Asking Out Loud #wolweek

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

Asking Out Loud = Reuse Awareness + Expertise Discovery

asking for help

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

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

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

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

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

Asking Out Loud.

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

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

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

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Working Out Loud Behaviors to Develop during #WOLWeek

#wolweek

This week is going to be fun. Nov 17th through Nov 24th. WOLWeek 2014 People from all over the world coming together via the inter-webs to develop and practice the art of Working Out Loud…to improve their productivity…make connections…spark ideas…and further a movement. What a thrill it is to see the expansion of such a simple concept (When Will We Work Out Loud? Soon!) into the transition to a larger movement. Thanks to the likes of Jonathan Anthony, Austen Hunter and Simon Terry. You know that original post I wrote was posted on Nov 29th, 2010? So this version of #wolweek culminates within days of the four year anniversary of my first post on the topic. I’m moved myself reading some of the previews and set up for #wolweek:

As a precursor into this week’s activities, I would like to introduce some new classifications of behaviors that you may want to try and spread to others around you to help with the adoption and effectiveness of your own local #wol movement. I’ve taken the behaviors that I have observed in our own Enterprise Social Network (ESN) that drive the greatest success stories, and organized them in to “behaviors” that you can take and apply to your own application of bringing “social” and “sharing” into your work environment.

From Working Out Loud -> The xOL Light Bulb

Working Out Loud = Narrating Your Work + Observable Work

In the early days of trying to grasp the hows and the whys of this “enterprise social” thing, I focused very hard on the coaching behaviors of the individual, encouraging them to shift how they worked to make their knowledge, conclusions, activities and deliverables more open and visible to  others. Change you. Dare to share. Put yourself and your knowledge out there for more people to see, consume and contribute. I can even share from my own experience this past week, as I decided to put a lot of “future considerations” I was working on (but hadn’t prioritized yet) out in the open within my own organization (via blog posts, wiki pages, video demos). Via my own fears or reservations I’d been holding what I was considering close to the vest. And the return I received from sharing was immediate:

  • It provided incredible ease of educating multiple people about possibilities because I’d already captured the concepts openly (shared with people that wanted to leverage what I was working on, or people I’d need to get approval from before I could proceed with the work).
  • It helped identify new opportunities from corners of the organization I hadn’t considered…triggering their own ideas of how to leverage what I was thinking about, at a time when I didn’t know if any interest would exist at all.
  • And people openly responding with new ideas on how to apply that work that I hadn’t yet considered.

And that’s all great. Those behaviors and realization of the benefits has resonated…with some. But after a certain amount of time, I began to realize that there were other key “Out Loud” behaviors emerging by knowledge workers in our network that contributed just as much if not more to the cause than what we’ve described as “Working Out Loud”. Maybe we can call them sub-behaviors of WOL. And some of those behaviors seem to be even more natural for people to pick up as they look to leverage “social” technology to get work done and connect with others. Behaviors that seem to reduce the hurdles of being a contributor to communities & networks…more than just trying to narrate work via a blog, or create observable work by storing it in open locations that generate activity streams to interested communities. Let’s boil these down into the concept of “xOL” behaviors. At least those that I’ve observed and found to be most effective to date in my own experiences.

Are these acronyms going to get me into trouble? Hmmmm… In the interest of keeping everyone engaged the entire week, and not starting off with a 3,000 word manifesto, my plan during #wolweek will be to share a new post each day that further defines and explores each of the xOL concepts above with examples and descriptions of how they may help you personally and your organization. And maybe Friday we’ll save for a new xOL I haven’t identified yet that emerges from the sharing and conversation that takes place during the week. And we’ll see if, for fun, I can throw in a few related Spaceballs references as well just to keep the theme alive :). Stay tuned! I’m looking forward to being inspired while learning from all those that will be sharing and participating in #wolweek! *Open Leadership – Credit: Charlene Li **Open Innovation – Credit: Henry Chesbrough ***Learning Out Loud – Credit: Harold Jarche