Working Out Loud in Action – Helen Blunden

Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) is a fantastic advocate for the power or working out loud.  In her consulting, blogging, work in learning and sharing in social channels, she has engaged many people in the practice of working out loud. More information on Helen’s work can be found at  ActivateLearning.com.au

Helen describes how working out loud expands networks and helps reconnect you with your work:

  1. How should some start out working out loud?

    Nike has a good slogan for this, it’s “Just Do It”.  I have come across many people who can find every excuse to not do it.
    “I don’t have time!”
    “I don’t get it.”
    “Why would anyone be interested in what I do?”
    “How does this help me?
    I always offer the same advice. Start small with something that you’re passionate about – and it doesn’t have to be about your work.  If you love to cook, let us know how you created that recipe. I do understand the fear of showing your work but I say to many people – it’s not the end product, it’s how you got there. That’s the most interesting because it gives us ideas of what we can do to apply in our own work and life.

  2. What are the benefits and risks of working out loud?The benefits for me is that it has broadened my own network immensely and exposed me to different people, different industries, different perspectives.  It re-engaged me with my work where I was despondent, apathetic about my work ready for resignation or thinking that the answer lay with a career change, a lotto win or an escape from the cubicle.  Instead, it energised me because I was connecting with more people and having more serendipitous meetings that were quite inspirational.  I was then able to apply these directly into my work and people saw the difference immediately. By working in a transparent and open manner, it opened connections with other people – outside of my own work circle. I also believe it helped my creativity and I was less risk averse.  I had nothing to lose anymore.

    The risks of working out loud is that not everyone understands what and why you’re doing it.  One a few occasions I was told to stop – or that I offered too much information – or that people weren’t ready for this.  In light of this feedback, I also had to balance my enthusiasm for it with the culture and behaviour required.  I know I would have got some noses out of joint – maybe I came across as arrogant or naive or not professional by my openness?

  3. When has working out loud surprised you?When I was working within an organisation, what surprised me the most was how appreciative people were that I gave them the confidence to do the same.  It was humbling to realise that people wanted to do what you were doing and they expressed their gratitude.  On the whole, it has been a positive and rewarding experience.  It also surprised me that there were many people who WANTED to work out loud but were truly fearful of their managers or their peers. Their fear was simply too great to work out loud because to them, the risk of losing a job, promotion or performance bonus was too great.  The lack of trust in the organisational culture was an eye opener.  Sad, but it made me realise that to some, in principle they agree with working out loud but the practicality is that there is little trust in their own managers or organisations not to have it feedback negatively on them.
  4. How has working out loud changed your work relationships?It’s made them more open, genuine, respectful – and equal.  It also gives both parties a level playing field right from the start.  I’ve never liked office politicking nor one-upmanship games. It was unlikely that I’d ever go far up the corporate ladder because I “didn’t know how to play the game” and unlikely to even bother about it.  To this day, it amazes me that I even reached the rank of Commander in the Royal Australian Navy while I was told I was not ‘managerial quality’ in the corporate world.  Funny…

    I like to believe that people get together for work to achieve a mutual outcome for the benefit of the whole – and not one individual.  I feel as if it’s made my work relationship more equal with my clients where people are respected for their work, for their knowledge and for what we can bring to the exchange.

  5. Who inspires you to work out loud?Believe it or not, I’ve not had any role models or mentors in my life for working out loud as I’ve been taught to just ‘be your own person’ and to just give it a go – you don’t have to like it, just try it.  I think I’ve been working out loud for many years without realising it.  (I’ve been blogging since 2005).

    I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have moments of self doubt or if I compare myself to others thinking, “I should be doing what XYZ is doing!” I do however admire people and value those who have taught me to be a little bit more risk averse and to experiment more.  One of those people has been Professor Alec Couros who had a connectivist MOOC called “Educational Technology MOOC” or #ETMOOC was instrumental with me working out loud within a community of educators.  All the jigsaw pieces fell into place when I participated in this and a global network of educators were working and learning out loud at the same time. That was the real turning point in my career.  Other people do inspire me but I find I get buoyed by the collective nature of it – not just one individual.

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