Working Out Loud 3 Habits Experiment

ozlearnInspired by a recent #Ozlearn Twitter chat on ‘The Value of Working Out Loud‘ (WOL), I’ve tried a one week ‘3 Habits’ WOL experiment in my organisation’s Enterprise Social Network (ESN).  For anyone unfamiliar with the term WOL, refer to my post from 14 August for a brief introduction.

I’ve been working out loud through my blog, membership of online communities on the internet, and via Twitter for just under six months – and it’s significantly altered my personal approach to professional development.  The benefits that I’ve experienced include:

  • a stronger, more diverse network
  • accelerated, fluid ongoing professional development
  • an understanding of trends and practices relevant to my work
  • quicker, better quality problem solving
  • improved working processes
  • better ability to support others through knowledge and resource sharing
  • a sense of connection to others

As an organisational L&D practitioner, the next step for me is to seek to introduce WOL in  my business uni to promote collaboration and cooperation, in ways that strongly align to our business strategy.  Of course, generating business value from an ESN is a long term game that warrants many separate blog posts.

WOLMy focus in this post is on my ‘3 Habits’ WOL experiment.  SharePoint is our ESN.  It is primarily used for document storage and sharing.  Two of our senior managers blog weekly (this is good!) and the Sales team post an endless stream of photos of shop displays they have set up (the ‘Following only’ newsfeed view is a blessing).  Apart from this there is very limited use of SharePoint blogging or micro-blogging in an organisation with several thousand permanent employees.  My ESN posts over the past few months have been sporadic, falling well short of my intent to generate interest in WOL.  During the #Ozlearn chat Simon Terry suggested that people try using triggers to develop a habit of posting three times a day.  The triggers and habits I aimed to use were:

  • Trigger 1 – Morning Coffee.  Habit 1 – Post about something I’m working on.
  • Trigger 2 – Start of lunch break.  Habit 2 – Interact with others.
  • Trigger 3 – Shutting down my computer.  Habit 3 – Say thank you or acknowledge someone.

I also invited members of the L&D Community (a group of less than ten people) to join the WOL experiment, and encouraged others to post, ask questions or comment whenever I identified specific opportunities.

Here’s what happened during my experiment…

Day 1 – 19 August

8.10am – Habit 1




Never received any replies….

8.13am – Habit 2 (yeah, not quite lunchtime – I was keen and took the opportunity when I saw it)





I did get a thanks from the person who posted the question.


4.35pm – Habit 3 – I thanked some people who had suggested additional training courses that their teams would find valuable.  Interestingly, it took me a while to figure out what and who to recognise.  This was the most challenging post of Day 1.

On Day 1 I also sent a link to Simon Terry’s 3 Habits article to members of our internal L&D Community, to inform a discussion on our role in supporting informal learning and communities of practice.  I suggested that as a group we try WOL for one month.

Day 2 – 20 August 

8.15am – Habit 1 – Here I talked about what I was doing and also why, taking the opportunity to suggest some of the things people can do on SharePoint.





12.45pm – Habit 2 – I answered another question about SharePoint use.  This is the topic that questions are most often posted about.  (Aside – we could be doing a better job with SharePoint training.)

4pm – Habit 3 – I thanked someone for conducting a skill assessment.  It was a lot easier to identify something to recognise today.

Day 3 – 21 August 

8.05am – Habit 1 – Shared a graphic listing things people can do on an ESN, which was shared during an #ESN Twitter Chat.  Perhaps this simple list might encourage others to try some things out on SharePoint.  (Diagram sourced from Stan Garfield.)








3.10pm – Habit 2 – I noticed a response to a question I had posted three days previously requesting job aids or training material on how to use permissions in SharePoint.  I thanked the person who replied, and used the @mention function to share their response with specific individuals.

3.10pm – Habit 3 – While not strictly recognition, I posted a short support message against a suggestion from someone else to improve functionality for sharing a document from SharePoint.  I had encouraged this person to post earlier in the day, so wanted to provide the with positive reinforcement.




