Thursday, 21 May 2015

When Working Out Loud isn't really WOL

So Working Out Loud (or WOL) is a pretty big buzz these days and if you've not picked up on it there's plenty of information out there telling you all about how to be working out in the open.  In simple terms it's about being far more transparent in the way we work, sharing and showing your work both the good stuff you do and other material too - learning opportunities if you will.  As with all buzzes though there's a fair deal of misinterpretation about what WOL actually is and what it refers to and perhaps even more importantly how to do it.

Here's a few areas that I think people are going wrong when they talk WOL:

1) "It takes me three times as long to work out loud.  I need to reproduce and present everything now, I've got to edit, re-edit and then post it up".  If that's you, stop, take a breath and reflect on what you're doing.  WOL isn't about presenting anything, but that's probably the biggest misconception.  WOL is about working in a visible space not preparing and presenting in that space.  If you're working on a document for instance you could work on a Google doc or a doc that others could contribute to, rather than turning that into a presentation for the sole purpose of 'working out loud'.

2) "I don't like to boast about what I do".  Unfortunately a lot of people misinterpret WOL and end up using social media (among others) to spread the word of just how wonderful and successful they are.  Think about some of the issues with Facebook and how it can make some people seem like they've got perfect families and jobs and wow, look at me.  Instead when we work out loud we share the reality of what we do.  That means spending every bit as long on the difficulties and learnings as we do on the roaring successes. We absolutely should share the success stories, but I don't think I've ever seen an example of a perfect project or points when we couldn't have used a little help.  If you're sharing success that's great but it's not the end of the story - how can the success help others in their work?

3) "I don't have time".  This is fundamentally incorrect for me as I think WOL is not about blogging and presenting but an attitude. I've blogged before that time is never the reason we don't do things, it's about priorities; if it was important enough to us we'd re-organise what we do.  Me, I don't always blog - in fact I've been nearly a month without writing about learning in one way or another in a blog. In a Twitter chat last week one of my peers commented on the fact that I wasn't working out loud, but I don't agree with this. Blogging is one medium for WOL but it's not the only way - in fact some people write blogs as a mouthpiece or as a bragging example (see 2 above), me I don't think I do - they're conversational and they're my take on the situation - I think blogs are a great form of WOL if you do it this way and then interact with the comments on your blog.  But if I don't blog that doesn't mean I'm not WOL.  I was in a meeting today and I continually asked questions and started forming views out loud with the team.  WOL is a way of sharing and exploring in a public arena - that makes it an attitude, and you always have time for the right attitude.

4) "I don't do Social Media".  Somebody out there still says this right? I hope not, but even if this was your stance there's a huge misconception that WOL is limited to social media like blogging tools, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  I WOL as a practice and I do this in the office, on my whiteboard, in the collaborative tools I use and even when I speak (I've been known to form new ideas, change them and take new directions whilst actively involved in conversation).  This comes partly back to my previous point that WOL is an attitude and partly down to the fact that the media for sharing and collaboratively working is less important than the action.  Share and learn, wherever you choose to do it.

5)"WOL is just a buzz-phrase, so I don't".  I hear you, not sure I like it myself, not long ago I called it "blurting", I've called it learning out loud (LOL - lol!) or just life really.  It's less about the label or a 'thing' and more about an attitude or a way of working.  I love working out loud and the benefits it brings to me, sharing success and learning opportunities along the way. If the buzz attracts others to a more effective way of working I'm cool with that - if it puts them off then they were unlikely candidates for truly sharing this way anyways...

In short, WOL is a really good way to work in a more collaborative environment beyond yourself, beyond your self chosen network and out there in the open.  If you don't agree I'm cool with that, comment and maybe I'll change my mind - that'll happen in the public arena too of course :)