist relaying to Graham as I said goodbye, “Drive Safe!”
Most importantly of all, the Colts won in dramatic fashion and we were all treated to a spectacular game, a spectacular experience and memories we’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone involved, especially Jim Irsay and the Colts organization for being so good to the fans.
Over the last two days I have become enthralled with the Twitter activity of Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay). He has been using Twitter to reach out to Colts fans with various contests.
This isn’t a recent development as he has done some cash and ticket giveaways over the last few weeks, but he has recently upped the ante, and as someone in the profession of “social”, I can’t look away much to the chagrin of my wife!
He has launched three different contests the last few days with a ton of activity and interest from Colts fans:
Free trip to Hawaii during the Pro Bowl, with some spending cash. He posed a riddle, and awarded the first person to reply to him with the answer with the trip. Went pretty quick.
This is the one that has been the most interesting to me...Inviting 10 fans to join him in his personal suite at Lucias Oil Stadium before tomorrow’s game and also get 2 free tickets to the game, the 10 that can make their case to him via Twitter that they are the Loudest and Proudest Colts fans out there. (Actually was expanded to 11 late last night).
The response to Irsay has been nothing short of fascinating. Just take a quick look at posts directed to @JimIrsay for a quick taste (still going because at least one if not two of the spots still remain). Watching it over my New Year’s Eve and New Years (and I must admit participating in some capacity) has been chaotic and a fascinating at the same time. So I wanted to share some observations that may help us learn from how such ideas and attempts at “customer” engagement can be so powerful in the world of Social Media / Social Collaboration / Social Business / Enterprise 2.0, etc.
What Went Well
An emergent community – Irsay’s “Tweet wall” (found by searching for mentions of @JimIrsay) has become a community for Colts fans in and of itself. No lists necessary, no groups. Just follow tweets targeted at Jim and you see a thriving conversation between Colts fans. I myself shared tweets and direct messages with no less than 10 strangers I have never met but now will probably have as fellow Colts fans to tweet with during and around games!
Winners Picking Winners – Jim did something else cool. After he picked winner #1, he assigned that person to watch the tweets on his “tweet wall” and pick a winner (I believe it was @naturallysassy1). All of a sudden, her “tweet wall” was bombarded with pleas, requests, jokes and new followers. And she picked who she thought was most deserving.
Having Fun Trying to Win – I didn’t tweet near as much as others, particularly those that won. But I did try some creative things here and there. Like my Blue Blood theme (think True Blood) and Breed Blue submissions.
Talking to Winners – My favorite part were some of my direct interactions with people and for some strange reason, most I ended up “tweeting” and “dm’ing” most often all ended up being selected as winners (although one was not able to accept due to family obligations, but received this incredible tweet from Jim in response)! What are the chances? Am I the golden tweeter? I also had an inside track from early winners on what the exact details of the prizes were so I knew what I was playing for.
What Didn’t Go Over Well, In My Opinion
Imposters! – Someone using @JimLrsay (with a little “L” to confuse users) actually caused some confusion and through some inappropriate tweeting actually caused some issues, one very noticeable violation of respect that probably was very emotional for one person. And the account was so difficult to visually detect, I had fear personally some of the tweets could damage Mr. Irsay’s reputation from only partially aware Tweet watchers. He even garnered responses from heavy Twitter media types like Peter King (SI), Bob Glauber (NewsDay), Micheal Smith (ESPN) and Bob Kravitz (IndyStar). But what was amazing, was as soon as people started to pick up on the stunt, it didn’t take long for everyone to “save the community” by raising awareness and calling out the ONE BAD SEED out of hundreds involved to keep a good thing going. Too often risk-averse people would have reacted but shutting the whole thing down, but the REAL Jim Irsay attacked it head on and didn’t let it interrupt his fun with the fans. He magically turned it to his advantage in the eyes of the fans.
Mystery winners – A few selection seemed to come out of left field as this was presented as a Twitter contest, and all of the early winners were very active in Twitter. But one or two selections went to folks that had mysteriously little interaction up to that point. So it zapped the motivation of some participating. Not a horrible thing, but when looking at this from a fan engagement perspective, definitely want to play by the rules you establish in selecting winners and recognizing participants in your game.
All in all, I hated how addicting this was because I probably watched it too much and neglected some time with my family. But I couldn’t look away. Mostly, I came away with even more admiration and respect for Jim Irsay, and that is saying something because I was already a huge fan of the guy. Great work Jim! I hope you keep it up, if not at this furious pace you have begun!
