What empowerment looks like: Daniella's story

I loved reading Daniella's story for many reasons: her desire to help young children get exposed to science and technology, the photos of her and the “inspired little scientists with shining eyes,” the article in the German newspaper.

I was inspired by how she turned an idea into reality, using her Working Out Loud Circle to create a possibility she hadn’t imagined before. When she started, she had the same doubts and fears we all have. But by taking small steps over time, with feedback and peer support along the way, she made something wonderful emerge.

Here’s the beginning of Daniella’s post on LinkedIn. (You can read it in full by clicking on the image below.) As you read it, think of how empowered you would feel if you could bring ideas to life like that. Think of what your organization would be like if more people approached issues and opportunities like Daniella -  with generosity, creativity, and persistence. It’s an approach you can learn - and spread. 

Click on this image to read the entire article on LinkedIn

Click on this image to read the entire article on LinkedIn

 

 

Alexander's Story: "A complete change of my mindset"

Alexander Weinhard works in a software company in Esslingen, Germany. I didn't know him or his company until I came across a post he wrote. It appeared a few weeks ago on a site that connects "businesses and individuals dedicated in some way to helping people become happier at work.It was his first public blog post

I enjoyed reading about his experience so much that I wanted to share his post here in its entirety. If you're in a Working Out Loud Circle, maybe you can relate to what he wrote. If you haven't joined one yet, maybe this will inspire you to take a step.

***

MY PERSONAL WORKING OUT LOUD CIRCLE STORY

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that — when you work in a more open, connected way — you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”
John Stepper: The five elements of Working Out Loud

When I read this statement for the first time, I thought: “Higher efficiency in my work and more opportunities? That is exactly what I need!” I am a software engineer at the more than 18,000-person Festo, and I am used to supporting my colleagues with their IT problems in our collaboration environment. 

I thought, “Support is a form of reactive knowledge sharing, so why not proactively share my knowledge? It totally makes sense!”

I was so naïve…

After publishing some Tales from the SharePoint Forest, a collection of learnings I had made in my job packed into fable-style stories, which were very positively received from the audience in our company internal social media, I quickly discovered that sharing knowledge alone is not enough. I needed to learn more about how I could make connections with people, how to address people better and how to be more systematic in my sharing.

When I heard that our knowledge management department was planning to organize a Working Out Loud Circle and was searching for volunteers to participate, I was immediately hooked.

WHAT IS A WORKING OUT LOUD CIRCLE?


Working Out Loud Circles are in essence peer support groups which meet regularly to learn more about Working Out Loud. The participants try to answer the following three questions:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • Who is related to my goal?
  • How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?

The original approach plans a 12-week cycle with weekly one-hour meetings. At Festo we have reduced it to a ten-week cycle but stick to the weekly one-hour online meetings. Each weekly Circle meeting has a different subject with one or two corresponding exercises illustrated below.

Our Working Out Loud team consists of five of us, from different departments, functions and locations. The host and two of the participants are from our knowledge management HR team based in Germany. One participant is a local IT guy from one of our branch offices in the UK and I introduced myself already. We do all the meetings online.

The goal of the UK colleague is about his personal Balanced Scorecard. The host’s goal is about how to organize a Working Out Loud Circle. One HR colleague’s goal is to learn more about knowledge management because he is new to the subject, and the other HR colleague’s goal is to improve her trainer skills.

That’s the cool thing about a Working Out Loud Circle — all participants can have their own goals. The Circle is more about general methodology, not about a specific subject. Still, we can each help the others, if goals are not too specific.

I have had knowledge management as a main course during my master studies, so I can provide material for the colleague who wants to learn more about knowledge management. I have implemented our IT’s Balanced Scorecard, hence I can connect the UK colleague with the responsible persons for an exchange. We each bring our varied experiences to the table to help each other out.

HOW DID THE WORKING OUT LOUD CIRCLE MAKE A CHANGE FOR ME?

