Nothing’s more important than the connections we make to others. It’s all we have, finally. We move towards one another and away, close again, all these half-planned, intricate steps and patterns.
— James Sallis, Ghost of a Flea
The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.
— Austin Kleon, Show Your Work
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, The Five Elements of Working Out Loud
Basically, I need my cool, dark cave quite a bit. And writing – any sort of writing – is of course personal. So while working out loud seems absolutely the right thing to do, it also exposes elements of the person (I was going to say the ‘soul’) that one might feel need guarding, need protecting, nourishing. This part of my problem isn’t really a matter of right or wrong, of guarding knowledge jealously, or sharing it generously – it’s just a matter of personality, and no more wrong than the actions of an extravert who needs continually to socialize and talk to feel affirmed.
— Carl Gombrich, Working Out Loud
Over the past few months I have had the good fortune to work with John Stepper on his Working Out Loud book project. It has been a great experience seeing John’s manuscript evolve through three drafts. On each occasion I have worked on it, I have had my own thinking challenged, and learned something new. The book, as well as our subsequent exchanges prompted by my reaction to it, have led me to assess my own behaviours too in relation to how well I work out loud myself.
As an advocate of openness and transparency, someone still bearing the scars of implementing the Freedom of Information Act in the UK public sector, I sometimes feel constrained and frustrated by the organisations I have worked for. Far too often the balance tends to tip in favour of confidentiality, privacy and security rather than towards open working and sharing. In my personal endeavours, though, here on this blog, in side projects, and with a view to a potential post-2014 future as a freelancer, there is no need to operate behind a closed door.
The personal learning and supportive network that has evolved from initial connections via social platforms and subsequent face-to-face meetings have taught me that. People want to help. Trust can be quickly established. There is no need to be afraid. Some of the professional relationships and friendships that are most important to me now started online. One case in point is the fact that Kenneth Mikkelsen and I are now embarking on a book-writing project together. We first encountered one another online less than a year ago via Twitter. We met in person for the first time in February at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. As I mentioned in a blog post on introversion at the time, though, social networks are superb icebreakers. The small talk is out of the way by the time you encounter one another face to face. The conversation, therefore, can rapidly become deep and meaningful, leading to profound connections.
So even though, as an introvert, I fully recognise the perspective presented in the quote above by Carl Gombrich (another friendship developing from an initial online connection), I think that I have learned behaviours to counteract the in-built tendency to withdraw into my turtle shell. People like John Stepper, Anne Marie McEwan, Harold Jarche, Luis Suarez, Simon Terry and Jonathan Anthony, among many others, have taught me that. Jonathan’s example has been particularly influential in recent weeks.
A short time ago he opted to develop a Pecha Kucha presentation on the topic of working out loud. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept (and I admit I was at the time), this involves presenting 20 slides at a rate of 20 seconds per slide. It is rapid fire and highly visual. Given his subject matter – and in a postmodern, self-referential, ironic fashion that typifies his online presence – Jonathan opted to work out loud about the development of his slide deck. He used a series of blog posts to explore, tease, refine. Then, as you can see in the video below, delivered a masterclass in the format.
Now I find myself having to prepare a Pecha Kucha myself. Neil Usher graciously has invited me to present at the Workplace Trends event on 15 October in London. It will be on the peloton formations idea I have explored elsewhere on this blog and developed in an interview with Stowe Boyd. I am no seasoned presenter and, frankly, the introvert in me is terrified. Particularly as I will be presenting alongside several people I look up to like Anne Marie McEwan, Euan Semple and Doug Shaw. But I feel too deeply about the subject. It is too good an opportunity to talk about an alternative model for organisational structures and roles – ones better suited to an era of networks and increasing complexity – to let it pass.
In the spirit of working out loud, therefore, here is the first draft of the slides I am thinking of using. The story that accompanies them is still in my head. I just hope I can get it out of my mouth on the day…