Working Out Loud is the concept of building relationships through narration and social collaboration. In your personal life, you’ve probably subconsciously practiced it plenty of times.
When you share photos on Facebook of the meals you’ve cooked, the holidays you’ve taken or the milestones your children reach, you are essentially building relationships through narration and social engagement.
In the workplace, this concept has been coined “Working Out Loud”. A relatively new concept, John Stepper trademarked it in 2010 after noticing how the changing nature of social media influenced how people were sharing information visually in their work teams.
He describes it best: “Working Out Loud is an approach to building relationships that can help you in some way. It’s a practice that combines conventional wisdom about relationships with modern ways to reach and engage people. When you work out loud, you feel good and empowered at the same time.”
The simple equation is as follows:
Observable Work + Narrating Your Work = Working Out Loud
Observable Work is related to putting information in a place that people can engage with it, such as a collaborative platform like Conceptboard.
Narrating Your Work is any rich content you create that helps explain your processes better so that other team members can access and refer back to it when they have questions.
Dagmar Woetzel is a change consultant who has worked with Siemens as a division people transformation lead during the company wide digital transformation.
As a consultant in the power and gas division helping with the digital transformation, she was faced with the problem of aligning international teams in a way that made everyone feel like they were working towards a shared goal.
She began using Conceptboard as a tool to help align teams, create transparency and boost collaboration. Many of the projects followed Working Out Loud processes as a way to bring international teams together in a virtual world.
“I was tasked with solving the question How can we virtualize co-creative teamwork? and Conceptboard was one of the means that took us from meeting in-person, and into the virtual space while retaining a lot of the elements we have at an in-person workshop,” says Ms Woetzel.
Some of those elements include openness, collaboration, equality and agility. By allowing everyone to participate in real time, regardless of timezone, location or position, work becomes more effective and fulfilling. As John Stepper says, “almost every organization is looking for ways to be more agile or innovative. They also want a more engaged workforce. Yet, the change management programs and digital transformation programs typically miss the most important piece: changing day-to-day behavior.”
For Ms Woetzel, embracing the digital workplace became a key way she could help change day to day behaviours. By creating a digitally driven culture of collaboration as a first step, people were more willing to share knowledge, ideas and learnings online.
Siemens provides Conceptboard to their employees, and the transformation team used it to help deliver three major projects with Working Out Loud principles at their core. Let’s take a look at them.
- Learning Expedition
- Health Workshop
- Social Prototyping
Enterprise Level Collaboration
The Learning Expedition is a concept where a small group of team-members get the opportunity to go and explore the offices of powerful companies such as Google, SpaceX, Maersk, Spotify, in order to learn what they do, how they do it, and how they see the world.
“We wanted to broaden that experience to a wider group of people so our Leadership Excellence team came up with a paper based gamification of that exploratory process. Due to the complicated logistics of shipping materials around the world, we turned it into a virtual game,” says Ms Woetzel.
The game simulates the three critical steps of the learning expedition: preparation, action and post expedition learning. Clickable links within the board, simultaneous collaboration, and cross-country virtual teammates meant that it was a totally immersive project.
“The teams were happy to have access to this training in a virtual space as they knew they couldn’t meet. It was so much easier to have this in Conceptboard, instead of having two teams sitting with Circuit and a camera and everyone has the poster printed out, and then everyone does their dialogue over camera. It’s so much easier to do the teamwork within this virtual poster, where you can document your results in one place. It increases the efficiency of the Circuit / camera collaboration significantly. This was really helpful,” she added.
“People could use the virtual gamified approach to inspire their teams. To improve virtual collaborations, build and nurture them in new ways. And that worked brilliantly.”
After conducting an internal survey, a division team found that many staff members felt stressed and wanted more support from the company to help them keep healthy.
So they launched an interactive workshop through Conceptboard, encouraging staff to narrate the process by sharing their thoughts and ideas during a speed-dialogue round. The interactive session encouraged people to share their thoughts, “then we discussed how they can stay healthy: through healthy eating habits, sleep, stress, helping each other, and so on” said Ms Woetzel.
It was important that this feedback and the discussion points be placed in a shared collaborative space so staff could return to the board afterwards, check things out, collect ideas and help each other.
“They left virtual post-it notes, word clouds and everything was there in one place. Everyone could get into the board, start working with it, or share with their own teams locally,” finalising the observable aspect of the Working Out Loud process.
Enable digital transformation
People Transformation Journey
Going through any transformation process can be an isolating experience, so during a division wide behavioral transformation, they realised that one way to combat this was to remind people that they were not alone. They did this by creating giant story boards within Conceptboard, then sharing the results in one of more than 100 sessions at a transformation pop-up week with 6.000 staff.
“Simply seeing that other people are doing the same, sharing these pictures as a reminder and seeing the story evolve, you can zoom in. People can share their story, that was a huge benefit” said Ms Woetzel. By using the idea of Working Out Loud, the content is still there to be referred back to and added to.
“Each box has pictures documenting the whole team’s transformation, and there are links to the videos, really anything people would need to get an overview of their story.”
In the literal, methodical world of Siemens Ms Woetzel found this narrative storytelling was the missing piece to the puzzle that fostered transparency.
“It’s the human intuition, storytelling side that had been missing before, and Conceptboard is helping to bring that in,” she said.
Overall, Ms Woetzel believes that Conceptboard is a very helpful piece in helping Siemens through their people transformation journey by providing “an unlimited canvas, in a virtual world, for everyone to collaborate on anytime anywhere.”
If you would like to read more about how Conceptboard helped a Siemens divisions’ transformation, read this fascinating interview.
I like the idea of having Mindmaps on this board, but please use it in the correct way and not as a list or table connected with colored lines. That way leads to misunderstandings and doesn’t help to support a topic.