You Can’t Put a Price on Epiphanies

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Anthea Rowe, StarTech

$17,000.

That’s the estimated value of the free consulting I received during my seven days in the Green Room. But that doesn’t begin to capture the actual value of the experience. Because you can’t put a price on epiphanies. Or a mindset change. Or the increased excitement, confidence and enthusiasm I developed after working with Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) for a week.

I submitted my question to CAWW in May 2014. Submitted with bated breath. What were the chances this international collective of brilliant thinkers and do’ers would want to discuss my small company’s challenge?  But they did!

My question was: “How can we retain the close-knit culture of our small organization even as we experience dramatic growth?” I work for a small tech company based in London, Ontario, Canada. As recently as last year, it was possible to know everyone in the company by name. Now , with new hires joining us every week, that intimacy is no longer possible. Or at least, so I thought. The Change Agents helped me realize there are many things we can do to keep the StarTech culture alive and strong even as we grow like crazy.

The conversation in the Green Room was vibrant and crackling with energy. I asked a ton of questions of them, and they asked many of me. It was a dialogue in every sense of the word.

Whatever question I asked, there was always a seasoned expert available and eager to address it. Whether it was about our hiring process, corporate culture, change management or plain ol’ intranet solutions – there was always a helpful Change Agent ready to share relevant insights.

And the insights included a powerful mix of theory and practice. Change Agents use evidence from psychology, sociology, organizational behaviour and management research to establish the principles for 21st century workplaces. They also have a plethora of case studies from organizations large and small that have implemented communications strategies, engagement campaigns, and more around those principles.

So, what did I learn? I learned the future of employee communications is about enabling. Enabling employees to connect with each other. Enabling employees to find their own information. Enabling employees to work out loud so that others see what they’re doing and want to help. The future of employee communications is building platforms that enable employees to connect and self-organize. The future is decentralizing communications so message come from the people who own them.

The dozen or more Change Agents who participated in my session were helpful, friendly and sincerely interested in supporting my company’s success. These people are serious when they say they want to “change the world of work!”

They were a diverse group with a wide range of experience: in-house comms, IT and knowledge management types; consulting and management expert types. Many Change Agents currently work in-house – at the UN, Lexmark, Teach for America, etc. – or used to work in-house – e.g., as SVP of HR for an international bank, or an IT and comms professional at IBM. These people know the challenges of moving projects through organizations, getting buy-in… all that good stuff. The other Change Agents members are independent consultants, and they’ve worked with many companies across a range of industries (many of them household names).

The best part about my week in the Green Room was that it epitomized the “Work Out Loud” culture CAWW advocates to clients. Using their online platform, I interacted with subject matter experts all around the world at different times of day and in varying amounts. Some Change Agents were regular contributors throughout the week; others popped in when they saw questions that interested them. But all were helpful. Importantly, the timing always worked for me because I could drop in and out of the discussion as my schedule allowed.

If you have a burning question or planning opportunity related to your organization, my advice to you is this:

If CAWW is ever gracious enough to open their doors to another Green Room participant, leap at the chance!

 


This is a Guest Post by Anthea Rowe, Communications Manager at StarTech.  Ms. Rowe applied to be one of Change Agents Worldwide’s Green Room clients.  If you’re interested in applying to become a Green Room Candidate, apply at this link.

Working Out Loud Requires being Vulnerable

Working Out Loud requires being Vulnerable
Photo by Eric Ziegler

I love listening to Podcasts. I listen to podcasts when I drive to and from work. I listen to podcasts when I am on a long drive – 6+ hours. I listen to a broad spectrum of podcasts: Football (soccer), Finance, Economics, News, Public Radio, Social business, etc. This weeks blog is prompted by a one episode I listened to recently from the podcast Shift, by Megan Murray and Euan Semple.

The podcast I am referring to is episode 21, about Vulnerability. As I listened to the podcast the first thing that popped into my head was that Working Out Loud (#WOL) requires you to put yourself out there and to be willing to be vulnerable. When I think of working out loud, I think of people sharing what they are working on, asking questions, asking for input on a project, takling about an issue you are trying to resolve. In each of these situations you are risking that someone will think less of you. You need to be vulnerable to do any of those things.

People are scared of putting themselves out there and working out loud. They are fearful that there will be negative repercussions when they make a mistake out in the open. They are fearful that people will think less of them. They are not willing to risk sharing because there is no benefit or that other people will not find what they are sharing as interesting or informative.

