Large companies such as Daimler or Bosch in particular have been promoting the trend of “Working out Loud” for a while now. In the course of New Work and digitalization this seems the next level Agile organization to be. But what does it actually mean? Just another fad or a serious concept?

What is Working out Loud about?

The term “working out loud” has actually been around for almost a decade. The term first appeared in 2010 in a blog article by IT consultant Bryce Williams. Williams dealt in his text with the idea of publicly sharing work and knowledge so that added value is created for everyone. To do this, he created the term “Working out Loud” (WOL) from the previously known concepts of social collaboration and collaborative learning.
After WOL was discussed in more detail by John Stepper in his book 5 years later, it quickly found acceptance in many large companies. Stepper also made the concept available free of charge in the form of circle guides on its website. Users then translate it from English into other languages, so that WOL is now particularly widespread in the USA, Europe, but also Brazil and China.

How is Working out Loud structured?

In 2015, Stepper described in his book that WOL is based on 5 principles that follow the guiding principle of achieving individually set goals by reflecting on their own approaches.
Relationships

  • Build lasting relationships
  • Incl. own contribution to strengthening these relationships

Generosity

  • Sharing knowledge of one’s own free will
  • Strengthening your own network

Visible work

  • Make your own work visible
  • Added value for the network instead of self-presentation

Purposeful Discovery

  • resource-oriented work
  • strategic pursuit of goals with a learning curve

Growth mindset

  • Openness and curiosity for new things
  • use all possibilities to achieve set goals

How does Working Out Loud work?

To implement these principles, Stepper provides for teams of 3 to 5 people to be formed, so-called circles. They meet for one hour a week in a work phase of 3 months to work together on the respective goals of the individual team members.

First of all, each participant has to formulate their own goal. It does not matter whether this is private or personal in nature. It is only important that it is meaningful for the team member and can be reached within 12 weeks. This ensures that there is constant motivation over the period of the concept.

The team members are supported by a circle guide who is available to everyone free of charge. In this, suggestions and exercises are presented every week, which are related to the 5 principles of WOL and should help in realizing the goals. The main thing is to create added value not only for yourself, but also for the network by presenting the path to the goal as transparently as possible. In this way, the individual team members should also internalize the concept to the extent that WOL’s way of working eventually becomes a habit.

The Circle Guide is formulated very openly. The group size and concept period should not be exceeded for better quality. However, the team is still very free in many decisions. For example, it can freely determine the exact length of the meeting, the time at which the exercises are carried out or the choice of location. Even digitally networked teams at different locations can use WOL together.

For whom is it suitable?

But WOL is not only an interesting concept for large companies. Because theoretically every company can use WOL. However, it is particularly suitable for heavily digitized companies. Ultimately, this calls for a more open and self-organized way of working. This not only requires the right attitude, but also new working models and structures. Free thinking, the opportunity to exchange knowledge and well-organized networks as well as strong partners provide space for innovations and are the basis for successful development in the digital age.

Companies increasingly see their employees as their most important resource. WOL can be an approach to promote the expertise of one’s own workforce. There is the necessary space for exchange, support and inspiration. This creates not only flexible forms of work but also sustainable networks.

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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