Work Out Loud – Don’t Just Share What You Did

Work out Loud

Today is the last day of my four-day journey to cover my thoughts on this week’s topics for the online cMOOC Exploring Innovations in Networked Work and Learning. I’ve already covered the wonderful topics of crowdsourcing, idea management and design and yesterday’s communities of practice.

This is my favorite topic out of the four.

How To Work Out Loud

I think my strongest thought on Working out Loud is best described in terms of an analogy that I’ve come to hold dearly because of my stark disagreement with some leadership members on how modern work should be.

I’ll set the context in an IT department who we all know (maybe) is extremely good at keeping things a secret and not showing until everything is done. What have we come to expect from enterprise software? It’s not good if it’s coming from an internal department. True there are tons of new startups that are aiming to fix this problem, and I think my analogy also covers how they are doing it right.

While a chef is doing their work in the kitchen, that work should be hidden from view. Nobody wants or needs to see the mess that is created, just the beautiful finished product that emerges from the kitchen.

This statement is wrong on so many levels and is what leads to so many problems later down the road. What emerges from the kitchen may not be what the person was looking for, it may not be beautiful at all given everyone involved was so close to the cake. This is often what happens.

Just imagine being the client and seeing a cake that was completely the opposite of what you were looking for. But if proper analysis was done on what was needed for that cake then it should be exactly what the client needs right?

No. Minds change, when you start seeing things created and the changes live in a dynamic kitchen, the client’s minds may change or they may not have described properly what they wanted. Now the client is stuck with a cake they do not love and fake it, or they have to be a jerk and say take it all back and start over.

Working out loud takes the dynamic process of work into account and allows a portal into the work as it’s happening. Now maybe that portal doesn’t view the entire process and every step, but the more work that’s shown, the better.

Working out loud is opposite of just showing the final work. The client is included in the work and can see as much or as little as they want and be part of the process if they find it necessary. It’s this type of process that makes for the best work and the happiest client.

Good Job

We can look at some companies doing great things these days as an example of what working out loud and seeking feedback at all steps can do. One shining example for me is Buffer, they are transparent about everything and seek on many levels their customers input. They even go as far as hosting a weekly Twitter chat to get a better look into their client’s minds.

Another great example is Atlassian who collects data and talks directly from customers while giving them a view of the products and changes they’re developing. This gives the customer a great view of what’s to come and allows for more valuable feedback to make those products even better.

There are tons of new upcoming companies that are starting to chip away at the larger companies who have done so well churning out garbage that people don’t want but have no option.

This is how we ended up with so much enterprise software that got the minimal job done, but not well. The beautification of consumer software has finally made its ways into newer enterprise software and will have a profound effect on all industries.

This dramatic change happens when companies work out loud, seek feedback, and find out what people really want.

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.

— John Stepper

It has benefits not only on a personal level, it has benefits that span the entire organization and in the case of product design a better product that exceeds expectations without hesitation.

On A Personal Level

The benefits on a personal level are also invaluable. Working out loud allows you to better reflect on your process, gather feedback from other teammates, and document your process and thinking for others to see.

Working out loud goes by a number of terms but it all holds the same concept, showing something beyond the product creates a better product, a better process and a better you. Jane Bozarth calls it Show Your Work which I cover a few of her brilliant quotes below from her book Show Your Work.

Don’t think working out loud is worth it?

If what you’re doing isn’t worth sharing, then why are you doing it?

Don’t have time to show your work? Well, Jane has an answer for you on that too!

Saying, “I don’t have time to narrate my work” is akin to saying, “I’m too busy cutting down the tree to stop and sharpen the saw.”

I could go on and on quoting out of Jane’s book, but I’ll just say that you should buy the book and read it. I own a copy and it shows so many great examples of how you can easily work out loud/show your work.

Start Working out Loud

It’s really quite easy to start working out loud. Even a blog can be a great way to start, or taking pictures of what you’re doing and posting them on Pinterest.

There are infinite ways of working out loud, it just takes finding your voice and finding a way that works for you. if you take the time to do it, the payback on your career is valuable.

Working out loud has allowed me to network further with interesting people I might have never met. Showing your work allows people to see what you’re working on and you’d be surprised that a lot of people are interested in what you’re doing.