The opposite is true. Working out loud has so many benefits and everyone should be doing it within an organization. People will learn and grow quicker and faster by working out loud. Organizations are more effective when people share and are open with each other. The likelihood of finding a piece of information increases as more and more people work out loud. People learn from each other only when information is shared. People improve and innovate on ideas only when ideas are discussed openly. By working out loud, your chances of getting the best information, in timely manner goes up tremendously. Even if a conversation happened out loud months ago, finding that piece of information increases because it was stored for others to discover, read and learn from.

So be brave, take the challenge, work out loud and be vulnerable.

Cross-posted from Eric Ziegler’s blog 

Working Out Loud Cannot be Automated

Working Out loud
Image by Eric Ziegler

Not sure how I ended reading an old post by +Bertrand Duperrin but I did. Maybe something was calling to me. Maybe it is just purely coincidence that I re-read his blog post. Either way, it has triggered me to write a blog post for the first time in several months. Let’s dig in.

Bertrand Duperrin, posted a blog post back in August of 2012 called Employees don’t have time to waste narrating their work. What caught my eye originally was the title. First reaction, huh? You have to be kidding me. Bertand might be just trying to be sensationalistic with his title, I am not sure. But it did catch my eye and cause me to read his blog post. While the title is interesting, I have to say that the blog post hits a nerve. Bertrand starts his blog post with a concept that I agree with …

It’s impossible to think about emergent collaboration and self-organized structures without visibility on others’ work.

This first sentence makes me think of +Change Agents Worldwide (@chagww, #CAWW). Why? #CAWW is a self organized emergent collaboration organization that is about helping individuals, teams, companies, employees, etc. be more effective. #CAWW works as a network of individuals that interact, share, and cooperate and collaborate on different topics and ideas, always trying to improve upon ideas that will help organizations be more effective. It is almost like he wrote this sentence with the concept of #CAWW in mind.

In Bertrand’s 3rd paragraph he continues down the same path by stating ….

collaboration, cooperation, problem solving and even innovation requires something to be shared so trigger the dynamic. Moreover, people often don’t realize they can be helped : sometimes we believe we’re doing right while we’re doing wrong, we’re doing right while we could do better, differently.

While the first sentence could be interpreted several ways, this statement does not align with the title at all. Only after you get more than half way through the blog post do you start to see where the title becomes relevant. I believe this statement best summarizes the rest of the blog:

if people’s work’s worth being narrated, people should not always be the narrator. Their time is too precious to ask them to play the role of transponders.

So now I get it. People’s time are too important to waste on working out loud (#WOL). Bertrand continues and discusses the idea of having systems do the narrating by automatically creating activities in an activity stream – weekly reports, updates to profiles, etc. I understand where he is going, but I think this concept misses the importance of working out loud (#WOL).

What do I believe? The idea of working out loud is not about the automated interactions? There is some value, but the biggest value is sharing information in a way a system can never do. Sharing information includes asking questions or putting a thought out that could trigger a thought by someone else. Automatic system updates are too prescribed to cause an emotional reaction by the receiver and because of that, the value it just not as high.

I will say though, I do agree with his concept of having people jump out of their every day work systems to work out loud is not effective. To get people to be most effective, the system to work out loud needs to be integrated into the systems they work in every day.

Automatic system updates are the antithesis of what social networks are about. While an automatic update might provide value, they do not deliver come anywhere close to providing the same amount of value as working out loud.

cross-posted from Eric Ziegler’s blog 

Working Out Loud is Preposterous And Profound

Today, it’s all about networks, something you were most likely not taught about in school. This means that most of our education is useless in understanding the world as it currently exists. Yes, useless.

The always erudite and coherent (Change Agent) Harold Jarche is in a straight-to-the-point mood in this article on the need for network fluency.

Yes, we need to build fluency in how networks operate, and our very active role within them, as they usurp organizations and tribes as the most powerful force in our communities and workplaces.

However, it is a single sentence within the article that got me thinking today:

For individuals, the core skill [for such fluency] is critical thinking, or questioning all assumptions, including one’s own.

Working out loud (WOL) is part of this process of questioning one’s own work and positioning; and then answering those same questions. It is critical thinking made bare. Sometimes the answers are definitive – this is how it is now. More often, they are placeholders for the next iteration of thinking.

WOL is a constant challenge. It is a wrestling match with oneself; and the outcome is always both defeat and victory, as beliefs mutate, positions shift, gaps appear as others disappear.

WOL is edge work, as one risks toppling over the precipice of one’s own preposterousness. Our own network of colleagues, friends, contacts may scratch their collective head, with a ‘what’s this guy up to?’ shoulder hunch.

Still, it is profound work. If you follow the arc of learning – and unlearning, relearning – then you will discover something from the deep well of humanity within us all. It is an invitation to the inner workings of every individual’s genius.

OK, enough pomposity for one day.

This blog first appeared on the ←This Much We Know.→ blog.