in Social Business

“Working out loud”: Your personal content strategy

While collaboration platforms are increasingly attractive to enterprises, most people still don’t know how to use them at work.

After a brief introduction, individuals are quick to understand the concepts: the power of networks, the potential for shaping their reputation, the extraordinary commercial possibilities.

But they struggle with what they should actually do.

Here’s a good place to start.

Beware the YACCs!

Two of the most common objections I hear are “I don’t have enough time” and “I don’t know what to post.” That’s because people often think of using a collaboration platform as an extra thing to do. An additional way to communicate.

And people at work are already overloaded: email, phone, voice mail, mobile phone, mobile phone voice mail, instant messenger, group chat, desktop video, desktop video messages.

The last thing anyone wants is Yet Another Communications Channel.

So, instead of focusing on communicating in new ways, it’s important that collaboration and contribution is in line with the work people do every day.

Working out loud

Recognizing this, Bryce Williams coined the term “working out loud” and defined it this way:

 “Working out loud = Narrating your work + Observable work”  

For Bryce, narrating your work is “journaling…what you are doing in an open way.” And making your work observable is “creating/modifying/storing your work in places that others can see it, follow it, and contribute to it IN PROCESS.”

This used to be impractical with most communications tools. (You’d never send email to a large group about things you’re doing throughout the day.) But modern collaboration platforms combine rich content-handling with Twitter-like activity feeds that make it easy to skim large amounts of content quickly.

That combination opens up new possibilities.

Observable work

The vast majority of people at work are uncomfortable blogging or tweeting. They’re simply not used to it and some may never be.

But everybody works. They create documents and presentations. They schedule and attend events. They comment on other people’s work.

Collaboration platforms make all of that work visible. Every one of those actions can be communicated to your social network without any extra effort.

“John Stepper just uploaded ‘Banking & social media’ in Social Media Community”

Simply by using a collaboration platform to store your material, you make you and your work visible in real-time. And, better still, your work (projects, documents, discussions) is now searchable and discoverable. People will find you any time they’re looking for content related to what you’re doing.

Narrating your work

In 2009, Dave Winer wrote about “Narrating your work” - the practice of providing a brief, running commentary on your work as you do it.

Later, in an extremely helpful article entitled “Do’s and Don’ts for your work’s social platform”, Andrew McAfee also encouraged people to narrate their work:

“Talk both about work in progress (the projects you’re in the middle of, how they’re coming, what you’re learning, and so on), and finished goods (the projects, reports, presentations, etc. you’ve executed). This lets others discover what you know and what you’re good at. It also makes you easier to find, and so increases the chances you can be a helpful colleague to someone. Finally, it builds your personal reputation and ‘brand.’”

Confused about what to write? Simply post about what you’re working on every day. Who you’re meeting with. The research you’re doing. Articles you find relevant. Lessons you learned. Mistakes you made.

The form factor of short posts that are easy-to-skim make this kind of narration practical – for both the author and the audience.

It’s a start

It only takes a few posts before people start seeing the benefits. Being able to work out loud allows employees to make connections – finding people and content relevant to their work – like never before.

As Stowe Boyd writes:

“..bringing activities out of closed repositories and applications, and pulling them into the open increases the likelihood of learning key information earlier…working out loud leads to succeeding (or failing) more quickly…makes a company more intelligent: quicker to improve, and more resilient in the context of uncertainty.”

People already familiar with social tools understand this. For the rest, they’ll have to begin using the tools and experience it for themselves.

Working out loud is the most practical way for them to start.

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