Looking for a little feedback from all you smart people here. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about Bryce Williams' working out loud concept, and in fact recently wrote a couple of blog posts related to it. I think it's a very rich concept with many angles that could be explored. I have a couple of reasons for this interest -- I'd really like to get my company moving further in that direction because I think there is tremendous competitive advantage, and also I have an idea for a doctoral dissertation related to it. I've been trying to get a PhD part-time for years now (I'm way too old for it to have any impact on my career, but I don't want to see all that time spent go to waste ). I kept messing around with various survey ideas related to collaboration for my dissertation proposal, but none ever really gelled for me. I have one now that seems interesting and potentially useful, but I wanted to get some feedback before I pursue the idea any further.
It seems to me there are two kinds of working out loud (I'll call it WOL from now on), individual and group, and they provide different kinds of benefits:
- Individual WOL is narrating your work. It's blogging, tweeting, posting status updates, sharing your ideas. If enough people in an organization are doing it, it could make the organization much more innovative because there would be a rich stew of ideas floating around, ideas colliding against each other with even more new ideas forming from those collisions.
- Group WOL is working openly as a team. All the conversations, decisions, task assignments, etc. that previously happened in email are happening on a social platform that others in the organization can see. Scaled up, this should make the enterprise much more efficient at getting things done since everyone is up to speed all the time, others who have relevant information but are not part of the team have a chance to provide it, and the logic behind decisions is transparent.
So suppose we had a very short survey that could assess these two aspects of WOL (my goal would be to make it as short and simple as possible while still being valid). Imagine two sets of questions that employees would answer using, say, a 5- or 7-point scale (these are just examples to illustrate the concept -- the real questions would probably need to be worded more carefully), something like these:
- I blog on my internal social platform
- I keep others informed of what I am thinking and doing using my social platform
- It's easy for me to find out what others are thinking and doing
- My team/dept solves problems together on our social business platform
- Project status and communication happens on our social platform rather than email
- We make decisions collaboratively and document them on our social platform
With the right statistical gyrations to validate things, you can take three or four survey questions and average them into an overall score. So if we had a score for Individual WOL and one for Group WOL, we could construct a 2x2 matrix that might look something like this:
My thinking here is that you could have a lot of ideas (high Individual WOL) but not be able to act on them, or you could be really efficient at getting things done (high Group WOL) but not have many ideas to work with. An agile organization would be one that has a rich set of ideas to work with as raw material and also has the ability to act quickly on them.
You could plot your organization's position on the chart and track it over time, and if you included some demographic questions in the survey you could also compare business areas, geographies, age groups, etc. within the same organization and see if there are any differences. Since it creates numerical scores you could also correlate them with other business metrics to see if they have any impact or relationship.
Is this something that would be useful to your organization as an analytical tool? Do you see any problems with it or big holes in my thinking? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.