There camaraderie element is so powerful, I’ve “met” many of the people that will be down there as winners tomorrow, and a little part of me wants to go down there and meet some of them in person after the last two days of posting back and forth. But I am fully aware of the “stalker-like” nature of a non-winner showing up to “hover” with the winners until they get whisked into Jim’s suite…to meet him…without me…eh hem…I mean..Congrats to them!!! Guess I’ll just go hang with my carbon friends like I usually do!
The real lesson here, for me, is how an event with some incentives not only motivates people to participate in your activities, but helps build loyalty, community and support that is hard to replicate in other mediums. Kudos to Jim and his Colts staff (assuming he had to have help with this, right?) for being so creative and engaging in a way no other professional sports organization has, as far as I can tell. I only hope I have the creativity to learn from this and apply something similar to the work that I do on a daily basis. Very inspiring to me.
And finally, I’ll see all of you Colts fans tomorrow on Jim’s “tweet wall” trying to win that car!!! More fun!
One of my favorite phrases to use for describing behaviors and critical outcomes of using Social Collaboration tools is “Work Out Loud.” So I was thrilled (from afar) to see some of the tweets around the topic from the Santa Clara version of the E20 Conference a few weeks ago. The terminology emerged from a few sessions, most notably the session by Brian Tullis and Joe Crumpler titled “In the Flow: Patterns of Observable Work.” I also love Joe’s follow-up blog post, Narrating Your Work, as a testimonial to the concepts working in action.
So we’ve got “Working Out Loud” bouncing around with “Observable Work” and “Narrating Your Work” as options we can use to teach folks new behaviors within our companies and ways to leverage open social collaboration capabilities. I think fundamentally each phrase is trying to convey the same point. Although, as I thought about each, I tried to think how people may interpret each phrase if they had never heard them before. I thought some different interpretations were possible, and here is how I am resolving it all in my head:
Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work
Assumption: Narrating Your Work implies the act of journaling (blogging, micro-blogging, etc.)what you are doing in an open way for those interested to find and follow…however, by terminology doesn’t necessarily describe creating the work outputs / deliverables themselves in a manner available for others to consume. It also brings with it a “feel” of an additive activity to already-existing workload, which in my experience, some folks can be reluctant to accept. Joe even addressed that in his post talking about setting the 15 min aside to do so. Now, I realize that the benefits of doing this eventually buys you time back in other areas (email updates, status reports, status meetings, etc.) with a net overall time savings, but the act itself is still framed as a separate activity from the work itself in this phrase.
Whereas Observable Work to me implies creating / modifying / storing your work in places that others can see it, follow it and contribute to it IN PROCESS. The key being that items are available during the course of being worked on, and not waiting until a “final” deliverable to publish to a broader audience.
But those two concepts combined, however, bring it all together. Social-based software platforms can aid in this process, with capabilities that automatically “narrate” your Observable Work activities by publishing notices to the activity streams of your followers or the followers of communities in which you are conducting Observable Work. But the art we develop as socially proficient knowledge workers is where and how to best complement the activity-triggered auto-narrative with our own meta-narrative to achieve the types of positive benefits Joe describes in his blog post above.
I think having two elements with which to break down “Work Out Loud” helps with teaching key behaviors of social collaboration and providing examples of how software capabilities help contribute to each (ex. Wikis/Discussions/Open File Libraries = observable, Blogs/Micro-blogs = narrating).
Speaking of Teaching…We’re at Now, Now
The other fun observation I recently had about Working Out Loud, is that the movie Spaceballs already set this example for us back in the late 80’s with the classic “We’re at Now, now!” scene.
If you don’t know the premise of the scene, Dark Helmet and his faithful number one (Colonel Sandurz) are trying to hunt the good guys and have lost track of them. They get the great idea to watch Spaceballs: The Movie, which they happen to be in the process of filming. But thanks to new “advanced technology”, they have access a VHS version of the in-progress movie. So their plan is to watch scenes ahead of them in the movie to find where the good guys have gone.
The in-process copy of Spaceballs: The Movie is the blog / wiki / micro-blog equivalent of Working Out Loud. Just think of your in-process documents, status update blog posts and daily micro-blog updates as Your Project: The Movie. See the value Dark Helmet got outta having that resource at his disposal, knowing the whereabouts of other characters, without even having to call a production meeting? Unfortunately, it has taken us 23 years to figure out how to apply the genius of Spaceballs to our work environment! So let’s translate the conversation between Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz into teachable lessons we can apply today:
What the hell am I looking at? – Ever get this question when trying to explain the benefits of social collaboration or demonstrate your new social software platform to business partners? It’s a new way of working!