At the moment I am writing this blog post, the Working Out Loud Circle is still going on. So far, we have held seven out of the ten Circle meetings. But nevertheless I already experience a big change:

The goal I set for myself was to learn more about management. Before the Circle started, I was a nerd technical specialist who thought that management in general was something evil. Now I am a nerd technical specialist that thinks that I can change his whole work environment through the practices I’ve learned so far, potentially making a real difference for my colleagues (and myself). Ultimately, I am rethinking my personal goals and don’t think I’d fundamentally turn down the idea of going into management anymore. Our Circle has really kicked off a complete change of my mindset and I am just getting started!

Probably I was a bit lucky too, because at the same time I started to participate in the Working Out Loud Circle, I started reading #Workout by Jurgen Appelo (now published under the title Managing for Happiness.). Through the Working Out Loud Circle exercise in Week Three, I started using Twitter and followed Jurgen. That’s how I learned about the Happy Melly network and immediately joined it. I have published my experiences from the Working Out Loud Circle as experiments I’m running, got a lot of great feedback from the Happy Melly members and finally one thing lead to another… Now I am sitting in front of my computer, writing a blog post for Happy Melly, sharing my experience from the Working Out Loud Circle to an audience I could not have imagined a few weeks ago!

WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE I MADE PARTICIPATING IN THE WORKING OUT LOUD CIRCLE?

For me, the Working Out Loud Circle at Festo is an institution I wouldn’t want to miss any minute of. I even turned down an appointment with my CEO to be able to join the kick-off!

In my first report on Happy Melly about my experiences in the Working Out Loud Circle, I wrote:

“Finally I have found a channel where I can let my thoughts run wild, where I can exchange with like-minded people. It feels like an escape from the everyday routine.” And guess what? Nothing has changed since then.

Many of the exercises we put into practice during the Circle meetings already found their way into my daily habits, e.g. into the way I write emails or post on our company internal social media. And the feedback which I receive from recipients or readers is exceptionally positive.

In addition, the number of public posts I write in our company social media has increased tremendously because, due to the Circle I found the confidence to be more public. Before the Circle started, I most often just answered questions, provided support and assistance. Now I post about my ideas, experiments, outcomes, achievements. I post kudos and recognition and sometimes also just post my thoughts and opinions. I hope my colleagues will not consider me a spammer in the near future…

To get a more detailed insight in the experiences I have made while participating in the Working Out Loud Circle, you can check my Happy Melly profile, where you find reports about all the experiments I execute at work.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

I already incorporated with a couple of colleagues from different countries and different business departments to launch a new community with the target to overcome the organizational barriers between software development and affiliated departments in our company. I will share my development knowledge as well as my management learnings there too, thus bringing my Working Out Loud contributions to a whole new level, and, who knows, maybe we might also form some new Working Out Loud Circles inside this community.

I am already looking forward to the next Working Out Loud Circle meetings and want to gain more insight into the subject. I will definitely go on sharing my experiences from the Circle at Happy Melly to spread word to a wider audience. I am also highly motivated to go on using the practices I have learned from the Circle in my next projects, with my remote developer team and with the new community. And when our knowledge management department starts more Working Out Loud Circles, guess who will try to join…

Julia’s story: “Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency.”

Julia Flug works in a large company, where she cares about her career and getting better at it. She also has talents, interests, and aspirations that go well beyond her job. 

She first came across Working Out Loud because of simple curiosity. It eventually led to translating the Circle Guides into German, a new role on an important project, and a set of skills and habits she’s continuing to practice in her work and life. None of that was planned, but as she writes about her contributions to others: "Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency."

Here, in her own words, is her WOL story.

***

By Julia Flug

I had been away from work for a while and on my first day back I was browsing through our Enterprise Social Network (ESN), curious to see what was new. And there it was: A community called “Working Out Loud.” Even though I only had a vague idea what might be in it, I was struck right away by the name and I took a deep dive into it. There was the book, the guidelines and even a list where to sign up to build a circle, all with the goal to follow you passion, making it visible and getting connected with others around the same field of interest.

That sounded so great and I started reading the book right away. It felt like one big revelation: A method how to connect with others without having to come up with ingenious small talk. To become visible without selling yourself. A method to learn and to be okay with not having to know it all. A powerful tool of how to start a movement. Keep the change small - that was what I needed, where I had failed so often before! And for the huge fan of tools and methods inside of me the systematic approach was the icing on the cake.

