Working out Loud and Why You Should Try It

Jan Schauenberg
29 November 2019

You may not be familiar with the term ‘working out loud’ but the chances are high that you are already using the principles behind it in your daily conversations, narrations, and social collaborations. We somehow narrate what is going on in our lives as well as what interests us to our friends and relations. “Working out loud” is more than a trend; it is about using this behaviour to boost productivity in your workplace and life.


So what is “working out loud”?

Simply put, working out loud is a combination of observable work and narrating the work. To begin with, ‘narrating your work’ means creating rich content around your work by blogging, discussing on forums and social media. Narrating could get you help from those who are also experienced in the subject or have ideas about it. Additionally, narrating could help those who are still amateurs in the particular field to get ready solutions. In the end, narrating enables for other people to be beneficial to you and your project and at the same time, you become of benefit to others.

By working out loud, you build meaningful relationships with the possibility of harnessing opportunities and the power of sharing knowledge with digital transformation. For starters, social media and mobile have become enablers of working out loud – the two provide cost-effective, efficient and easy ways for narrating, discussing, and building an innovative and collaborative culture. For organizations, working out loud is transforming collaboration giving birth to great productivity and profitability. Working out loud allows for all of us to do our jobs better, and smarter.

‘Observable work’ is strategically posting your work publicly so that people would have an opportunity to interrogate and engage with your ideas/project/content through wikis, discussions, enterprise social collaboration tools, and forums.

Transforming to new ways of working

This new way of working out loud has the following characteristics:

The working out loud approach works in and promotes self-organizing teams that are cross-functional. Self-organizing teams take ownership of how they work and continuously evolve through having a continuous improvement mindset, that is, where they are today is not where they will be six months from now. Transparency in communication becomes  a natural part in these teams. There is no hierarchy, creative freedom is encouraged, and team performance is esteemed above individual performance.

Secondly, there is a transformation of mindsets as well as the culture. A culture of continuous growth and development is encouraged as opposed to fear of making mistakes. There is more of coaching and supportive working environment with more of discipline as opposed to compliance. People’s capacities are stretched instead of being constrained.

Elements of Working Out Loud

Here is a look at the five elements that make up the working out loud approach:

1. Relationships – Work on real deep relationships that build trust; it is an opportunity for networking as there is mutual benefit therein. Avenues towards opportunities and knowledge are often via people. 

  • Form a community of experts on the particular topic of interest. Keep it open that everyone who is interested can join in.
  • Incorporate colleagues who share the same interest.
  • Include stakeholders including end users of your proposed solution.
2. Generosity Did you know that the currency for real networking is never greed- it is generosity. Keith Ferrazzi clearly explains this principle in his work ‘never eat alone’. Given that we are naturally wired for reciprocal altruism- the target being generous and sincere without expecting anything in return.

  • Coach individuals outside of your direct responsibilities.
  • Look out for external resources outside of your department and direct responsibilities.
  • Participate in corporate conversations.
3. Visible work – While narrating your work over a cup of coffee is great, leveraging the power of social media would help reap greater benefits. Social media has a massive global audience to reach out to and is cheap.

  • Seek solutions to a problem.
  • Respond to queries directed to you regarding a project.
  • Create presentations for groups.
  • Collect feedback.
4. Purposeful discovery – Given the infinite amount of contributing and connecting you can do, you need to make it purposeful in order to be effective.

  • Have a goal in your mind to focus your activities, including the relationships you try to develop, the opportunities you try to explore and the contributions you would like to make.
5. A growth mindset This is about your mindset, which should seek to grow continuously even in the face of setbacks.

  • Have an open, curious approach to work and life.
  • Try new things and persist even if someone does not react to your contributions as you hoped.

How to promote Working Out Loud in your company

Let’s look at the various practices that will enhance the working out loud model:

  • Set the stage for working out loud- Prepare tools and programs that will help you work out loud. They could be social networking tools such as Slack, Yammer, IBM Connections or advanced search capabilities to enable easy access and sharing of information, documents, links, etc.

  • Coaching and mentorship- This could be two way. Offering to a needy case would help sharpen your skills. Being mentored and coached gives a sounding board for observing limits but also helps one grow to desired goals.

  • Make it easy for employees to adopt this approach – Try to make your solutions easy and interesting to use so that employees can easily adopt the working out loud approach in their working culture. You could integrate the commonly used applications with mobile apps, browser extensions, email compatibility, single sign-on, etc.

  • Provide incentives for participation – It could be as simple as a free booklet, card or just a mention for recognition.

  • Be the change you want to see – If employees are to buy the working out loud mode of operation, they need to see the top management fully practicing it. Also include early adopters as change agents.

Bottom Line

The point of working out loud is that it enhances communication, it provides an implicit understanding of progress and status and it keeps the entire team operating at a higher level of awareness and collaboration.

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