On Day 3 the L&D Community’s fortnightly teleconference catchup was held.  I raised WOL as a practice which could help develop internal communities of practice (a goal in our Capability strategy), and asked the group to try the WOL experiment for two weeks.  I asked why people weren’t already posting on SharePoint (noting that this was the second time we have discussed the practice).  The first response was uncertainty about who sees posts, which impacts how much context the person felt they may need to provide in a post.  We discussed how Following and news feeds work.  The second response was “It just doesn’t occur to me.”  I thought this linked nicely to Simon’s 3 Habits suggestion, so referred the group to the article and discussed triggers and habits.  Teleconferences can be awkward to discuss even familiar topics, let alone a new behaviour which is outside of people’s comfort zones.  The group feels we already have a strong L&D Community, hence is unsure of what they see as the incremental benefits of WOL. At the end of the discussion I could see that I would need to provide ongoing encouragement to others to try it out.

Day 4 – 22 August

8.30am – Habit 1 – I posted about the group’s WOL experiment.

 10.52am – Habit 3 (OK, out of sequence, but a clear opportunity arose to recognise someone.) I congratulated a person who was found competent in a skill assessment on the previous day.  Shortly afterwards one of the L&D Community members protested that I had ‘taken her post’.  Note to self – before posting consider whether someone else might like to post on a specific item and pause to give them time to do so.

11am – Habit 2 – I liked a post from one of the L&D Community members.





Day 5 – 25 August

11.18am – Habit 2 – One of the L&D Community had posted about a new instructional design concept they had learned.  I replied with a question (which hasn’t been answered four days later).

12.27pm – Habit 1 – Posted about SharePoint site clean up.

2.35pm – Weekly Blog – I posted my weekly status update on learning initiatives in my business unit.  This is a key regular stakeholder communication.  I look forward to the day when I am confident that enough of these stakeholders are following the blog and looking at their SharePoint newsfeed to stop emailing them a link to it (sigh!).

2.40pm – Habit 2 – Someone in the HR team has posted a tip on using our Performance and talent Management tool.  I liked this post (literally).  Sharing tips is a great use case for an ESN.

Some Statistics

I follow 120 people on SharePoint, including all of the senior managers in my business unit.  I don’t follow any of the Sales team as their product display photos would overwhelm everything else in my feed.  Micro-posts remain on the newsfeed for one week.  In the past week there have been 44 posts in my ‘Following’ feed.  16 (35%) of these are mine.  14 others posted in this time – 11% of the people I follow.  Of these, five are people I encouraged to post.

Observations and What Next

The triggers worked well for me to get into the flow of regular posts and coin a variety of things in my posts.  While I am wary of ‘dominating’ the SharePoint feed given relatively low number of active users, I’m shall continue posting three times a day.  I feel that it’s my responsibility to role model WOL given my L&D role and the value of the practice to continuous learning.  We have barely scratched the surface of the business value to be gained using SharePoint.

Of the three habits, number 3 (recognising and acknowledging others) was the least ‘natural’ to me  – and this is something most organisations could do with more of.  I’m going to move this habit to Trigger 1 so it’s the first thing I do in the day when I’m freshest and most likely to post.

I’m also going to post more about activities other than SharePoint initiatives.  As this is the main topic that others post about I’d like to flag that there is benefit in discussing other topics online.

I will ask others for their opinion on topics more frequently to prompt them to respond and interact.  I will also continue to suggest specific opportunities to post to others when I spot them.

Next week I shall write up a new set of habits to support these adjustments.

I’m also going to develop a strategy to launch and grow a specific community of practice outside of L&D to support a high priority element of our business strategy.  It will include activities conducted face to face, via teleconference, and online.  Working Out Loud in these various ‘spaces’ will be a key element of the strategy.


  1. #1 by Activate Learning Solutions on August 30, 2014 - 12:17 am

    What a great way to capture what you’re doing and reactions. If I can offer advice (which you know already is, “stick with it” as it does take time. Over time people will see the value, they’ll remember where they saw it and unbeknownst to them you would have solved a question, dilemma, issue or problem for them. I think reading it like you have written here in your blog is a great way to capture what is happening. Don’t worry too much about no responses to questions because I believe that it will come around to you in some way usually someone will say, “yeah, you solved a problem for me!” (I laughingly then say that I would have loved to have known this – how about a ‘Like’ or a ‘+1’ just to acknowledge this…hint hint!) Keep up the great work!

