The world changed here

It was a short movie, only about 6 minutes long, but the title and the story of transformation reminded me of people in the WOL Community.

I saw “The World Changed Here” at Niagara Falls State Park, where I visited last week with family and friends. In the mid-1800s, the land surrounding the Falls was privately owned, mostly by companies using the fast-flowing water to power their mills. Public access was limited, and it looked like this.

Source: Image from “Review of reviews and world’s work” (1890) p. 451.

A landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (perhaps best known for designing Central Park in New York City), began to advocate for the preservation of the Falls in the 1860s. Others joined him, and in time there were publicity campaigns using the social media of the time: newspapers and parades. Word spread, and a movement formed that gained the attention of the government. In 1883, Niagara Falls State Park became the first state park in the US. 

Today, the falls are breathtakingly beautiful. It’s home to 300 species of birds, and more 30 million people connect with nature there each year. There’s still commerce, but it’s in concert with the natural beauty and wonder of the Falls, and now it looks like this.

Niagara Falls - 2019

There are now more than 10,000 state parks in the US, all made possible by a few people who cared, inspired others, and banded together to make a difference. That’s the connection I made to people in the WOL Community, people like Ulrike Poppe. 

Ulrike enjoyed her WOL Circle and wanted to spread more of them. (She is the first-ever person to buy the Video Guides & Circle Journal.) So she decided to approach Human Resources. Nervous about the presentation, she reached out to the WOL community for help, and proudly announced when she got the company support she sought. 

I have the good fortune to connect with more and more people who dare to make work and life better. Some of them are just taking a first step, some are organizing meet-ups and other events, and and others are trying to expand their movement from dozens to hundreds to thousands.

Not all of them will lead a transformational change, of course. But there is beauty and power in the attempt, and I am inspired by all who have the courage to act. It is because of people like them we can say, “The world changed here.”




WOL in Switzerland

Though Switzerland is only about a third of the size of Ohio, their impact on the world is remarkable. The latest difference they’re making is related to Working Out Loud.

Remarkable companies

One of the fastest-growing WOL movements is being spread by Roche in Basel, with more than 350 people in 18 countries in less than 6 months. It’s an incredible beginning.

A diverse and growing group of organizations is also spreading Circles, including Swisscom, Helvetia, Swiss Post, the Swiss transportation company SBB, and even the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Remarkable events

One reason I find this list of companies remarkable is that it was just last October when I visited Switzerland for the first time, thanks to the Swiss Social Collaboration Summit. The audience was curious about WOL, but there were very few Circles then.

Now, there are regular WOL-CH Meet-ups run by Monika Schlatter and Stefanie Moser held on the 3rd Friday of each month, and there’s a special Meet-up for beginners at Helvetia coming up on August 28th. I asked Stefanie why she does it.

I love to inspire people to experiment, to be curious and interested in life-long learning. WOL is a brilliant method to learn those new behaviors together with a group in a safe space and to actually get things done.

There’s even a two-day workshop in Basel for WOL Mentors on August 27-28, organized and delivered by Kluge Consulting. Participants from the last Mentor training in Berlin said it inspired and equipped them to build and grow their own WOL movements. If you’re in a Swiss company and want to spread WOL, this upcoming workshop is a remarkable opportunity.

A remarkable WOL Coach

Martin Geisenhainer is the first WOL Coach in Switzerland. He is a Learning Architect at Swisscom, and has been engaged in learning and knowledge programs for 20 years. He’s also an organizer of the Swiss Social Collaboration Summit, where we worked together last year and where he’ll offer multiple sessions on Working Out Loud in November.

Martin is smart and kind and generous. I enjoy working with him and relish our time together in a WOL: SC Circle. His deep experience and wonderful approach makes him a perfect person to help Swiss organizations.

A remarkable start

For WOL in Switzerland, it has been an incredible few months. The only thing more remarkable will be what happens next.

“Grass doesn’t grow faster when you pull it”

Though it’s often described as an African proverb, I first came across the expression via an email from Petra in Europe.

Thank you for introducing WOL to the business world. I really hope we can change the culture of our company, but I know we have to be patient. “Grass doesn't grow faster when you pull it.” :-)

Petra made me think about the grassroots movements that sometimes form within organizations. There’s something almost magical about an employee-led movement, the earnest coming together of people who share a passion and commitment for making a difference. 

