You may not be familiar with the term working out loud, but chances are you already use the principles behind the concept in your personal life: narration and social collaboration. Whether you’re a foodie posting your Sunday brunch on instagram, or a travel junkie posting a video of you frolicking with a baby elephant on Facebook, you know how to use various channels to share experiences with friends and family on a daily basis.
But are you using the same behavior to your advantage in the workplace?
Working out loud is a term that gained popularity over recent years and describes the new ways people are bringing social collaboration and narration techniques into the workplace. When Bryce Williams coined the term in 2010, he defined Working Out Loud with a simple formula:
Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work.
“Narrating Your Work” is the act of creating rich content through blogging or microblogging. Before I delve deeper, many people are instantly turned off by the thought of writing anything. Don’t be! It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) a mundane, time-consuming task to check off a list. Sharing your expertise in a casual, accessible way will greatly benefit others in your organization. Your team members will visit the resulting collection of content again and again when they encounter questions or road blocks, and the few minutes you spent writing the blog in the first place will save you much more time answering questions in the long run.
“Observable Work” is creating a space where others can engage with your content. This could be a wiki, discussion forum, enterprise social collaboration tool, etc.
Here are the five elements of Working Out Loud, according to Stepper:
- Make your work visible – Post it somewhere people can find it and engage with it. You want your work to be in process, where people can comment, like, agree/disagree. It should be a conversation to help inspire new ideas.
- Make work better – Find ways to improve it. This is where feedback is key. Your readers help shape the final product through their contributions to your posts.
- Lead with generosity – Frame posts as contributions rather than self-promotion. Make sure you are also liking and commenting on other posts. Doing this connects you with your audience and build good rapport.
- Build a social network – Develop real relationships. What you’re writing about helps people discover content and useful information. This is a great networking opportunity and a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Make it purposeful – Stay focused on a goal. Track what you’re doing to reach your goals.
This is a great set of guidelines to begin working out loud yourself. If your goal is to spark interest in working out loud in others within the organization try these best practices as well:
- Create a space for Working Out Loud. Now that you understand what Working Out Loud looks like, set your workplace with tools and programs that allow you to share different types of content (docs, photos, links, videos, etc.). This solution could include advanced search capabilities or have social networking features.
- Provide coaching and mentorship. Some people will be afraid or uncomfortable about sharing, others will share too much, or too often. It’s useful to have someone who can be a sounding board for what and when to share, and to provide feedback along the way.
- Make it easy. Choose a solution that’s easy-to-use and includes mobile apps, browser extensions, email compatibility, single sign-on, and integrates with commonly used applications.
- Give an incentive for participation. This may include public recognition that can be as simple as a mention in an email, or doing something a little more elaborate like giving gift cards to reward content that spurs conversation.
- Model the behavior you want to see. For employees to feel more comfortable sharing their work, they need to see it happening at the highest levels. That means that the senior management needs to be fully bought in and participating in Working Out Loud – showing their own work and asking for feedback.
If you haven’t already, give working out loud a shot. You will quickly see the positive impact others’ feedback has on productivity and collaboration. Give everyone a voice in the organization, and allow their expertise to be sought by others.
This post was originally published on April 1, 2015 and has been refurbished to reflect current best practices.