This week is Working Out Loud week, and I can’t but come out in support of a principle that I think is going to be key to organizational success. And, I think, L&D has a key role to play.
The benefits from working out loud are many. Personally, documenting what you’re doing serves as a reminder to yourself and awareness for others. The real power comes, however, from taking that next level: documenting not just what you’re doing, but why. This helps you in reflecting on your own work, and being clear in your thinking. Moreover, sharing your thinking gives you a second benefit in getting others’ input which can really improve the outcome.
In addition, it gives others a couple of benefits. They get to know what you’re up to, so it’s easier to align, but if your thinking is any good, it gives them the chance to learn from how you think.
So what is the role of L&D here? I’ll suggest there are two major roles: facilitating the skills and enabling the culture.
First, don’t assume folks know what working out loud means. And even if they do, they may not be good at it in terms of knowing how to indicate the underlying thinking. And they likely will want feedback and encouragement. First, L&D needs to model it, practicing what they preach. They need to make sure the tools are easily available and awareness is shared. Execs need to be shown the benefit and encouraged to model the behavior too. And L&D will have to trumpet the benefits, accomplishments, and encourage the behavior.
None of this is really likely to succeed if you don’t have a supportive culture. In a Miranda organization, no one is going to share. Instead, you need the elements of a learning organization: the environment has to value diversity, be open to new ideas, provide time for reflection, and most of all be safe. And L&D has to understand the benefits and continue to promote them, identify problems, and work to resolve them.
Note that this is not something you manage or control. The attitude here has to be one of nourishing aka (seed, feed, and weed). You may track it, and you want to be looking for things to support or behaviors to improve, but the goal is to develop a vibrant community of sharing, not squelching anything that violates the hierarchy.
Working out loud benefits the individual and the organization in a healthy environment. Getting the environment right, and facilitating the practice, are valuable contributions, and ones that L&D can, and should, contribute to.
urbie delgado says
Serendipity. You have to love it. A little earlier this evening I stumbled upon this tweet from @JaneBozarth:
Comms of Practice allowed to emerge/grow = energy, artifacts, ownership. Top down? Not so much. No surprise. http://t.co/nM0oqdamx9
I could be wrong, but after scanning through the journal article article I figured out that top-down isn’t so nearly effective a method for growing communities of practice as bottom-up. Would you really want or need someone from the executive suite to help drive Working Out Loud? The part where L&D trumpets was discordant to how I view social change. That’s what WOL is: a group of people, maybe just one or two, coming together and trying something different. That’s authenticity.
How did I happen to get to this place? Here’s my thought process. A couple years ago I was a training department of one in a far off corner of New Mexico. Some months went by before I figured out I was in one serious rut. It was bad. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, what I was missing. I took a chance, and went to an EdCamp (community of practice professional development event for K-12 educators). They definitely worked out loud. A few EdCamps later and I was hooked.
The catalyst, however, that breakthrough experience where someone picks up the trumpet, or ukelele, or whatever was completing an ATD Social Media course. It enabled me to question what I thought were beliefs but, it turned out, were fears. Slowly I started to WOL.
Anyway, way off on a tangent there. The point I’m trying to make is this: start out small. Get your circle to suspend disbelief long enough to try something different. Over a period of time your message will be picked up and a movement will grow. Or maybe nothing happens and you can try something else. Don’t try to sell WOL by shouting out its features. Let the people around you model it and begin to move others.