Individuals participating in these movements are sometimes skeptical about management initiatives that try to accelerate what they started, “pulling the grass” as it were. Yet if your goal is to reach more people in your organization, management isn’t something to be avoid. Rather, their support is exactly what you need for your grassroots to grow, and it can come in many forms and from many different people. 

  • Support could be a Learning & Development manager putting WOL Circles in the Corporate Academy, making it easier for employees to join and making it clear that personal development can be done on “work time.”

  • It could be the right structures, such as an on-boarding, talent management, innovation, or diversity program, that gives the grassroots new fields where they can spread.

  • It could be a board member issuing a press release, communicating how this kind of development helps the company.

  • It could be managers enrolling in Circles or WOL for Leaders (a reverse mentoring program) so they experience the benefits themselves and signal to others that these kinds of “WOL behaviors” are encouraged.

Because “grass doesn’t grow faster when you pull it” we ensure Circles are always optional and confidential, so management can’t dictate participation or the choice of goals in WOL Circles. But grass does grow faster - and is healthier and more sustainable - when you have the right conditions. Just as the landscapers in my local park provide nutrients, water, structures (fences), and protection (a cover in winter), it’s possible for management to provide a fertile environment conducive to growth.  

If, like Petra, you’re hoping to change your company’s culture, then part of what you must do is find managers open to change and make it easy for them to support you in some way. Doing so is key to scaling your efforts, helping more people, and making the difference you want to make.

My view as I wrote this post in the local park: Healthy grass roots!



WOL Circle Guides now in Turkish!

Even the phrase “Circle Guides” in Turkish - “Çember Kılavuzu” - looks and sounds exotic to me. Seeing over 120 pages of Working Out Loud material in Turkish is a miracle!

It’s also a huge amount of work: translating thirteen guides, standardizing words and phrases, coordinating people across multiple timezones, double- and triple-checking for consistency and correctness. All of it by volunteers. Sebnem Maier, who organized the effort, also set up a LinkedIn group for “WOL Türkiye Topluluğu” and requested Turkish readers contact her with any edits or comments.

I asked Sebnem and the team what motivated them to take on such a big project, and here’s what they said. I’m grateful for all they’ve done, and inspired by why they did it. 

***

Since I have started my WOL experience in 2016, I was dreaming to have the guides in Turkish to reach people in my country who may have interest in WOL. So my dream has been fulfilled thanks to the great team who translated the guides with me voluntarily. Now, all Turkish-speaking people have the possibility to experience WOL and I am very happy about it.

Sebnem Maier – Senior manager at Robert Bosch GmbH, WOL Mentor, WOL Co-Creation Team

I felt that it was a simple yet genuine tool designed to help people to understand how to add a human touch to  their digital relations. I just wanted to have more people exposed to it and not be limited by language. We need to get closer and together. In person or on digital platforms. We need to relearn to look and see each other eye to eye, people to people, without boundaries of our limitations.

Nurhayat Ulucan – HR Manager, PPG Turkey

I observed in my Turkish Circle as a moderator that language might be a barrier for some people. For a successful rollout of the method, which is what I aim in my home country, Turkey, and for a better life as the WOL ambassador, it was necessary to have the guides in my mother language.

Rüya Demirtas – Project manager, Process improvement specialist, Bosch Turkey

It is a unique method which helps to discover and to understand your own goals by building relationships. We are happy and excited to help WOL reach more people by helping to translate the guides to Turkish.

Ebru Bakir Kandemir & Zafer Kandemir

As a psychology student, what motivated me to become a part of WOL was the enlightening experience of self-actualization, self-realization and self-confidence with the weekly Circle meetings in a friendly, understanding environment.

Zeynep Taş – Junior Student Majoring Psychology at Koç University in Turkey 

We have been searching for a sharing methodology to organize women's Circles to harness our sisterhood's knowledge and passion to share with each other. WOL will unlock this potential. Thank you John and the team! 

Melek Pulatkonak – Founder of TurkishWIN & BinYaprak  

WOL in Germany: Upcoming meetups, experiments, and more

Ah, Germans. They’re direct, often brusque. They have a maddening insistence on process and structure. Yet underneath their stern exterior I almost always find kindness and creativity. They are also excellent at getting things done, and are a source of inspiration for me and for Working Out Loud.