I’m constantly sharing what I’m working on and trying to get feedback. When designing my recent course for Udemy I shared several key pieces along the way to get feedback. I was lucky enough to have some great feedback from people who had been through the processes I was writing about.

Bruno Winck, Helen Blunden, and Matt Guyan were kind enough to take time out of their day and changed the direction of my project for the better.

I created a Storyline template which I shared with the Articulate community and wrote a post about my process of creating it and thinking. As you can see this working out loud doesn’t necessarily have to be while you’re in the process (but it’s helpful to do!) but can be sharing the logistics of creating the final product. It’s really nice to see the inter-workings of a project and the thought process the author went through to get to the final product.

I Worked Out Loud On Udemy

The course on Udemy I mentioned above was almost entirely done as a working out loud project. I went through the process of building my Exprance website with WordPress while recording it.

It was a fun process and now is a helpful recording for how somebody can create a professional website like this one. It’s something that you can use to help your career and create a professional network to help your career.

I’ve been able to do things such as mentioned above where I post in my portfolio to show my work and used my blog to write about the process of created it. Think of not only the possibilities this creates for self-reflection and self-growth but also the opportunity to connect with people and see who else is interested in the work you do.

I couldn’t help throw in a small plug for my new course (Catapult Your Career: Building Your Website Portfolio) too because it is a good example of how I’ve used the concept of working out loud. So, if you don’t have a website to work out loud on or you have a free blog at or something, my course is an excellent tool to help you start working out loud or increase the level of professionalism.

How Do You Work Out Loud?

I’m curious to know how everybody else works out loud. What process’ have you created to better show what you’re working on?

I love to see other’s work and how they got to their final product. It’s also great to hear how it has helped. I’m confident that anybody who tries the process of working out loud will find great value in it.

8 thoughts on “Work Out Loud – Don’t Just Share What You Did”

  1. I was definitely inspired by Jane Bozarth’s great book and I agree completely. Showing my work has been a revelation into my own work practices. I hope that it has also been useful to others.

    • Thanks for the comment. Jane’s book is excellent and I’m sure this won’t be the last time I quote it 🙂 The whole working out loud process and PKM has changed the way I work and I feel along with putting it all out here on my blog has made me more successful and happier in my career.

    • Ugh, thanks Bruno! I was testing out a Chrome add-in called Grammarly and it would duplicate lines and then leave weird remnants of part of it. Horrible add-one don’t ever try it out. Ruined so much of my writing and left these weird things all over the place.

      Surprised they put something like that out for the public, it’s not even qualified to be beta, at least not in the sense that Google releases beta stuff.

      • I’m sorry to say i’ve been using Grammarly for a while and I’m rather happy with it 🙂 It works nice in Kneaver as well.

        The truth is that combining so much tech and expecting predictable results is an act of faith we tend to do more and more. It is so much based on predicting speed of responses and synchronization. It’s a reason FB started react.js but a poor solution IMHO.

        • As long as it works great for you Bruno 🙂 I liked the concept of the product and how it was supposed to function, it just never functioned that way and left my writing disjointed as you saw 🙂

          I do have a lot of faith in tech, but I just don’t tolerate a product if it ruins my work even if the problem is combining too much tech. You’re a pro at the super technical though, I thought I was technical but you take it to a whole other level of expertise.

          I may try it again some day, but for now my writing was suffering greatly and I’d have to catch mistakes from the program that was supposed to be correcting my mistakes.

  2. I agree as usual with you Nick – great stuff, but something unfortunately lots of us don’t do often enough. Going even further imagine how much we could do if we shared our unfinished work and our struggles as much as our successes and truly worked out loud. Do I? Not anywhere near enough, but I think it’s a great aspiration and the start of some great collaborative ideas…

    • Thanks Nigel! I think you raise a great challenge and one you are correct, isn’t shared enough. I’m also guilty of failing, quickly moving on and trying something new and then forgetting what the failure was. This does so many things I think the worst being making it easier to repeat the failure again and not realizing you’ve been there until it’s too late.

      Maybe an aspiration that I too take up and focus on more.

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