There are many ways to nurture an organizational culture change in a knowledge-sharing environment, including embracing “Working Out Loud”. Bryce Williams defines Working Out Loud (WOL) as Observable Work (creating, modifying, and storing your work in places where others can see it, follow it, and contribute to it in process) + Narrating Your Work (writing about what you are doing in an open way for those interested to find and follow).
John Stepper says 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.”
Reasons Working Out Loud Benefits Knowledge Management
For those in knowledge management hoping to bring organizational culture change, here are reasons for Working Out Loud rather than working privately, through email messages, or in closed meetings:
- Multiple people may need to know what is going on, to read updates, and to reply, and you don’t know who all of them are. You can receive replies from all relevant people, and see all people who replied, unlike forwarded email.
- Providing transparency in thinking, decisions, and processes allows you to receive feedback from anyone willing to contribute. It enables vetting ideas in public by allowing others to weigh in, which helps achieve consensus. And leading by example encourages others to also work out loud.
- WOL enables and exploits serendipity. You can meet up with people wherever you are, who otherwise won’t know you are going to be there. You can exchange and support ideas with other people attending the same events, and allow those unable to attend to also benefit. And you can gain new colleagues by participating in recurring online chats.
- WOL allows others to benefit from seeing discussions, including receiving advice from unexpected sources based on relevant experience, receiving pointers to useful information, and helping others to learn and develop.
- You can keep an open record of discussions by maintaining a single thread with all replies in the same place, making it accessible to all who have an interest, and making it easy to refer back to the discussion and to provide a public link.
- WOL builds your personal brand. You can maintain a journal of your thinking as a permanent record, reuse your thoughts for blog posts and book chapters, and enhance your reputation as a thought leader.
- WOL avoids fragmentation into different email threads and different sets of people. There is no need to forward email messages, you avoid having different people on different threads, and it prevents out-of-sync replies.
If you work out loud, you progress from old ways of working to new and better ones. These include modeling the open way of working, demonstrating trust, and flattening out the hierarchy.
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V. Mary Abraham is an author, consultant and facilitator who has been active in legal industry knowledge management since 1991.
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