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 ūüôā

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

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Working Out Loud Stories: Reply with a Link Instead

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

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

Working Out Loud about Working Out Loud:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Out Loud with Stories about Working Out Loud

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 ūüôā 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.

Each time my blog was linked to over the last 2 years I was flattered, but also embarrassed at how my blog looked and that my last post was 2 years ago, about winning a Twitter contest to hang with the owner of the Colts! So I’ve finally prioritized some things well enough to remedy that embarrassment.

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.

“May the Schwartz be with you!”

Tweeting with Jim Irsay: A Suite Experience

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!

Field Pass -You can see most of my field experience from the photos in this album and the videos I uploaded to my YouTube channel. But the most exciting moment (no offense Mayor Ballard) was being on the field during warm-ups while Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight” played.

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.

Now, Go Colts, beat the Jets!!

Colts Weekend with Jim Irsay and Other Fun Tweeps

Thought I would share a quick note for any Colts fans out there about the weekend I had.¬† I am going to write a longer post detailing my full experience on Sunday, but don’t have time at the moment. But wanted to quickly highlights things I’ve already published.

I spent the better part of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day tweeting with¬†@JimIrsay and¬†MANY other big Colts fans trying to win a day in Jim’s suite for the Colts v Titans game, and to meet him before the game.¬† Jim offered the prize (in addition to contests for a Hawaii trip and a free Prius) to 10 fans on Twitter that could show him they were the biggest Colts fans around. I was selected late Sat night as a winner after nearly 48 hours of driving my wife crazy.

Irsay and TheBrycesWrite at Colts game.jpg

 

Here is the blog post I wrote BEFORE I found out I won, and which likely could have been why I was selected.

Here are my pictures from the event, which I only was able to take until halftime because my phone ran out of batteries from taking so many pics and videos.

And here are a few videos I recorded while down on the field during warm ups!

 

You can also check out my tweet history on what it took to get there @TheBrycesWrite.

Look for a new blog post coming soon highlighting the day, including talking with Irsay directly, spending the 2nd half with Graham Rahal, leaving my very understanding wife in the nose bleeds and how a social networking “community” like Twitter made it all happen and made it much more than just an afternoon!

Case Study: Tweeting with Colts Owner Jim Irsay

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!

Jim Irsay

He has launched three different contests the last few days with a ton of activity and interest from Colts fans:

  1. 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.
  2. Free Toyota Prius with $4,000 in the glove compartment. ¬†This will occur tomorrow starting at 1pm before the Colts vs. Titans game, and the winner must be the first to correctly answer a trivia question. You know I’ll be participating!
  3. 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

  1. 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!
  2. Fans Helping Fans – A lot of the tweets are people making a case for themselves and not interacting with anyone else, but a surprisingly high number of tweets are fans that realize there are those more needy than themselves or less likely to ever get to a game. So you started to see tweeters building campaigns for strangers to win instead of themselves!
  3. 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.
  4. Colts Picking Winners – Next Jim assigned one of his players, punter Pat McAfee (@Pat1McAfee), an active tweeter himself, to identify another winner. He did something that ended up being really neat to watch via Twitter. He enlisted popular teammate and fellow Tweeter Pierre Garcon (Garcon! Garcon!) to make an impromptu trip downtown, asking fans to meet them there. The winner would be the person with the best touchdown celebration dance. I couldn’t make it due to family obligations, but this lucky winner probably had some great moves, and likely was flagged for excessive celebration by any refs in the area!
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

Go Colts!

When will we Work Out Loud? Soon!

Breaking Down “Work Out Loud”

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‚Ķhowever, 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‚ĶWe’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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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!