“I think we should do Working Out Loud circles.”
Naturally, my boss and our Director of Human Resources wanted to know more. I told them I had recently read the book Working Out Loud (WOL) by John Stepper, and how it helps us set and achieve goals in a group support setting by learning new habits using 21st century technology.
We talked about how each group would be 4-6 people, and would meet one hour a week for 12 weeks. They expressed support for the idea, and encouraged me to move forward. I later learned they did not really understand the idea, but agreed to let me go ahead and give this a try. Pretty cool.
We announced Working Out Loud through our Enterprise Social Yammer network, and I shared some basic information about what we would be taking about in a WOL circle, and what we would be doing. Five people signed up, and we were on our way.
Some people, however, were lingerers. They were interested, but they did not express interest in time for our first group to begin, so the next month we began another group. For a number of weeks, 10 people in two WOL groups learned about being more collaborative and transparent. They pursued a goal with the support of colleagues and friends. They learned new skills and new habits. Our WOL participants went from being acquaintances to being friends.
And then, the circles came to an end.
But, WOL had made a real impact. People were sharing in ways that they hadn’t before. New relationships had been formed. WOL was referred to in meetings. “Well, as we learned in WOL, we can achieve more impact if this project is shared more widely.” One tattered copy of the Working Out Loud book began to make its way around the office.
When time came to announce our next series of WOL circles, 20 people signed up right away, and now these 20 additional people were experiencing the process of learning new habits and achieving important goals in four new circles. Working Out Loud truly had succeeded in a meaningful way.
I believe we have had the success we have had because so much of the way WOL has spread has been organic in nature.
- I had an idea that I brought to my boss. My boss did not ask for case studies, and HR did not ask for outside references. We did not discuss financial models. I was not asked to submit formal proposals to be approved by various managers. They just said “Yes.”
- We did not, in any way, compel staff to participate in WOL. It was completely “opt-in,” and the time and work that WOL necessitates was completely supported by executive leadership.
- Word of mouth spread, on its own. People talked to each other about their experiences. Executives heard about WOL from their staff. People wanted to experience what their colleagues and friends had enjoyed so much.
We did not exactly know what we would be getting with Working Out Loud, and we certainly did not know how to encourage people to participate. Much to our surprise, we didn’t have to. Working Out Loud did that on its own.