My twitter account was orphaned for more than a year when I decided to send my first tweet. Not “knowing” anybody on Twitter, I was very, very happy to have someone who had already promised to tweet back and thus make me feel more comfortable.

This is how I met John, sending some tweets back and forth. I liked his open and funny writing style and felt somehow connected only by reading the book. Vegetarian? Same over here. 10 years of self help books? Wanna have a look at my shelves? Offering to translate the WOL Circle Guides felt so natural.  

Once I had them ready and sent them to John I was scared to become visible. What would happen once they were published - would people criticize my translations? What would they think about me?

The day John announced in a blog post the new translated guides were online made me cringe. Being all of a sudden visible I expected something (negative, of course) to happen.

But it just didn’t. :)

Does that mean the translations are perfect? Probably not. Would they be different if I had to translate them right now? Yes, most probably. Am I still scared of becoming (more) visible? Yes, but the next time it will be easier to deal with it.

When I started my circle, I defined two topics I wanted to learning about and connect with people with the same interest. I expected the internet and social media would be better sources - rather than the ESN.

Even though my focus was outside, I applied many of the things learned in the exercises at work as well without following a defined goal. Results still came. “Hello, the website says you’re responsible for topic x. Is that true?” That’s what an email in my inbox said. It made me feel disrespected, angry and lucky as it helped me to practice empathy. I sent back a nice email. When she answered, her email style hadn’t changed much. I decided to call her. She was distant and I did my best to stay firm on my intention to be empathic.

A few weeks later, I sent out another email to a group of people including her. She didn’t answer first, but immediately called me after I sent out a reminder. It felt like talking to a different person. She had a melodic, cordial voice. Telling me not only about the personal reason why she wouldn’t be able to join an event but also asking about me for how long I had been with the company, at my current job, if I enjoyed the city we’re living in. She was still straightforward but I knew she was sincere.

Maybe it was stress that made her sound so harsh. In the past I might have answered in a similar style, making me feel stressed too. Practicing empathy allows me to keep those negative feelings away and I would probably even call right after receiving such an email.

Apart from that, many other small things happened. In a certain way it surprises me as I planned to try WOL outside the company, but as the steps felt so natural and brought back some habits I already practiced in the past, I just applied them. The difference now is that I feel better prepared, more secure in how to do so. I offered to collaborate with people and didn’t think I had to know better than them, and received great inputs. I could feel our relationships deepen immediately. I also met new people and felt an immediate connection - just because we cared for the same topic. 

I like to think we all have an imaginary karma account where you can pay in with good deeds, not only through commenting, collaborating, and connecting but by picking up that glove that has fallen unseen to the floor, offering your seat in the subway. The same way you should sell for free, you should fill your karma account for free. Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency.

Even though I intentionally wanted to explore my goal outside the company, one payback came from inside as an offer for a project lead on an important project. I also established several promising connections, both inside and outside and I am curious to find out what other paybacks I might have if I keep paying in.

Looking back to my past six months with WOL - would I do it again? The answer can only be yes. I am happy to feel so much better prepared to establish connections, to be part of certain communities, and to have learned about my topics in a way I had never expected. Yet I am still far away from mastering the art of WOL. Given that it is so easy (and fun) and brings marvelous results I will keep practicing in another circle in 2017.

Victim or visible?

The group had been through years of budgets cuts and reorganizations, and they were tired of the continued change and uncertainty. Now, at the annual conference, a newly appointed leader addressed them.

She acknowledged all they had been through, and the reality of the financial challenges. She made it clear how much she understood and valued their work. She said she wasn’t interested in more reorganizations. 

Instead, she asked the people to make a change themselves.

What she had observed in her short tenure was that the people who knew about their work thought it was excellent. But those who weren’t aware of it thought the organization was broken somehow.

The key, she told the audience, was that they needed to be more visible. They needed to share their work - “what you’re doing and why it matters” - so that more people would be aware. Doing so would also give their supporters a chance to make their support visible. That was the best way to take control of the situation they were in.

