Two years ago, I wrote about some ideas for creating a more humane workplace. Last month, I met a group of amateur photographers who are doing something about it at our firm. Their story illustrates the variety of ways in which people can make a contribution, expand their network of relationships, and realize a wide range of beneifts.
A more humane workplace
In my original post, I cited an artist, iO Tillett Wright, who was using photography to change how people view members of the LGBT community. In her selfevidentproject, she decided “to photograph anyone who is not 100% straight” and created 1000s of simple, beautiful portraits that defy labels.
“My goal is to show the humanity that exists in every one of us through the simplicity of a face….I challenge you to look into the faces of these people and tell them they deserve less than any other human being.”
I wondered, Could we do something like this for everyone at our firm?
Some steps, some failures
My goal was simple. There are still too many blank faces in our systems and too many labels in our conversations. Instead of “those people in IT!” or “those people in India!” could we make their names and faces more readily visible and take a step toward improving how people treat each other?
I knew we already had the people who could pull it off. There's an online community of photographers at work and every month I see people from around the world contributing stunning shots as part of a photo challenge. So I wrote a post called “The Faces Project” soliciting photographers in different cities to organize local meet ups and take head shots people would be happy to upload.
It seemed like a good idea. But the logistics were more complicated than I anticipated. Then, when someone organized a session in Germany a few months later, they ran into technical issues. The woman who organized the session wrote up the lessons learned, but the project stalled.
Gifts and the rewards
Late last year, though, a group of photographers in London decided to try again. They found the lessons learned from the previous attempt and organized new sessions online.
So far, they’ve photographed more than 60 people across six different divisions. As I kept seeing people sign up online, my enthusiasm grew again. So when I was in London, I signed up too. It was fun and supplied me with a new photo that I use today. It was also a lot of work for the photographers who, after hours, lugged their equipment to another building just for me.
They made other contributions too, like setting up a JustGiving page people could donate to a good cause if they liked their photo. And they keep updating the lessons learned so other photographers can build on what they’re doing.
Why would they do all this?
It turns out they get a range of benefits that are consistent with working out loud.
- They meet people from across the firm while growing their online networks.
- They get better at something they love doing. “We have definitely learned more in the past two months than we would have learned if we took private tuition photography courses.” (Some updated their online presence. You can see more of their photos online presence on Flickr here, here, and here.)
- They learn how to organize, connect, and engage online - skills good for them and for the firm.
Where will this lead? The most important benefit is that they’ve found a way to enjoy their current job more while building a network that gives them access to more possibilities. While I was there, for example, I learned that a business division asked them to organize a photo shoot just for them.
Making your own luck while improving your every day is the essence of working out loud.