Working Out Loud: An Increasingly Popular Collaborative Business Approach 

Are you familiar with the concept of “working out loud”? Social evangelist at Eli Lilly, Bryce Williams, coined the phrase several years ago, explaining it by means of this equation: Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work. It was his way of rallying people around the value of collaboration by getting people to adopt a more open, transparent, and connected approach to their work.

Managing Director of Deutsche Bank John Stepper took it a step further earlier this year by authoring the book “Working Out Loud: For a Better Career and Life.” In the book he outlines five basic tenets of successful collaboration through working out loud:

  • Make your work visible: In other words, don’t be afraid to share, even when your work is not yet finished.
  • Make work better: The point of sharing your work is so that others can add their expertise and improve it.
  • Lead with generosity: Offer your posts as contributions, not as ego trips or personal branding opportunities. In this way, you’ll be more likely to engage others.
  • Build a social network: Working out loud means establishing relationships with folks who can help you in any number of ways as you help them.
  • Make it all purposeful: Always have firm goals in mind so that your efforts don’t become too scattered and ineffective.

Did you know that just last month (November 16-23) there was an international Working Out Loud Week?

Collaboration Platforms: The Springboard for Working Out Loud

Earlier this year, Forbes contributor Joanna Belbey conducted an informative interview with John Stepper titled “Working Out Loud: Better for You, Better for the Firm.” In this interview, Forbes focuses on enterprise social collaboration platforms and their importance in the collaboration picture. Here are some excerpts:

Forbes: What are enterprise social collaboration platforms?General-Images-22.jpg

Stepper: Think of enterprise social communications platforms as a third fabric to connect the firm in addition to email and meetings. Individuals can now leverage trends from the Internet—search, self-publishing, social, and mobile—inside their firms and change work in fundamental ways.

Forbes: How were these tools adopted at your firm?

Stepper: There were concentric circles of adoption. The early adopters gravitated to it first. Then came the next wave, and the next, gradually covering more and more of the firm. … Rather than a particular location or division taking the lead, early adopters were sprinkled all over the firm. It was up to us to find them, equip them, and connect them. … At some point, we tipped. … That’s when the Communications group made the collaboration platform an official part of the corporate intranet. That was an important step. It placed much more content on the platform and institutionalized it, sending a clear signal it was an official work tool for broad use. Now our approach to adoption is much more systematic and purposeful. We combine a broad set of tools into a digital workplace and help entire divisions leverage it.

Forbes: How do these platforms benefit employees?

Stepper: Enterprise social communications (or “social business”) platforms make it easy to spread and discover ideas. … Instead of information flowing up and down the lines of the org chart … it flows easily across boundaries based on what people need or find interesting. Using these tools to “work out loud” makes people enjoy work more. When people leverage collaboration platforms to contribute and build relationships, that appeals to their intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery, and relatedness. They have a greater feeling of connection to the firm and people in it, in a way that’s under their control as opposed to that of a manager or, worse, a process.

Forbes: How does working out loud benefit the firm?

Stepper: Working out loud improves employees’ digital skills. It enhances their ability to access and build on knowledge and make purposeful connections across the firm. That makes people at all levels more effective. … Beyond the benefits of helping employees build purposeful networks, “working out loud” helps humanize the firm. The focus on contribution combined with the inherent features of social platforms, improves employees’ ability to see and relate to their colleagues as real people. That provides a foundation for positive cultural change, increased engagement and overall benefits to the firm over time.

There’s much more to the Forbes interview, so take the time to read the whole thing! And for further inspiration, see where you can go with Cisco in terms of readying yourself for a more collaborative work life and career.

What are your thoughts about how working out loud would succeed at your organization? Do you agree that using collaboration platforms to work out loud is a way to humanize the work experience and allow us to take the digital workplace to a higher level? Let us know below.



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Gary Pfitzer is a content manager at Learning@Cisco, focused on bringing various aspects of today's IT journey to light through business papers, blogging, customer success stories, and other writing.