She recognized this might feel new or even uncomfortable for some people. But without being more visible, the only other option was to be a victim of more changes and more cuts.

“Meet them where they are,” she told them, describing her early efforts using Twitter. She didn’t start because she loved it or because it came naturally. She did it because she wanted to engage people there and spread news of the good work that might be useful to them. 

As she finished her talk, she made it clear that “victim or visible” was a choice they had to make.

The next presentation was on Working Out Loud, and I tried to make that choice even easier, to help the audience take a step.

 

 

The engineer who Works Out Loud

Vincent has been working in a big German company for more than a decade, mostly in a manufacturing plant and now in a quality management role. Our first interaction was when he sent me a message on LinkedIn, telling me he was enjoying the book.

Later, he joined a Working Out Loud Circle, and he wrote me again to say he “can already see some improvements.” I thanked him, replied with some questions, and that led to an ongoing exchange. With his permission, I wanted to share some of his answers below.

As you read them, notice how his original goal is quite simple: he wants to use some of the new collaboration tools at work. Yet as he takes steps towards his goal - practicing making contributions and deepening relationships at work - he sees how he can apply his new habits and mindset to other goals. 

His last sentence is full of hope and possibility - and confidence. 

Why did you join a WOL Circle? 

I joined because I wanted to learn and improve myself as a professional and a person. I learned about it and as I was disconnected from social media (latecomer for many good and bad reasons) I thought in the first place that it could help me to reconnect (Which it did!).  

What was your goal in your circle? 

My goal is: 'I want to set up a personal blog, which enables me to share my work with others, to give back to communities that will enable me to connect with people I don't know yet.’

What did you expect to get out of it? 

I was expecting to deepen my social media understanding and how to use it in a professional setting. Also to have my own blog to share work and ideas that comes up.  I started a personal blog on our internal company social network. At first, I thought about sharing only technical content I created to help others improve quicker and avoid the traps I've been in. Some other ideas are starting to come up…It’s interesting to see how it develops, how ideas pop up all alone.  

I also created connections I didn't have…and reconnected with people. So it's great, because I start to have a solid experience with social media, where I was feeling lost before, didn't know what to do with it and how to behave. 

How does this apply at work? How might it help you be a better engineer?

I'm in a department of quality experts, mostly much older. An official target of this job is to improve the processes, challenge them, and introduce social media for collaboration with the other departments. 

That's where WOL kicks in. I will have to set communities and improve the collaboration between QM and the plants that applies the standards defined by the department. We also need to speak about the standards within our division, post them in our blog, and collaborate with other divisions with the same specialties. I think of promoting it to the Deployment of Business Excellence team in our division. It would be a fantastic complement to introduce social media for the managers. Also to promote WOL for team initiatives inside my department.  

I personally consider that when you share your knowledge, your work with others, in the end you are helping others with your work, then becoming more sure of your knowledge. It allows you to take a step back and improve your practice. It will allow me to participate, confront my ideas with others, and then create a 'virtuous circle' of questioning myself. Keeps me humble, feet on the ground, then more open minded. I really think that networking and sharing makes you a better 1. Person, 2. Professional. 

What might you do differently in the future? Asked another way...what changed for you or about you? 

I came from this restricted vision to something broader. For example, I post other things than my work. I post thoughts, advice, experiences. On a personal aspect, I'm less worried to post my thinking publicly, to praise the work of others, to create contacts and invite these people in my network when I feel I know them. A clear enabler to the improvement of my network through social media and 'gift' sharing.  

In the future? I'll extend this to my utilization of social media out of my company. I will try to become a circle moderator, as I think I can handle it. Also, I'll surely join other circles, but perhaps with goals more connected to my personal (selfish?) aspirations. That changed for me, I have personal wills that are sleeping, time will come when I'll need to wake them.  

Tiny miracles

I told him, “It’s a miracle that you and I are speaking on the phone right now.”

He works in a large company I hadn’t heard of, in a city in Germany I hadn’t heard of, and yet there we were, talking about helping each other and about ways we could collaborate.

How? 

