Working Out Loud – 3 buttons for finding the right volume

I have never given it a single thought: Why do people share so many pictures of cats on the internet? Until today that is. Reading Simon Terry’s blog post about why “You Can’t Take Your Cat to the Park!” I started reflecting on this. Not on cats and dogs but on Simon’s point that most of our daily work is hidden – even from the people you are working closely with and that affects the affinity to the organisation and the people therein – or your “engagement” if we are to use the most popular word at this time.

Volume button

Simon argues that we need to “take our work to the park” by adopting a working out loud practise. 4 months ago I joined an organisation where we really do work out loud. At times it does seem a little too damn loud and at other times we all talk about how we can work LOUDER without just making it all white noise that will make people reach for the OFF button. The challenge is to find the volume control and adjust the volume on the line in, but it is equally important to look at the same button on the line out. A former colleague of mine was (and still is) a passionate advocate for working out loud but from time to time I jokingly remarked that he was surprisingly quiet for a guy who wants others to work louder J This also reflects back on me. I have been writing on this blog for quite a few years and yet it remains one of the things nagging in the back of my head. I know I have more to share. I know I can work louder. And most importantly I know that it pays off to turn up the volume a little more.

#WOL – What I have learned
The point about making your work visible and the subject of social interaction made me reflect on my own journey of turning up the volume. It took me back to the summer of 2007 where I had started a new job and also joined a network of online professionals. After launching one of the first intranets in Denmark built on Sharepoint 2007 I got an invitation to present at an international event. I had been going to events and conferences but never presented so I jumped at this opportunity and this was essentially the first time I was being truly loud about my work. I still remember how – after the presentation was over – I found myself having completely different conversations than I had in my own organisation and I also remember thinking to myself “OK. So let’s see how deep the rabbit hole goes when you network and share things a little more openly and candid”.

I have not found the bottom yet and I keep getting surprised about the power of sharing and how this is the ultimate way to create a big network of weak ties that you can benefit from. What I have learned after spending 7 years sharing things openly and at a reasonable frequency is the most important buttons

  1. Consciuosness
    Be conscious about what you can share with who, where and when. Note that I didn’t say “cautious” J You can usually share much more than you would be inclined to but there are times when openness can create more friction than what’s good and then you will have to spent a disproportionate amount of time changing this. It is not an exact science. Start by playing on the safe side but at the same time but try to push the envelope a bit and you will quickly learn that openness is your friend and that you intuitively know what can and can’t be shared.
  1. Honesty
    Give an honest picture and don’t hide your personal opinion. Honesty comes from sharing your personal views – also when they can be controversial. Often I have had people tell me that they are impressed by how open I share things that did not go well. In my opinion this is the most important pieces to share and where you learn the most. It also makes you both more authentic and more trustworthy and ultimately more valuable for your peers. No one wants to talk to a walking advertisement – it’s about building trust.
  1. Availability
    Make yourself available and others will be available for you. Sharing things openly is like opening a bank account. Initially you have to put in more than you take out but after a while you will earn interest. This means that it’s not just about posting stuff – it’s also about engaging with others who have questions or ideas. This is not extra work it is an opportunity to learn and grow. Personally I am now in a position where I have lots of good relationships that help me get an honest picture of many organisations which is super helpful for me but also for the organisation I am trying to help. Breaking through shiny corporate armour is not for the faint of heart so an “accomplice” on the inside is worth gold.

In the end it’s all about taking your work to the park. Show it, share it, turn up the volume. People will tell you if you become too loud – no doubt about that. The most important thing is that you dare to turn the knob. I promise you that even though the first notes that come out may sound a little awkward and wrong – just keep at it and in the end you will get a standing ovation from the audience – not that people will be queuing around your desk screaming and cheering (they might – who knows) but you get recognition, you make new connections, and most importantly you will feel a completely different sense of purpose and connection to the bigger picture of what you do.

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2 thoughts on “Working Out Loud – 3 buttons for finding the right volume

  1. Great post Martin. I’ve always tried to work out loud, and that means that at times I seem to be at every intranet/search conference, give a lot of training courses and write books, columns and blogs.

    However as a consultant it’s the only way I can find out whether I have anything useful to say. My clients hire me, pay me and then perhaps just bury my reports – though I’m very lucky that does not happen too often. But at conferences and workshops the questions, and then the discussions over a coffee later, are invaluable in providing me with a reality check. I see it as a version of peer review in science, which as a chemist I have enormous respect for. I guess that is working out loud as well.

    When I undertake consulting assignments my clients are usually very surprised that I come up with some possible solutions in just a few days of work. But what I am doing is testing these by working out loud, and then refining them, rather than gathering vast amounts of (for example) survey information and then producing a solution out of my hat. The feedback on my initial ideas not only helps me to focus in on the important issues but quite often helps my clients realise that some of their assumptions need to be reassessed.

    Keep up the loud work. Your presentation at Intranatverk last month shone out from the other vendors because you were working out loud.

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