How To Become More Digitally Native - 12 Weeks Of "Working Out Loud"

It was in late 2016 that I first heard of this "Working Out Loud" which was supposed to be a book, but people were also talking about circles, digital workplaces, etc. Naturally, I got curious and dug a little deeper.

It turns out there is a whole program that is designed to bring people together to work on their individual goals together, just like a group of friends might, which is an interesting concept that aims to bring you and your colleagues and potential target groups together on a weekly basis.

Intrigued by its premise, I created my first circle with three other members at the beginning of 2017 and this Tuesday we finally made it. It is likely that this will not be my last circle and I can highly recommend trying it. Even if you are already good at your craft, there are goals and tricks you can learn from yourself and others in this 12 weeks that seemed impossible before.

To give you a better idea of how it works, I tried to summarize the experience in three parts.

Phase 1: Where are we going with this?! - Week 1-4

This was the question I was confronted with in the beginning as the host of the circle. I had no idea, and I had problems articulating what I thought it would bring us as a team. The guide from the website was fantastic, but it was hard for most of us to grasp, what we are doing. Setting a specific goal, for ourselves - not necessarily work related, but it is work, right? Setting aside 1 hour of your time every week seems much investment, so the entry hurdles were significant. Somehow we got over this and everyone set up a goal, we wrote down people who might be able to help us achieve this, and we talked about the different approaches that might work.

Our overall goal as a group was to push forward a digital mindset in the office and try out new technology and collaboration, just as Microsoft Teams for example. Even though it is widely known that setting goals and sharing them with a group of friends, for instance, increases the chance of actually achieving this, it feels unusual in a business environment, at first. 

Phase 2: It takes some getting used to - Week 4-8

So now we have this regular meeting, 1hour a week, to go through the WOL-guide and the different tasks, while talking about our work, experiences, and successes along the way. However, also about hardships and how one can overcome them. We got well to know each other a lot better, and that helped to speak more openly and efficiently especially outside of our sessions. 

Even if we might not have achieved something by now looking at our goals, we established a sense of being a team and working together much more efficiently and without any hesitation. 

This peer group circle somehow transcends into something bigger without you realizing it at that stage. It is some companionship that evolves around the group that helps to bring out each other's strengths to compliment each other.

Phase 3: We got it! - Week 8-12

After the middle section of the 12 weeks, we finally got a grasp at this and doubled down on the benefits, sharing information regularly, asking for help and supporting each other in cross-functional tasks. It is all about collaboration and communicating much more with people you might not work with so often. This changes the perception of culture within the organization to get cross-functional teams working on achieving a common goal. The exercises and examples in the guiding pdfs are extremely helpful and give ideas to pursue for future success. Everyone can share experiences and give tips to the others on how to handle certain tools, platforms or people. In the end, we all will miss this extra time we had together and might just find a new weekly slot for us. 

Takeaways

To sum this up, I went briefly over the three top stages we came across, and I would love to leave you with the main takeaways of our 12-week journey:

1) Building a team takes time

Everything takes time. You have possible spent years working with some of your colleagues but do you feel like a team, a unit? If you do not have the same goals, the same work ethic and are sitting across each other, becoming a team that truly is more than just the sum of its parts, is very hard. A Working Out Loud Circle might be the first step to do this and get on the road together. 

2) Peer pressure can be positive

Setting public goals and communicating them makes it more real with consequences for you, so your motivation is naturally higher. Talking with a group of people every week about your goals and current status on them is a positive form of stress, you will get the support even if you have done nothing. The group is there to help, even the guide says not to feel bad if you did not have time to do anything in your last week, just keep at it. Every small step counts, as long as you take it seriously and there is something you want to achieve.

3) Cross-functional perspective

Teams formed from different disciplines are the best. There are usually more than one truths out there, and just because you are a marketer, an engineer or a consultant does not mean your right all of the time. A diverse team is strong in problem solving and creative tasks. Leverage a circle from which you can learn; it will boost your performance and might give you the edge in the next client meeting. 

4) Consistency is key

Goals can be hard to reach, especially for a short period, but every step counts and as long as you chip away what you can, you are getting there. If you have the tenacity required, a 12 weeks programme can be the right start for you, it is the basic groundwork. Taking one step forward is much closer to your goal than standing still.

5) It is fun

In the end, you are working together with people and regular interactions with open topics and a free space to ask for help, sharing information or achieving goals together is fun. We are building whole companies around collaboration to get the most out of ideas (e.g. Google). 

So, if you have not heard about the Working Out Loud Movement and John Stepper check the website and get going: http://workingoutloud.com

Looking for the guide to your first circle? Look no further: http://workingoutloud.com/circle-guides

However, what has this to do with being digital native?

Why did I put this in the headline when I did not even mention it in the section above? Well, the process that you will be guided through is a wonderful blueprint for working like a younger generation. Depending on your age group you are already part of it. Just think about how you communicate in your social life. Most of my peers are almost exclusive using apps like WhatsApp to coordinate their life. You have a multitude of different groups, family, friends, cliques, acquaintances, etc. you communicate through texts, voice recordings (no phone calls) and gifs. From planning a trip to the city, discussing a birthday gift or simply invite someone to dinner, everything is based on communication and a basic platform.

Working Out Loud encourages you to embrace this style in your work life as well. You might use Outlook, Teams or Slack to do those things. You are just not used to do this with people at work, but that shift is happening now, and technology is enabling us to do it.

Just remember the famous quote by Lew Platt:

"If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive."

Imagine know that this is no longer a future scenario but a reality right now.

Thanks for reading!

Sebastian