I’ll make at least five trips to Germany this year including the next ten days in Berlin, Stuttgart, and Darmstadt. There I’ll work on adaptations of WOL Circles for manufacturing and healthcare, and on variations of programs for managers and internal trainers (WOL Mentors). 

When I travel, I always wish I could meet even more people interested in WOL, so on this trip I’ll try something different. With the help of friends in the places I’m visiting, we’ll have informal public meetups where anyone can join. (Click on the city to find out more and register.)

Berlin

Stuttgart

Frankfurt

I’ll return to Germany in June, October, and November for projects and events and will visit these cities again. I’ll add Walldorf and Nürnberg to the itinerary, hope to visit Hamburg and Hannover for the first time, and would love to return to more familiar places like Bonn, Friedrichshafen, and Munich.

All this travel leads to a common question: "Why is WOL popular in Germany?” I think it’s because Bosch, headquartered in Stuttgart, was the first organization to embrace WOL Circles and, just as information and behaviors spread via social networks, WOL spread to other German companies. Now, because many of these companies are global, there are Circle members in 57 countries and the Circle Guides are soon to be published in a 9th language. In short, it’s less about WOL being “German” (whatever that means) and more about the Germans being first. 

Wherever WOL takes me, I’ll always have fond memories of my travels to Germany, and a deep respect and affection for the people there.

Herzlicher Dank! Bis bald!


New video: “What is Working Out Loud?"

It’s less than four minutes long, and is part of four hours of video content in a WOL library I’m piloting with several companies. There are subtitles in German, with more languages coming soon. 

When I shared it in the WOL groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, the reactions were exactly what I was hoping for. 

“Already added it to our ESN WOL Group”

“Sharing it next week in our WOL community”

“This video will help us to make the WOL movement even stronger!”

I hope you find it useful.

Answers to "What's WOL?" "How does a Circle work?" “What’s in it for me & for the company?”

If you want to spread WOL in your organization, consider this

Bosch & Daimler quickly recognized they would need help. The grassroots WOL movements they built had taken root, leading to support from management including board members. But how could they scale?

One element of their strategy is to train WOL Mentors, internal people who can support and spread Circles. The first certification workshop, which took place over a year ago, was something of an experiment. The training has evolved since then, and now you can participate in the best version yet.

The main idea

The point of WOL Mentor Training is to equip you to build a WOL movement in your organization. That includes giving you insights and material to help you support Circles. What are common challenges? How do you deal with  them? How do you integrate Mentors into your WOL community? The training also includes access to the new WOL Video Library, where you’ll find resources to help you deliver WOL talks and workshops. 

With this “train the trainer” approach, you can develop an internal capability that allows you to scale your WOL movement.

Next Session: March 5-6 in Berlin

This first public two-day workshop is organized and delivered by Kluge Consulting, and will be in German. (Sabine & Alexander Kluge are good friends as well as two of the first WOL Coaches.) Because individuals from multiple companies will join, Mentors will learn from each other too, through exchanging approaches and implementation innovations. You can find information about content, logistics, and costs of the training here.

Of course, you don’t need a Certificate to spread WOL. But as the Working Out Loud community has grown and more companies are spreading Circles, there’s a lot we’ve all learned about how to do it well. Mentor Training is the best way we know to tap into that learning, to accelerate and scale the change you want to deliver to your organization.

Celebrating 5 WOL Coaches

Back in February, in a post about how WOL could scale, I announced the first people I was working with in a formal way to deliver talks, workshops, and other training related to Working Out Loud. It was an experiment at the time, but it has worked so well that it’s now grown into something much more.

The new site for Certified WOL Coaches refers to them as “A global network of highly-skilled facilitators.” The five people listed have all contributed to the WOL Community for years. I work closely with each of them, and am inspired both by what they do and how they do it.

Sabine Kluge

Alexander Kluge

Katharina Krentz

Barbara Schmidt

Mara Tolja

I want to thank Sabine, Alexander, Katharina, Barbara, and Mara for their trust, and for the many ways they have made Working Out Loud better. In the future there will be other coaches in other places, and it will be hard to match the experience and commitment of these five people. 

workingoutloud.com now in German

It’s fitting that I’m writing this on a train from Bonn to Stuttgart. I’m heading to #WOLCON18, a joint event organized by Bosch and Daimler for 400 of their employees.

