Make it relevant

John Stepper describes his recent experiences in discussing working out loud in Berlin. The recommendations are those many of us are familiar with:

  1. Make it simple. Just changing someone’s home page can make the platform seem much more accessible. And curated suggestions of people, groups, and content relevant to a person’s division and location make the value more apparent.

  2. Start small. Create situations – such as town halls and other events – where people can find material or ask a question and feel the benefits themselves.

  3. Make it safe. Give every team a private online space to make posting seem less risky.

  4. Leverage social influence. Spend more effort on getting influential people, especially senior management, to model the behavior.

  5. Make it relevant. Provide more content and more integration with daily processes so it’s part of the daily work and not yet another thing to do.

The first four are pretty typical of any change initiative: start simple, small, safe & social. I have done this with clients, and these are usually good ways to get going, especially on limited budgets and competing priorities. I would like to focus on the fifth point: relevance. This is what makes a new change initiative become a different way of doing things all the time.

This is where KM, L&D, OD and many other projects break down. It’s also where enterprise software initiatives can fail. They are not relevant to the daily work being done because the change project never really looked at that.

working out loudThink about the term, “working out loud”. It’s what I call narration of work. The primary focus is on work. You don’t work out loud in a classroom because it’s not “work”. You don’t work out loud on stuff that isn’t really work. That’s just practice.

This is why I strongly advocate that work is learning and learning is the work. Working out loud has to be part of the work. Bolting anything on to the workflow just shows what it really is: an impediment to work. As John says, “Even getting people to simply login to a collaboration platform remains a challenge.” If the collaboration system is not also the work system, then it’s just a bolted-on appendage.

To make collaboration, and working out loud, work, the same tools must be used. This is why I am not the most popular person amongst LMS vendors, as I believe the underlying principle of learning management systems is in direct conflict with collaborative and cooperative work. Changing the way that daily work is done, how knowledge is shared, and what gets communicated, are the important things to focus on in improving knowledge work.

The criticism I hear most frequently about any learning or knowledge management project is that it lacks relevance. Maybe before starting the next major initiative, conduct a secret poll and see how many people think it’s relevant.

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