It started because he was unhappy in his job. His wife suggested that he join a Working Out Loud Circle. She had been part of one at her company, found it useful, and thought it would help him. It did. He wound up finding a job he loves, and kindly sent me an email telling me that. He also said he would like to spread Working Out Loud at his new company.

I had similar kinds of experiences this week, all tiny miracles to me. Like when someone in a Mongolian mining company reached out to me for more information about what I do. Or when I was on the phone with a group at the University of Nebraska, and with the Department of Agriculture in Canberra, Australia. Or when students in Austria who are reading the book for their course wound up interacting with me on Twitter. (One student gave the book to her brother and he and I connected too.)

This post isn’t about marketing or commercial success. (None of these interactions involved money.) It’s about possibility. It’s about increasing the chances of coming into contact with other people that help me develop, or make me feel fulfilled, or, yes, provide me with additional opportunities to make a living. 

Would you like more tiny miracles in your life? Perhaps you want more serendipity or more learning. Maybe it’s about more opportunities to do what you enjoy doing, or about feeling a greater sense of purpose.

You increase the chances of any and all of these things happening as you purposefully build a broad and diverse network, deepening relationships with people based on your contributions.

Some miracles just happen. Some, though, need a little help from you. Start practicing today.

Working Out Loud at Westpac Group

Westpac Group is a financial services company based in Australia whose 30,000 employees serve over 13 million customers. Yesterday, I came across a video they made about Working Out Loud. 

It's excellent, and it amazes me that a company I’ve never worked with has embraced the practice in this way. In just over three minutes, they clearly explain what Working Out Loud is and why they do it.

“True teamwork and collaboration is about building relationships, so that you’re able to reach out to the right people at the right time in order to connect, share, and solve…
Adopting the Working Out Loud principles will help you get things done and make your work better.”

If you’re trying to explain Working Out Loud to people at your company, this would be a great video to share. 

Update: The astute reader will notice the video has been removed from YouTube.

I got a gracious note from Vanessa Hudson who posted the video originally, graciously thanking me for blogging about it but letting me know it hadn't been intended for public viewing. Perhaps Westpac will put it on their official channel in the future, as I think it shows them to be an open, connected organization. Perhaps also I'll get a chance to speak to Vanessa and others there, to help them form WOL circles and spread the behaviors they talked about so eloquently in the video.

Uploaded by Vanessa Hodson on 2016-08-15.

 

 

“Open, inclusive, and at a scale simply not previously possible”

When I heard her use that phrase, my first thought was of all the organizations who have innovation programs and digital programs and culture programs. I thought of the gap between their well-intended aspirations and their actual results.

Except this woman didn’t work in a big company. Her name is Sarah Parcak. She’s the winner of the 2016 TED prize, and an archaeologist whose goal is to protect the world’s cultural heritage. She’s looking for lost civilizations using satellite data, starting with Peru, and her approach is fundamentally different from what you see inside corporations. 

In most organizations, big ideas require a Program with all the traditional management roles that come with it. Perhaps you want to simplify operations, reduce costs, or accelerate innovation. The people contributing would be those specifically assigned or funded to do so. Aside from making suggestions, the only way anyone else might participate would be to apply for a job.

But Sarah wanted and needed more than that. She recognized that tapping into the cognitive surplus around the world could unlock possibilities and accelerate progress. By making things open and inclusive, she could attract the very people who could help her implement, improve, and build on her work.

The first step was sharing information, the satellite images, so that anyone could see them. Sarah’s team of experts is analyzing that data, but they're open to the possibility that others may see what they don’t.

She then goes much further than making data available. She invites contributions. For example, a local Peruvian professor is “helping coordinate and share the data with archaeologists so they can explore these sites on the ground.” It turns out the professor is also responsible for a drone mapping program, able to provide additional imagery that Sarah, “a satellite archaeologist,” may never have included on her own.

She partners with people and groups who can help with education, outreach, and site preservation. One group, for example, “empowers these communities, in particular women, with new economic approaches and business training. So it helps to teach them to create beautiful handicrafts which are then sold on to tourists.” 

Even you or I could contribute. 

“Already I've gotten thousands of emails from people all across the world -- professors, educators, students, and other archaeologists -- who are so excited to help participate.”