You’re looking at now. Everything that happens now is happening now. – The current status, current issues and current state of deliverables are right in front of you to find easily when you need it.
What happened to then? – By “journaling” your work in this platform, the current information is at the forefront for people that are interested to find, but the history of those stories is retained and easy to find as well. Having your “journal” in emails or stashed away Word documents / PPT files makes finding the right information harder to dig out, or requires access to just the right person to find it in a timely manner.
We’re at Now, now. When will then be now? Soon! – You mean we don’t need as many status meetings? I can keep working and get more work done because you already know what is going on as a result of me Working Out Loud, and can ask your questions or add clarifications real-time instead of waiting for pre-scheduled meetings or status reports? Great!
What? Where? When? WHOOOO!!??!! – Exactly! By shifting your primary work and communications out of knowledge silos and into observable platforms, anyone following the work can answer those questions or find answers to those questions with little effort.
Next week: When searching is your only option to find what is most relevant to you, think Combing the Desert!
I just had one of those “I’m writing an email and I really should be sharing this more broadly!” moments…so I thought I would write a ME2 Tuesday Edition since I’ve been a ME2 slacker lately.
The questions I was posed had to do with concerns over the use of various enterprise social collaboration tools, which is natural. I don’t fault the questions nor the questioners, because this is new to folks and if you haven’t experienced it first hand yet, probably difficult to recognize.
These same concerns are being asked at all enterprises that are investigating the use of social-based platforms to do business. They are great questions to ask, and gladly I had some data to provide some comfort. The primary questions asked were the following:
Will people spend too much time and not get their work done?
Will people misuse / abuse the technology to say inappropriate things?
How do we make clear that these tools are for “business use” only? And will people be able to make that distinction?
Risk perception: “What if people post hate speech?”, “What if people criticize leadership strategy?”, “Don’t these technologies make it easy for valuable information to seep out of the company?”, “Won’t employees use the collaboration software to plan social events instead of for work activities?”
Why these risks rarely come to fruition:
Attribution of content is the norm in business social collaboration software, not anonymity.
Sense of community amongst participants results in quick community reaction to abusive use of the platform.
In addition to organizational leaders, community leaders with earned influence can shape fellow employee’s behavior within the platform.
Many people have been active in public online forums and have learned how to act appropriately in online / transparent contexts.
Compare to email which is mostly private. Contributions to an ESSP are monitored by the entire workforce, thus the temptation or false sense of security to conduct inappropriate communications is less. If anything, this could lower the risk of non-compliant virtual communication.
Next, in terms of limiting usage to “business use” communication only…I offer some caution. While we don’t want this to become viewed as another “Facebook” for employees, encouraging and allowing some interaction that is fun and non-work related (but still within the rules of conduct policies) is a good thing. It helps the virtual environment thrive by building relationships, which then encourages more comfort in business-related sharing.
It seems every company example I have read about that has existing social networks supports this notion vehemently as a critical success factor. The underlying argument – “People talk about non-work topics in meetings and around their desks, why wouldn’t we encourage that in a virtual environment as well?” It really helps with building a sense of community which promotes further business benefits…and I’ve seen this occurring within our internal blogging and micro-blogging community where professional sharing and personal relationship building are balanced very well. Others out there have similar experiences or testimonials to add here?
Now a personal testimonial…a couple of years ago before I got into internal blogging, following internal blogs and enterprise micro-blogging…when I needed a mind break I would read external websites about sports, news, television, etc. But recently I’ve noticed I do much less of that and I spend more of my “down time” at work reading other people’s blogs and posts instead. I still need that mental down time to be effective at focusing deeply on my work. But now, instead, I am using that time to learn about the work of others, build virtual relationships with people I wouldn’t meet or work with otherwise and occasionally teaching / helping others with their questions along the way as well.
So my internal social interactions have replaced my non-work distractions more than they have replaced me focusing on my work deliverables / objectives.
And at the same time, having those connections helps me complete my deliverables / objectives with more community input and help (crowdsourced) along the way!
Any other Enterprise 2.0 practitioners out there seeing similar benefits? Anyone out there who has experienced the opposite and found themselves less effective due to the “vacuum” that is social networking at work?
Thanks for visiting ME2: Monday Enterprise 2.0…my regular foray into exploring professional and personal topics on the tip of my mind. I am realizing as the weather gets nicer and my golfing activity picks up, this may become a bi-weekly / monthly type post instead of a weekly Monday post. Too hard to sit a computer when I could be spending my time outside playing with my kids or hitting a little white ball all over the place!