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on September 10, 2014 - 11:25 am

      Thank you for your ongoing encouragement Helen. I continue with these habits and am seeing the occasionally like or comment in reply. It will grow so long as I persist and encourage others.

  2. #3 by tanyalau on September 10, 2014 - 11:07 am

    Read this the other night on my phone but couldn’t reply as my phone doesn’t seem to like me commenting on blogs …(have lost heaps of comments trying in the past…!!) Anyway, really enjoyed reading this diary of sorts, great insight into your days and how you’ve been able to integrate these routines into your day. Excellent effort, and very inspiring!!

    • #4 by Michelle Ockers on September 10, 2014 - 11:28 am

      Thanks for the comment Tanya. Week 3 now, and still definitely need the triggers to remain consistent. Also learning to give others space. Last week I asked all of the members of my Capability Community to post a brief status update on our community site micro post – it released 30 minutes of our fortnightly one hour community teleconference to spend in more valuable ways. I asked them how it felt – as it’s early days there is a sense of awkwardness and uncertainty. I shall continue to support them on this. Two of them have posted 2+ times in past week, which is good to see.

  3. #5 by salchell on January 23, 2015 - 5:32 am

    Hi Michelle – thanks for sharing this post in the SLPP work group. I enjoyed reading it. I will aim to integrate something like the 3 habits into my own ESN here at work. I was wondering…a few months on (and you may have blogged about this elsewhere, that I haven’t read yet…) how are the habits going and has there been any increased involvement from your work team??

    • #6 by Michelle Ockers on January 25, 2015 - 1:17 am

      Thanks for your comment and question. I haven’t blogged an update on how the 3 habits and uptake by others in my organisation is going. I’ve heard from many sources that we can form new habits in 21 days – I suspect this is a myth as I need to be very conscious still to stick to these 3 habits. I have fluctuated with my SharePoint posting activity, although most days I post at least twice. There has been some increase in posting by others (outside of Sales who keep inundating the newsfeed with photos of product displays they’ve set up in customer locations without much discussion of how the are working and getting results). I do get more likes and an occasional reply to a post, however the take up rate is really slow. I’ve come to the conclusion that role modelling alone is not enough – see this post:

      I’ve got two things happening that I think will help. The first is a guided social learning program called Work, Connect and Learn which our Capability Team will participate in alongside maintenance and engineering teams in Feb/March 2015. Helen Blunden has been developing this program for CCA – I refer you to her post for more about this:

      The second is that my business unit diector is keen to start using SharePoint. I’ve shared the 3 Habits article with him and will provide direct support to get him posting regularly and engaging with others.

  4. #7 by Stephen Bruington on January 27, 2015 - 7:41 pm


    I’m curious if, beyond your experiences articulated on this blog, there have been any studies done by your organization on the business value gained from SharePoint as an ESN? As you probably know by now, I’m in a similar position within my own organization. I’d posit that we are a few steps behind you, and I hope to learn from you.

    If not a case study at your organization, is there any research you can point me to that will help me build a business case for investing in upgrading our ESN to a version 2.0?

    Any help you can provide is appreciated. I know we’ve spent time reading each other’s words; perhaps we can connect via email or Skype sometime.

    • #8 by Michelle Ockers on February 4, 2015 - 9:11 pm

      Thanks for your interest Stephen. I’m not sure what the Business case was for either SharePoint 2010 or 2013 upgrade. I shall put this question to our CIO today and ask what measurement / evaluation they are doing. For the Community if Practice we are about to launch in SharePoint we have defined success metrics using Wenger-Trayner framework for assessing value creation in communities and networks. Watch out for a post on this blog about our approach. Happy to share these directly with you and Skype. See my Twitter DM

  5. #10 by tanyalau on February 8, 2015 - 11:37 am

    The wenger-trayner framework you’ve posted looks like an amazing resource – thanks Michelle. Will be taking a look at this in more detail

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