November 20, 2015

Working out Loud

The term ‘Working out Loud’ has not been around long, but it’s gaining traction in the business world. Why? Because it resonates with the way that people like to work today and how people will increasingly work in the future.

What is Working out Loud exactly? The phrase was coined in 2010 by Bryce Williams, an IT consultant at the pharmaceutical organisation, Eli Lilly & Company, and he encapsulated its meaning with a very simple formula:

Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work

That is Working Out Loud explained in its most basic, simplest form. John Stepper, MD at Deutsche Bank, who has recently published the book ‘Working Out Loud’, elaborates on the concept:

‘Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities,’ he says.

Stepper goes on to highlight five elements that constitute Working Out Loud. They are:

– Making your work visible
– Making work better
– Leading with generosity
– Building a social network
– Making it all purposeful

What Working Out Loud most definitely is not about is boasting, loud talking, shouting others down…Instead, it is about collaboration, networking, sharing ideas, asking for help and contributing help.

Of course, some people have always chosen to work this way – sharing, collaborating, asking others for help and ideas. That is not in itself new, although some of the latest ways of doing it are new – communities of practice, peer to peer portals, etc. These are all modern day tools that are very well suited to Working Out Loud and are becoming increasingly embedded in the workplace.

It is a way of working (and living) that chimes particularly well with the digital mindset. This is what makes it so appealing to modern day workers, particularly the younger generation who have grown up collaborating, sharing and making the most of digital platforms on a daily basis. And that is why the concept is gaining in popularity and credibility. We’ve just had Working Out Loud week, a global initiative to explain and promote the concept.

One thing that proponents like to emphasise is that Working Out Loud is not about having a constant, noisy presence on social media networks and working visibly without giving any thought to the process. It is supposed to be a meaningful way of working that benefits individuals and organisations.

Let’s return to Stepper’s 5 key elements and look into them in a little more depth:

Making your work visible – that is pretty self explanatory
Making work better – a central premise of Working Out Loud is putting your work out there for other people to see, inviting their input and feedback and making work better as a result.
Leading with generosity – it’s not about a person singing their own praises or promoting their services, it’s about engaging with others in a process. The idea is that they learn and develop from Working Out Loud too.
Building a social network – working visibly and collaboratively broadens connections and networks.
Making it all purposeful – in order for it to be effective, there needs to be a purpose behind it, rather than noise for the sake of noise.

When done well, Working Out Loud can be of huge benefit to individuals, teams and organisations.