I am going to start out by saying this is really corny, and I recognize that. But it basically summarizes my primary outcome for working in an enterprise environment: 4C’s – Community Collaboration with Consolidated Consumption. We have collaboration capabilities in place already, but when I listen to employee struggles and study what is missing vs. what is needed…it boils down to being able to collaboration more easily across the organization (cross-silo communities instead of just within team structures) and being able to consume all the data/activity/conversation occurring that is relevant to the person in a simple, aggregated fashion. Simple as that. Corny, but a nice succinct way to describe my desired outcomes.
Top Reads/Tweets of the Week:
Departing from form a bit this week because I have been a little too busy to keep up with anything interesting on Twitter, other than this nice summary of the best reads related to Enterprise 2.0 for the past month. But I’ve been debating something in my mind for the last month or so and I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion.
Last summer I decided that if I was going to have a “professional presence” in the social media space, my moniker of @GolfinBP just wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted something that identified with me as a person a little better than just me as a golfer / fan of golf. So I created a new account that is @TheBrycesWrite. I would have just dropped @GolfinBP, but I was quite happy with the following I had established as a sports fan (primarily NFL and golf related people) and I didn’t want to mess with losing that. Plus, as I advertised my “professional presence” a bit more I didn’t think people would be interested in my ramblings about the Colts, my toddlers, The Masters and my incredibly overwhelming DVR habits! And this was before Twitter enhanced the lists function, so I also wanted a nice segregated “feed” of the very different content I followed with each account.
So I have been trying to manage each since then, mostly talking personal topics as @GolfinBP and reserving any E2.0-related tweets for @TheBrycesWrite. But I think the time for that has come to an end. I don’t regret that I did it because I was still testing the waters for what I felt comfortable interacting with in a public forum related to my work, but I have become a bit more comfortable with that now and I understand better where my boundaries lie for what I should and should not discuss in public. This blog has also been an exercise in learning how to discuss interesting content while respecting the boundaries I need to consider as an employee of Lilly.
Thus, over the next couple of weeks I’ll be shifting my tweet activity to @TheBrycesWrite full-time and attempting to get some of my @GolfinBP followers to come with me (as well as attempting to ditch some of the unwanted ones as well 😉 ). And I’ll be making better use of lists to aid in my ability to consume what I need based on what I am looking for at a particular point in time (Enterprise 2.0, Football, Golf, Friends, TV, etc.) So THAT should be a fun process! I am sitting at 1,496 tweets on the @GolfinBP account, so maybe I’ll just stop at 1,500 even! That will be tough given that tonight is the NCAA championship and this is Master’s week. Not sure I can go completely cold turkey!
But really what it means is that my @TheBrycesWrite account will become much more active now!
With Butler in the NCAA Championship tonight and The Masters starting this week, I couldn’t talk just one sporting topic. So going with two.
Sports Minute I:
My wife and I earned our MBAs at Butler a few years ago before we had our children. Less than 2 years after we finished undergrad (at Miami of Ohio), she told me one day “I’m bored, we either need to have children now or go back to school.” I said “Where’s the application?!?”
So needless to say this is a great week for our schools. Butler plays tonight in an improbable run to a chance at the National Championship, and Miami hockey is the #1 seed in the Frozen Four tournament and playing on Thursday night this week for a chance to play for the championship. I am going to be at Miami’s campus on Friday, so I certainly hope they win so the mood is good around campus.
Also, my wife’s sister is a student at Duke and we were down there to visit this past Thanksgiving. So I am sure the family/school rivalry jabs will be flying across Facebook tonight during the game! Should be a fun evening for all of us (well, except my brother-in-law, who is a Kentucky fan an expected the Wildcats to be in this position and is probably still sulking a little, but I can throw some jabs his way too just for fun).
Sports Minute II:
I am going to do my best to talk Masters and not focus solely on the whole “Tiger returns” thing like every other medium you might read…darn…just did it.
I usually pull for Phil Mickleson at the Masters just because I know how exciting watching tournaments and listening to crowds is when he plays well. But this year I have another sentimental favorite: Ernie Els. I know he wants nothing more than to win at Augusta and he is playing really well lately. Plus his recent public work to raise money for autism and coming out and talking about his family experience with a child with autism is pretty cool stuff. So here’s hoping Ernie has a great week! If only Ernie were on Twitter! Love following pro golfers on Twitter.
