Inspired 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.
My 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.
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.