Maybe you’ve heard of this kind of effort before. Maybe you think of examples like Wikipedia or you've read articles about Innocentive. But what about inside your organization? Most of your people have never experienced this kind of open, connected way of working. Your management almost certainly hasn’t. So they ask traditional questions about benefits and they cite the lack of time and precedent, unable to see the possibilities unleashed by a way of working they’ve never encountered.

Paraphrasing William Gibson: the future of work is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. Most companies have the business imperative and the tools to make programs “open, inclusive, and at a scale simply not previously possible.” They just don’t have the required behaviors.

One way to help them develop the necessary skills and mindset is to spread Working Out Loud Circles, and you may know of other ways. If your organization wants to thrive or even survive, you must give people the chance to experience a more open, connected way of working. If not now, when?

Completely unofficial: grass-roots WOL in a large organisation

This morning, I received a special email from the University of Melbourne that contained two videos and a blog post about their experience with Working Out Loud. They're so good on so many levels, I had to share them.

I loved learning about how and why they started, the advice they would give to others, and the individual changes they experienced that can help change their culture too. The personal stories in the videos brought it all to life.

They’ve done it all on their own. Now I hope I can help them adapt and spread the practice. If I’m lucky, I’ll see them in Australia next year.

Their stories inspire me. I hope they inspire you too. 

***

Completely unofficial: grass-roots WOL in a large organisation

by Mark Brodsky, ML Huppatz and Margaret L Ruwoldt

August 2016

For non-academic staff at the University of Melbourne, the first months of 2015 were unusually difficult. Around 3000 jobs had been redesigned, a new shared-services business model was introduced, cost-saving targets were announced, and many people felt exhausted by change and uncertain about the future.

The University was urging staff to think differently about their work practices and we had a relatively new Chief Operating Officer whose personal working style incorporates elements of Working Out Loud. With the COO's behind-the-scenes encouragement we decided to introduce Working Out Loud (WOL) as a grass-roots initiative, hoping that perhaps a few people would be interested in giving it a try.

We held two info sessions to explain the process as we understood it (for we had not done anything like this before either). Imagine our surprise when almost 50 showed up!

So WOL was launched at the University of Melbourne with 30 enthusiastic participants organised into six Circles. As these groups worked their way through the 12-week program, ripples of influence started to appear. There was more activity in the University's Yammer network. The subject of Working Out Loud popped up at staff forums, in conversations at coffee shops and at unrelated project meetings.

Three Circle participants -- Sara, Dale and Karin -- kindly agreed to share their thoughts on those first few weeks of Working Out Loud.

In 2015 nearly 100 University staff volunteered to try a new way of working. Sara, Dale and Karin explain why they joined the Working Out Loud program.

By September 2015 interest in Working Out Loud at UoM was growing. Almost 200 people came to the WOL session at the annual professional staff conference, after which around 80 signed up for round two of WOL Circles.

As organisers, we wanted to explore different options for implementing Working Out Loud in our particular organisation. For each Circles program, we made slightly different choices around planning and supporting the groups. Here are three things we learned from the experience.

1. Build strong foundations

Some administration is required at the beginning: sorting people into groups based on their availability for the weekly meetings; explicitly confirming the meeting arrangements with each participant; and making sure everyone understands their role and the level of commitment expected from them. Pre-meetings with the people that had volunteered to lead the circles were also important in ensuring a good start.

The minimum viable number of members in a WOL Circle seems to be four. We found it best to start with a group of 5-6 people and accept that there would be occasional absences or drop-outs. Groups that started with 3-4 regular attendees were less successful, as it was more difficult to maintain enthusiasm and peer support.

2. Actively encourage growth

The Circle Guides and the book provide plenty of guidance in clear, simple language. Although this is a good foundation, we found that Circles only thrived when we provided extra community-building support.

