Working Out Loud: Three Years Later

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In about one month, my first blog post about Working Out Loud will be three years old: When Will We Work Out Loud? Soon!

Club Championship

I’ve been thinking about adding it to the family picture.

But during recent months I’ve started to feel a bit hypocritical on the topic. Do I practice what I preach within my place of work? Yes, fairly consistently. I’m the fastest converter of an email transaction into reusable knowledge this side of the Mississippi. However, I’ve been severely lacking in the amount of sharing and engaging I do in the real open. In the public domain.

Cheerleading

The ironic part about my relative public silence on the topic has been that the blog post (in all of its Spaceballs glory) will receive 10 times more views during 2013 than it did during all of 2011-2012 combined. But certainly not by my doing. We all have the likes of John Stepper, Luis Suarez, Dennis Pearce, Julian Stodd (among others) to thank for so eloquently enhancing, advancing and amplifying the message.

In fact, finding John’s and my blogs spotlighted in the recently released “Social Collaboration for Dummies” book by David F. Carr partly inspired today’s post. I realized that each pingback I receive and each reference I serendipitously discover gives me a sense of pride similar to what I tend to feel watching my own children achieve. It’s been fun to witness what feels like a mini-movement taking off. Just this past week alone you saw references to “working out loud” on Twitter at #jiveworld, and simultaneously at the #DevLearn conference happening across town in Vegas.

(No offense John, but the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw us referenced together in David’s book was “Social Collaboration By Dummies, for Dummies!”) :). But it’s also proof that the concept works.

Full transparency note: I received a complimentary e-copy of Social Collaboration for Dummies from David.

FFL Coach

Can I blame my relative silence on an amazing summer of golf club tournament championships, coaching flag football, watching 3rd grade cheerleading events, helping the kids practice piano, and raising a new puppy? Well, I basically just did. But I know as well as anyone that personal discipline is really to blame. But the weather’s turning around here, so as I turn on the heat, I can more easily turn up the volume.

So how have things changed in the last three years with respect to Working Out Loud? I can think of no better way to reflect than through references to my old trusty…Spaceballs!

  • I’m My Own Best Friend – People are realizing that shifting what you are already doing to a style more conducive to “Working Out Loud” doesn’t just benefit their colleagues and organizations down stream, it increases the Return on Effort (ROE) they get for the time put into the exact same work. More visibility. More potential amplification and recognition for the same amount of work. My three year old blog post is an example of its very own point.
  • You Went Over My Helmet? – We now understand better that one of the most common roadblock associated with Working Out Loud is the fear of potential retribution for bypassing “proper channels of communication” through the enterprise hierarchy. This is an area that I think we need to continue to evolve, share real success stories to give people the tools and confidence to tackle Working Out Loud in a manner that makes them feel at least a little more “safe”…and not subject to “THAT!” What success stories do you have to share that may help people feel more comfortable in this regard?
  • The Bleeps, The Sweeps and The Creeps – The What? The What? And the What? We’re doing a better job of speaking a language that real business practitioners can understand. Instead of terms like “Enterprise 2.0”, “Facebook for the Enterprise” and “Social Networking,” which we used heavily in 2010, terms such as “Working Out Loud”, “Narrating Your Work” and “Higher Return on YOUR Effort” are resonating better with our business counterparts. Even my older post about Horizontal Collaboration has maintained a consistent flow of visits.
  • Ludicrous Speed! – I think three years ago, we were optimistic to think that by 2013 we would have achieved a much higher success rate of “light bulbs” and adoption within large enterprises. Now we are more realistic about how long such a significant shift in behavior and culture will take. We’re now more encouraged by baby steps and daily incremental progress vs. our expectations that “social” was about to “go viral” in 2010 and not getting on the train immediate was a competitive disadvantage. Susan Scrupski captured some industry sentiment on this topic back in 2012. Maybe Light Speed is good enough for now :). I know I don’t look good in plaid, personally.
  • 1,2,3,4,5 – Security and Social. I think we’ve done a lot in the last three years to help dispel concerns around compliance and security related to “social in the enterprise”. In 2010, the main concerns I was dealing with were protecting the loss of IP, preventing people from providing “wrong answers” and inappropriate employee behavior. Now it seems there are enough success stories and examples that the conversation has shifted more to adoption and helping demonstrate the value of shifting our collaboration behaviors. We’ve demonstrated that being “social” doesn’t necessarily open up new risks, but can in fact be more successful at bringing risk to the forefront earlier and when there is still a chance to remedy the issue…in contrast to when inappropriate behaviors occurr out of pure naivete, in private channels, and aren’t discovered until it is too late to remedy…leaving only damage control to come to the rescue.

So in summary, the most concrete conclusion we can make after three years is that…everything I’ve learned about Working Out Loud…I learned from watching hours of Spaceballs in college 🙂

I’d love to hear your perspective of how things have changed in the last three years for you with respect to Working Out Loud, and what do you see coming in the next three years?


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Working Out Loud Stories: OH – Someone Working Softly

I’ll help translate a little for those not down with the lingo: OH = Overheard.

This week I had the unique experience of overhearing an example of working softly. They were killing me softly with their example, one time…one time. (Sorry, couldn’t resist) It was a situation where understanding how to work out loud, and having an understanding of methods to utilize how others have worked out loud would have saved this person some time and some pain.

OK, here’s the situation…

I work in an open style work environment where desks are first come first served, and some days you can be working around people you’ve never met…as I was on this day. I was chugging away on my own work (hopefully not writing an email for the sake of my #socbiz street cred), when I innocently overheard a phone conversation between someone I didn’t know and our IT help desk.

Some background first. A few hundred early adopters are receiving an operating system upgrade that isn’t widespread across the company yet, and thus there are a few behaviors that are new to all of us, unique to the early adopters, and thus not widely known to the help desk yet (through no fault of their own). Our early adopters have been using a social community to share learnings, tips and troubleshoot issues with the new OS.

One specific issue that a few people came across and used the community to solve was related to viewing streaming video. I happened to come across the same problem myself earlier, so I knew of the exact thread which contained the answer, which was about a 30 second setting change.

Back to my new friend on the phone. He was reporting the same problem to a rep at the help desk, and I could hear them walking through some trial and error steps that I knew weren’t going to help. If I had known the person’s name I could have IM’d him a link to the thread. But I didn’t feel right interrupting the phone call. So I decided to wait.

Twenty minutes later, he was still on the phone, now logging a ticket that would escalate the issue to another tier of support to get back with him later. But I had to run to a meeting, so couldn’t let him know what I knew until I got back. But when I returned an hour later, he was gone and I still didn’t know his name. So unless we ran into one another again, I had lost my opportunity to help…my way.

I figured he had spent at least 30 minutes on the phone without getting his issue resolved, and who knows what he has gone through since or if he ever even found the solution? Even if it had taken him 15 minutes of his work time searching our community platform to find the answer, he would have come out ahead. A skill that investing 15 minutes to learn more about would have already paid him back in time savings.

Or, if he had posted his issue as a new question in the 700+ person community, someone aware of the already existing thread probably would have replied in less than 30 minutes with a link to the easy solution. And during that time he likely could have gone back to other tasks.

Or even better yet, imagine if I had been someone he knew better, overhearing that phone call, and if I would have had the comfort level to just jump in? Ambient awareness and word of mouth could have brought value to the situation even if the thread itself wasn’t directly used to fix the problem.

No matter how you slice it, this situation could have been helped by thinking with a “working out loud” mindset first. Or if I had the guts to interrupt the phone call…but I was taught to not interrupt people 🙂

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

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 🙂 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!”