It’s a good time to announce the newly bi-lingual version of workingoutloud.com. You can now toggle between German and English by using the new language switcher in the upper right-hand corner, and it should work on your phone as well. (There are still a few pages being translated, and more content I intend to add.)

I’m often asked, “Why is WOL big in Germany?” I usually respond that there’s nothing particularly German about the method. It’s just that Bosch, based in Stuttgart, was the first company to embrace it. That was three years ago, and they ignited a trend in their home country. Since then, they spread it to employees in over 45 countries, and WOL is now in a wide range of organizations around the world, from corporations and non-profits to schools and governmental groups.

Almost from the beginning, local communities sprang up where people would share their experiences with WOL or look for Circle members. (These are in addition to the WOL groups I created on Facebook and LinkedIn.) There’s a Yammer group in German, and a @WOL_de Twitter account. There was also an early attempt at a German website that proved difficult to maintain, and having up-to-date information was my main reason for finally making workingoutloud.com bi-lingual.  

For sure, these groups help raise awareness and create a sense of connection for German speakers, and I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful to Claudia Kaspereit for her translation work on the website, and to the Bosch team for the first-ever WOL translation of the Circle Guides a few years ago. 

Having the website available in another language is just a small, long-overdue step. But each time WOL content is translated into other languages - the Circle Guides, journals, book, subtitles on videos - we are able to reach more people. That makes each step worth it.


WOL Circle Guides now in Italian!

I never met my grandparents, Vito and Angelina Bruno. They emigrated from Piaggine, Italy to New York City about a hundred years ago by boat. No jobs, not much money or education, unable to speak English. I suspect they would be thrilled about this latest development: WOL in Italy.

The first Circle members in Bologna sharing their experiences with an audience

The first Circle members in Bologna sharing their experiences with an audience

I first heard from Samantha Gubellini in February of this year. She works at a management consulting firm, SCS Consulting, and she told me she hoped to do a pro bono experiment with the city council in Bologna, applying the WOL method in a “smart city program.” As part of that test, they would translate the guides into Italian. 

The first Circles just ended, and Circle members recently shared their personal experiences in a gorgeous room in Bologna. Below are two translated snippets from posts on LinkedIn. (See here, here, and here for some of the original posts in Italian.)

“During the 12 weeks we laughed, we cried, we celebrated the progress, shared the failures and we supported ourselves to overcome the obstacles. We have learned the basics of working aloud, but we do not want to stop here: our intention, and our challenge, is to continue to use these tools in our professional and personal path.” 

“What was WOL for me? So many things.. Live the emotions without brakes, understand the point of view of your colleagues, share the experiences - even the deepest, but above all show yourself without being judged! I laughed, I cried, I discussed, I shared.. In practice I opened the heart to people who until recently were unknown!” 

It was Teresa Arneri and Maria Chiara Guardo who took on the extraordinary work of translating the thirteen Circle Guides, and they’re now publicly available. Teresa wrote me a note about what motivated her to do it.

“As you could seen on LinkedIn,  the WOL experience ended in one of the most beautiful and emotional ways!

The WOL Circle Groups’ testimonials were impressive and able to spread the importance of WOL to those who still didn’t know anything about the project. The result was quite surprising, as we know that the WOL method is something difficult to convey! But the audience showed enthusiasm and seem to understand this innovative approach.

Since the beginning, when I first met the WOL methodology while surfing on the web, I immediately felt that this kind of practice was meant to be successful. In fact, the methodology plays with such elements that no other classical training (that also teaches how to build collaboration) is able to transmit.

WOL is based on simple, common things that are part of a system of natural rules that human beings have acquired since the beginning of time, in order to be able to coexist and survive within a community.

This is for me the power of WOL. Therefore it was impossible to not collaborate to the spread of this method by our contribution of the Italian translation of the guides! 

Thank you so much John (Giovanni) 😊

Teresa”

I hope to meet Teresa, Maria, and Samanta in Bologna someday, and give them my thanks in person, along with a heartfelt “Grazie mille!” from Vito and Angelina.