It seems to me that in our current era, many of us ‘live’ out loud. We share our daily happenings with others via social media channels, with pictures and commentary for all the minute daily happenings of our lives. For some of us this is to people that we know, and for some it is open to everybody.
Is it any wonder, then, that the ‘working out loud’ phenomenon has been born?
On business social media platform LinkedIn, there are many people that ‘work’ out loud – taking pictures and sharing updates through their working day. However, ‘working out loud’ in its current usage actually relates to ‘working something out’ – in the sense of learning and sharing the process and progress with others.
Acceleration of learning
These days we are information rich. We can find answers to everything with a few clicks. But that is not always enough. The sharing of experience, reflective dialogue, additional insights from someone else – all these could help us get to where we are going faster than if we attempt it on our own. We work in complex systems, where there are complex answers to problems. Opening ourselves up to a wider way to explore issues and challenges is the only way to learn in the 21st Century.
Origins of ‘Working out Loud’
The phrase ‘Working Out Loud’ was coined by John Stepper. After spending years working in big companies Stepper figured there had to be a better way to realise more of our individual and collective potential in the workplace. He developed Working Out Loud as a concept with a book, and then setup Working Out Loud Circles. His methodology is free for anyone to use and is available at workingoutloud.com, and consists of templates for 12 x 1 hour weekly discussions for a working out loud group. While this is a useful setup with powerful tools, the underlying principles can be adopted and utilized in a variety of ways. Indeed, even just being aware of the concept of ‘working out loud’, can help us re-frame our approaches to sharing our learning journeys and collaborative learning practices.
For me, I have been writing and blogging for a few years, and this has been my way of working out loud. I take a topic I’m interested in and share my thoughts relating to a particular experience that I’ve had. It’s my way of reflecting and making sense of things. I think it through, do any additional research that’s needed, attempt to present my thoughts in a coherent way by commiting to paper (albeit digital), and then share. By sharing, I’m inviting further dialogue and discussion. Yes it’s scary at the beginning, but it gets easier with practice.
So while a more formal, structured approach to Working Out Loud is available, I thought I’d outline some key pointers for anyone wanting to experiment with approaches to working out loud:
Share your learning goals
As with all goal setting endeavours, sharing your goal with others is a key first step. The same is true for learning goals, so with working out loud, being open about what you want to learn and how you’re going to go about it can help get you started. I set myself a personal goal this year to write a biography about my late father. This is a huge undertaking, and will no doubt be a learning experience. I was terrified to tell others about this but doing so was an important step. To do this, I wrote a blog outlining my reasons for wanting to write the book, and shared this, firstly with family, and then 3 month’s later (yes it took me that long), more widely. Saying things out loud can make them real. By sharing with others, you build your accountability. And most importantly, you open yourself up to receive help and encouragement, thereby making it more likely that you achieve the goal.
Find your ‘Working Out Loud’ spaces
In my career to be in touch with other peers I have often had to look outside my organisation. Whilst in the housing sector, I was an active part of a group of L&D professionals. We shared what we were working on, and some of the relationships formed from that group still continue today. The group was a safe space to ‘work out loud’, and at the time gave me the spur I needed to share my learning more widely by putting on hosted events with a presentation/discussion. John Stepper says ‘relationships are at the heart of working out loud’, and this coupled with generosity, where the focus is on giving.
This is where the online communities can come into their own. Whether a LinkedIn group, Facebook group or twitter event – there are ways of reaching others who’s learning goals may match your own. Find them, then get involved!
Adopt a growth mindset
One of the things that can hold us back with ‘working out loud’ is the fear of highlighting that we don’t know something. This ‘fixed mindset’ is a self-fulfilling limiting belief. Adopting a growth mindset – being open, curious and resilient, can open doors and opportunities.
I worked out early in my career as a line manager of a functional team that answers to challenges would come better if I went to the team with the problem rather than trying to always have a ready-made answer. The same applies for our learning goals. We can be open about what we are interested in and look for opportunities that challenge us to grow.
To read more on John Stepper’s approach, I found this blog ‘The 5 elements of working out loud’ helpful.
What are you doing to Work Out Loud?
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