International Work Out Loud Week (#WOLWeek), 15-21 June 2015, took me a little by surprise. Realising it was happening only 3 days out I scrambled for ideas of how to use the opportunity to promote the benefits and practices of working out loud in my organisation. For context, I have been talking to people in my business unit Capability Community about WOL over the past year, and since February 2015 have included it in the Work, Connect and Learn program which we run to introduce people to skills and behaviours for building a network and participating in a Community of Practice. Of course, people have been sharing their work with others in a range of forms as a natural element of how they work for a long time before the terms ‘work out loud’ or ‘show your work’ were invented. What we see now is a movement which encourages doing this in a purposeful, open and generous way to amplify the benefits to the individual and those who see their work and engage in conversations with them.
Every Monday at 9am people who work in my business unit on the same floor of my building gather and briefly talk about one or two things they are working on that week. I enthusiastically introduced WOL Week and let everyone know that what they were doing right then was a form of WOL.
Next I got onto our Enterprise Social Network, SharePoint, and introduced WOL Week in a post on the home page where everyone in the organisation could see it. I included a link to a punchy introduction to Working Out Loud that I’d prepared using the new Microsoft Sway tool. (This is the public version – the version I shared inside the organisation included links to examples of WOL on SharePoint as well as the internet.) At the end of the post I asked the questions “What is one thing you are working on or learning at the moment? How are you doing this?” No-one replied, 1 person liked the post.
I made a fresh post sharing a link to Jane Bozarth’s explanation of how (and why) to show your work which I find clear and practical. I did include the WOL Week image (always try to add an image to my posts so they are more noticeable). However, the text was a little longer and the link to the article was only revealed after clicking on ‘show more’, along with the question “What was something you did yesterday? What problem did you solve or what did you learn?”
I role modelled replying to my own post, sharing a model for having engaging conversations. 8 people liked the model. No one else shared or asked further questions.
Day 3 – what else could I do? I decided to run an experiment – SharePoint versus Flipchart. I kept it simple. I wrote “What Have You Learned Recently” on a flipchart and stuck it on a wall in a corridor leading to our well-frequented cafe, along with an A4 poster about WOL Week. I also took a photo of the question and posted it on SharePoint. I made one reply in each location to get the sharing started.
Bearing in mind that the number of people who passed the flipchart was in the hundreds, while the number of people with access to SharePoint is in the thousands (a ratio of 1:8 at least) – what do you think the outcome was after 3 working days, not counting my replies?
FLIPCHART – 6
SHAREPOINT – 1
More people replied on the flipchart than on SharePoint.
What did happen on SharePoint was follow on conversation. I had posted that I had learned “In-box domination” – how to get my in-box to zero at the end of every day. Two people commented or asked questions about this. There may have been conversation generated by the flipchart, but I wasn’t there to hear it. This is a key difference between the two modes – conversations are accessible by more people on SharePoint, and you get the opportunity to interact with people that you may not have physical contact with.
Another observation is that the simplest of my three International WOL Week SharePoint posts got the most responses. So, I shall keep posts brief, continue using graphics, and ask direct questions to encourage interaction.
I posted a photo of the flipchart on SharePoint, compared the number of replies and asked why people more had replied to the flipchart. The one response to this question was interesting:
The implication then is that there was not a lot of traffic on SharePoint. It’s a pity I can’t get data on how many people visit their SharePoint newsfeed daily – probably fewer than visit the cafe on my floor. Apart from traffic, I’m sure there are other reasons why people didn’t post a reply, although not specifically which reasons were in play here. What I do know is that this number is higher than it was 6 months ago as more people are interacting with me on SharePoint. I have faith that over time it will continue to grow so long as people like myself continue to champion enterprise social within the organisation.