We did this in various ways:

  • weekly emails to participants, reminding them of progress through the 12 weeks and pointing to extra reading or other resources to enhance that week's homework
  • posts to the WOL group in UoM's Yammer community, linking to interesting articles or videos and answering questions
  • holding 3-4 meetings with Circle Leaders to discuss how their groups were progressing, elicit cross-group suggestions and build peer support among the leaders
  • hosting information sessions where Circle participants could share their knowledge and learnings with the broader group

Acknowledging milestones is also important, especially the start and end of the 12-week program. Milestones are good opportunities to share stories about personal journeys, helping to renew people's energy and commitment.

3. Learn as you go

Working Out Loud can be adapted to suit the particular culture and circumstances of your organisation -- and there's nothing wrong with adjusting your approach along the way.

For example, because of the recent restructure, many Melbourne University participants chose goals that focused on understanding the new business model and establishing new connections within the University. This made social media, especially external channels like Twitter and Facebook, less useful. Instead we saw networks developing via Yammer, email and catch-ups over coffee. We also produced a handout listing the different ways of sharing documents and ideas within the University: shared drives, internal email lists, and so on.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the new ways of working, we found that establishing trust between group members was essential. As organisers we tried to encourage this by showing our own vulnerability and by being highly visible as participants in our own Circles. We also emphasised the importance of using Circle meetings for the more valuable interaction and peer-coaching activities, rather than using that time for the individual exercises.

The Melbourne experience: outcomes and new challenges

In the last 18 months we've heard many great stories about how Working Out Loud opening up new opportunities for our colleagues at Melbourne University.

In the second part of their video Sara, Dale and Karin describe how Working Out Loud has changed their working lives.

At the end of the 12-week Working Out Loud program Sara, Dale and Karin reflect on what they’ve learned and how their work has been enriched by the experience.

We've heard similar stories from many other participants:

  • Kate found the confidence to give presentations in front of large audiences.
  • Danielle figured out how to tackle a challenging project -- and found other people who were keen to help with delivering it.
  • Ben was invited to give a presentation at an international conference of leaders in 360-degree photography.
  • Rochelle and Belinda changed career paths and Eliana led a successful, high-profile project to redesign a key business process.

To date Working Out Loud has touched only a small proportion of staff at the University of Melbourne. Meanwhile surveys continue to show that many of our colleagues are searching for an increased sense of connection with other parts of the University. The central human resources team has expressed interest in rolling out Working Out Loud as a University-level professional development program.

And our own stories? Working Out Loud has changed us, too. ML and Margaret are planning to convene WOL groups across multiple universities over the next 12 months; and Mark is in the midst of his own career change. We’ve learnt new skills and have started sharing our work in different ways. We're moving on, working out loud as we go.

This article is based on a presentation to the Knowledge Management Australia annual congress held in Melbourne, August 2016.

http://www.kmaustralia.com/

***

 

 

My last day working in a big company

On Friday, I handed in my badge, walked through the turnstiles, and didn’t look back. Now I’m fully committed to spreading the practice of Working Out Loud.

It’s exciting and daunting at the same time. Here’s what happened and what I intend to do next.

How it happened

I’ve worked in big companies for 30 years, mostly in banks. If I had lost my job ten years ago, my only option would have been to ask a recruiter for help finding a similar one.

As I started working out loud, things changed. Over time, I developed a network of meaningful relationships I never could imagined before. The connections gave me access to learning and to opportunities, and made each day feel a bit better. The last few years have been a kind of goal-oriented exploration - “purposeful discovery” - that has expanded my sense of what’s possible.

By working out loud, I’ve learned that I can do and be much more. 

The trade-offs

Working at a big firm isn’t necessarily bad. I appreciate the many talented people I met and friends I made, and the chance to experiment on a large, global platform. I learned a lot and I’m grateful, and I will certainly miss the predictability of a paycheck every two weeks. 

But the culture, processes, and systems at so many large organizations depress people’s ability to contribute and realize their potential. It’s a tragic waste and it needs to change.

What’s next?

So now is the time for me to take a step. It’s time to fully commit to helping individuals and organizations unlock more possibilities and realize more of their own potential. 

Help might be in the form of giving a talk at your organization. Or the online training for circles launching on June 9th. Or creating a customized development program that can help your firm and all the people in it.

If I can help you or your organization realize your potential, please contact me at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com.

Thank you.