“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?

Working Out Loud: The TEDx Talk

I'm excited about this. The talk will be on April 9th at TEDx in Navesink, NJ, and the title is “Working Out Loud: The making of a movement.” The story I plan to tell won’t be about me or the book or even the practice of working out loud.

The story will be about something much bigger. 

TEDx

TEDx

The talk

The theme of the event is “Makers” and the organizers want to “explore the essence of creation.” In the case of working out loud, the thing that caught their attention is how we’re trying to spread a set of positive behaviors and are beginning to help a wide range of people and organizations around the world.

Here’s a description from the TEDxNavesink website:

“Stories of successful movements and movement-builders can be daunting as well as inspiring. The path can look so straight and assured in hindsight. At the early stages, though, the process of building a movement is fraught with uncertainty and a wide range of everyday crises. How do you start? How do you deal with the uncertainty at the early stages?

This is a story of Working Out Loud. Its aim is to help millions of people build better careers and lives, but will it? Examining it closely in its early stages can help other aspiring movement-builders know what to do and what to avoid.”

The movement we’re making

What’s the point of this movement and why would people want to be a part of it? A few months ago I wrote about where Working Out Loud is heading.

“Collectively, we will help millions of people develop the practice of Working Out Loud.

We’ll do it to help individuals access a better career and life,

to help the work of organizations be more effective and fulfilling,

and to make the planet feel like a more connected, humane place.” 

The key words in that statement are “we” and “collectively.” In my talk, I want to celebrate the people who are taking a step for themselves and those helping to spread the practice. I want to inspire others to take a step too, not to follow me but to lead in their own way.

As the event organizers asserted: “We’re all makers, and sometimes we choose to make a difference.” I want to help more people make that choice - in their own lives and in the lives of others.