Practice Safe Social – Another Enterprise 2.0 Benefit
One consistent theme from my work interactions last week was with a few different teams beginning to research the use of external social media to conduct their respective business affairs. The other consistent element, from my own informal observation, is that most of the individuals on those teams have limited experience in social media beyond Facebook interactions within their personal inner circle.
This is the reason why anytime a team / person approaches me about utilization of external social media for business purposes, I encourage them to first experiment as a team with our internal social collaboration community (of course my hidden agenda is driving further adoption by intelligent individuals in the organization!). Emerge yourself and/or your team in the style of communication, the syntax of the tools and the etiquette of the community…because much of that environment internal to organizations is rooted in behaviors adopted from and technology emulating the recent and rampant success of Web 2.0. Taking the time to learn those behaviors in what should be a more forgiving environment, particularly if your role is representing a large corporation in a public forum, is valuable experience. Plus there are likely individuals participating that have some Web 2.0 proficiency that can help shape those external engagement efforts.
So if you are building a business case for expanding the Enterprise 2.0 footprint within your organization AND if you know that your organization is still maturing its external social media presence (who isn’t, really?)…then add this to your bullet list of benefits.
Getting Real with E2.0 – My best example from the week of people using E2.0 to generate value in the work environment:
I am as guilty of this as anyone…but if I am walking somewhere and I see someone confused, I am not the type to stop regularly and help unless they look to be in severe distress. I am always amazed within “social collaboration environment”, however, how willing and anxious people are to help others with a question or experiencing confusion in that environment. The percentage of “help provided to those in need of help” to me seems higher than real life. Has that been studied yet?
Serving as an example the last two weeks, we have had a bit of a bump in members within our micro-blogging environment. Most are not only new to the environment, but to communicating using social tools period. And as those folks have jumped in, it has been nice to see so many positive examples of people sharing links to best practices or help guides, answering questions AND gently pointing out corrections to syntax (ie proper use of “@” or “#” in a post) for those trying to target their communications. For any decision-makers concerned about social media tools being a gateway to abusive conversation…there are 900x more examples of the community encouraging one another and probably being more helpful to one another in a social collaboration environment than they are in person (if they are anything like me!).
Top Reads/Tweets of the Week:
@dhinchcliffe: “Q&A: Enterprise 2.0 changing the way we workhttp://bit.ly/avixCxNew interview with @amcafee” – Great interview and succinct answers from Andrew McAfee about Enterprise 2.0.
So as is my tradition for at least 8 years, I take some vacation time on Thursday and/or Friday on opening weekend of the NCAA tournaments to enjoy two of the best sports days of the year. But this year it was combined with an extremely busy work week that took every minute to keep up with my commitments. So when I arose Saturday morning and took a quick inventory of what I had missed…I had 150+ unread emails, 800+ unread articles on Google Reader, ~20 internal blog posts I wanted to check out, MIA from Facebook and close to zero time in work or personal micro-blogging world. The nice thing about all of that? I felt obligated to check and understand nearly all of those emails…but the social sources were voluntary consumption for my own interest/benefit that I could consume and filter I as I saw fit.
BTW…Villanova and Kansas losing are probably the best things that could have happened to my bracket. Granted I missed those picks, but downstream it really works in my favor. I am now a huge fair weather fan of Kentucky, Kansas State, Ohio State and anyone that will beat Baylor really soon.
TV Minute (re-purposed):
This really has nothing to do with TV, but I thought this story was better than anything I saw on TV this week. Another unique story about why I like using Twitter as a news source these days.
Last week my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin were vacationing in Hilton Head, South Carolina at the Palmetto Dunes beach. I usually am dense to the whereabouts of people other than myself (and sometimes I struggle with that too), but for some reason the fact they were there stuck with me. On Monday after watching 24 and heading to bed, I decided to check Twitter real quick for the latest. “Breaking News: Airplane crashes on beach in Hilton Head, SC…killing male jogger http://……..”
Whoa. Sinking feeling. “Hilton Head’s a big place. But weird this was posted and weird I decided to check instead of going to bed (it was almost midnight and I had to work the next day.) I’m sure it is somewhere else on the island.”
Click on link. “Plane crashes on Palmetto Dunes beach.” Double whoa. Time to make some phone calls. 15 minutes later I had confirmation that my family was fine.
Ends up my family members were okay, but the plane crashed on the beach right outside the place they were staying, and they had been in that area on the beach only 60-90 minutes before the plane crashed. Later in the week during a presentation I was giving someone from the audience asked me why I regularly look to Twitter for my current news instead of other more traditional sources (Google search, CNN, newspaper, etc.) and I immediately recalled this example from just 3 days earlier. Real-time news travels fast.