Expert Discussion: Working Out Loud – a new buzzword or a “substantial approach” to transformational change?

In our revised Google Hangout series we are linking to this week’s call-out for actively engage with the concept of “Working Out Loud” in alignment with the “#wolweek” initiative. What the heck is “working out loud”? – you may ask! It’s the same question that I asked as a non-English-native in a Google conversation with Susan Scrupski two years ago. To me the term represented just another idiomatic expressions of the English tech scene and somehow resembled an expression for a new way of self-discovery.

Recently the term has become a new uprise with the newly published book of John Stepper: “Working out loud – For a better career and life”. While this title pins the term again on my second thought about the expression, the approach is more than interesting as the author is not just a new “kid on the block” but long-term subject-matter expert and one of the key persons of a transformational program at the Deutsche Bank.

And with the “#wolweek” running this week it was clear that we had to put this topic on the agenda of our Google Hangout series. In order to prepare for today’s discussion I have put together some background information and open questions/issues to be discussed in the panel.

History & term definition of “Working out loud”

The term derives from the English idiom “Thinking Out Loud” – as the “act of expressing in recoverable and external form new thoughts which you encourage your mind into exploring”. “Working out loud” represents therefore the act of expression what you are working on. The idea of the term is evolved from the discussion of the “Observable Work” – that was firstly talked about by Brian Tullis and Joe Crumpler at the E20 Conference in Santa Clara in 2010 (see also these two posts by Joe Crumpler on “Observable Work” and the session at E20Conf). In a following blog post Bryce Write brought up the first definition and John Stepper brought life to the expression with his various contributions.

The academic foundation of this idea is related to the Action Research Theory as an act of expressed self-reflexion – with the objective of changing one’s habit. With doing this kind of openly expressed self-reflexion in an open social collaboration environment – the individual change intervention even outreaches on a team and organizational level as the personally storytelling effects the collective purpose building.

In the following I have listed some key definitions of the term and the idea:

  • Brian Tullis & Joe Crumpler: “Observable Work – generic patterns that make work products more visible and the activity of work more transparent”
  • Bryce Write: “Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work.”
  • John Stepper: “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.”

The latter definition of John Stepper outlines the objective of the “WOL” doing to the creation of purpose – therefore clearly to the social dimension of doing it. He has defined five elements for “working out loud”:

  • Make your work visible – post it somewhere people can find it
  • Make work better – find ways to improve it
  • Lead with generosity – frame posts as contributions rather than self-promotion
  • Build a social network – develop real relationships
  • Make it all purposeful – stay focused on a goal

In a way – “WOL” represents the way of “Walking the talk” of the transformation than just “Talking the walk”.

“WOL” as a transformational approach – open issues to be discussed!

While the approach is already very much discussed it still needs some reflections on the concrete practical establishment and its organizational prerequisites. These are the key aspects that we are going to discuss in today’s session. For this I have invited some very insightful crowd of people to talk to and defined some key questions to talk about:

Guests on the today’s show:

Key questions to be discussed:

  • What are the key benefits for the individual and the organization of “working out loud”?
  • What are the main requirements to be realized before starting the “working out loud” initiative?
  • What are the actions to enable people of “working out loud” in a benefitting, purposeful and engaged way?
  • What are the lessons learned from the practical work and enablement for “working out loud” initiatives?

I am very much looking forward to this discussion. If you want to follow the discussion in realtime – hook up to this Google Hangout event or watch the following Youtube stream: