How to work-out-loud in a digital space

“Communication over information. Conversation over tools.” — Jane Bozarth, Show Your Work

Simply transferring work practices from the physical space to the digital space will not work. Let’s be honest with each other — was how we were working in a physical space really working? When working remotely, communication and conversation are critical ingredients to ensure we are collectively working towards shared goals and objectives. When working remotely, we need to develop the habit of over communicating. We have to narrate our work and collaborate-in-place, so others are clear about what we are doing and why.

First, we need to understand what we are sharing before determining where to share.

There are different types of knowledge:

Do you remember math class — when the teacher asked you to show your work? It wasn’t simply about getting the right answer. The teacher wanted to see your thinking process and how you came to that answer. Even if you got the answer wrong, but showed your work, you may have even received partial credit for what parts of the process you did correctly. The teacher was then able to notice your gaps in knowledge and focus on finding ways to help bridge those gaps.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to show our work. We became scared of what others thought. We became fearful of sharing thoughts before each piece of the puzzle was perfectly considered (or so we thought). We became fearful that someone would use this information against us. We come to work anxious and frightened — openness and transparency, while hailed by all, practiced by few.

When we write and share our thoughts, this practice requires reflection from the writer during the writing process, as well as, from the person(s) consuming this information once shared / published. Too often what is shared is not useful and is decontextualized. We can not turn this information into knowledge without context.

We have to work-out-loud (read this post for a refresher on what it means to work-out-loud and how this practice may be adapted to cultural organizations).

How might we signal and model work-out-loud practices to cultivate healthy knowledge (consistent communication, conversation, and collaboration)?

Declarative knowledge: What is your organization’s shared or common language?

Procedural knowledge: What is your organization approach to collaboration?

Casual knowledge: What is your organization’s approach to communication?

No one is exempt from working-out-loud. To make this behavior stick, employees need to see leaders and managers across the organization actively and consistently practice knowledge sharing. Narrating your work or learning experience while you are doing it is not easy — vulnerability is required. We may not have the answers — and that is OK.

Employees need to hear you don’t know and the steps you are taking to figure something out — because when you are silent and do not share information or communicate actions, people tune out and stop caring. If you lack the energy or time, employees will follow suit. Senior leaders need to model healthy communication and collaboration now more than ever.

Now is the time to show your work and celebrate it — think about who else could learn from this?. If not now when much of our core work or activity has hit pause or requires reflection and redirection, then when? If what you are doing is not worth sharing, then why do it? Show people why your work is important.

#OnebyOne Digital Fellow: building digitally confident museums | Digital Dragon Slayer | Community Management Strategist | Independent Researcher and Consultant

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