(Note: For WOLweek, each day this week I'll post something related to Working Out Loud. This post is one of the most popular I've ever written. It originally appeared on workingoutloud.com on January 14th, 2014. Since then, the elements evolved and became part of "Working Out Loud," now available on Amazon.)
Recently, I was talking with my wife about Working Out Loud and the book that I’m publishing later this year. After a few minutes, she bluntly asked me:
“So, is it just blogging?”
Now, that’s one of those questions that could either lead to an argument or could lead to deeper reflection and new insights. I chose the deeper reflection and new insights.
My wife’s question made me think that, despite writing about Working Out Loud for a few years, maybe I haven’t been clear enough about what it really is. So here’s a broader definition that I hope you’ll find useful.
The original definition
When Bryce Williams first coined the term more than 3 years ago, he described it with a simple formula:
Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work
Understandably, he focuses on publishing. And, looking back, I’ve also placed most of the emphasis on publishing. (My most popular post on working out loud uses “Your personal content strategy” as a subtitle.)
So I can understand my wife’s question. Simply using social platforms might be considered working out loud but it could completely miss the point. Working out loud is meant to be purposeful – to help you get things done and make work better. To be effective, you have to do more than just blog or tweet about what you’re working on.
A broader definition
So now, when someone asks me “What’s Working Out Loud”?, here’s what I say:
“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”
It’s not as pithy as I’d like but it’s usually good enough to get people’s attention so I can follow up with examples or stories of people who do it well. There are 5 elements in this description I’d like to highlight.
Making your work visible: As Bryce described, this is indeed the fundamental starting point for working out loud.
Making work better: One of the main reasons for openly narrating your work is to find ways to improve it. You’re publishing so other people will see it, including some who can provide useful feedback, connections, or other things that will make your work better.
Leading with generosity: By framing your posts as contributions – as opposed to, say, efforts at self-promotion or personal branding – you’re more likely to engage other people. You’re not just looking for help but offering to help others, too. As Keith Ferrazzi said, “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
Building a social network: As you work out loud over time, you’ll be interacting with a broader range of people. The further you develop relationships with people in your network, the more likely it will be that you’ll collaborate with them and that they’ll be willing help you in other ways.
Making it all purposeful: Finally, since there’s an infinite amount of contributing and connecting you can do, you need to make it purposeful in order to be effective. (Goals might be as simple as “I want more recognition in my firm.” or “I’d like to explore opportunities in another industry or location.”) You can still have plenty of room for serendipity, but having a goal in mind focuses your learning, your publishing, and your connections.
What do you think?
Though the most important part of working out loud is actually doing it rather than wrangling over a definition, a part of changing how people work is making them aware there are better ways to begin with. And that includes a useful, easy-to-understand description of working out loud.
Many of you are experts on working out loud and have been doing it for years. How do you describe working out loud to people for the first time? What changes could we make to the description so we can help more people understand it and start practicing it?