Working Out Loud with The Boss

Generally, we work better and smarter, and our organizations are more transparent and collaborative, when we can work “out loud.” When we share work in progress with colleagues, they are better informed, and our work can inform their work. When we share what we don’t know, or mistakes we have made, we can learn in new ways and colleagues become invested in our work.  When our work becomes more visible within our organization, opportunities for collaboration can be found and time can be saved.

By reading the great Working Out Loud book by John Stepper, and bringing Working Out Loud circles to our organization to help make the lessons of Working Out Loud a meaningful practice and habit, our organization has begun to see culture and behavior change. People are more vulnerable. They are sharing more. They are not as afraid of mistakes as they once were. They are not as afraid of being vocal about what they don’t know. They want to be more collaborative, and are will to take risks to find opportunities for that collaboration.

I recently came across the video for one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen performances (yes, I am a big fan) from Leipzig, Germany in 2013. Now that I have been a student of Working Out Loud for several months, I see this video with a new perspective. I see that this performance is actually a master class in Working Out Loud.

Springsteen and his band had begun the practice of taking requests from the audience. Mostly, these requests were for songs from deep within the Springsteen catalog. Songs the band could easily plan upon request. But, every now and then, Springsteen would take the request for a song that the band had never played before, or had not played in decades.

Unbeknownst to him, Springsteen is leading a Working Out Loud mega-circle. It is as if he carefully studied the Five Elements of Working Out Loud, and brought them to life for a stadium audience of 35,000 people.

  1. Relationships are at the heart of Working Out Loud. The path to knowledge is via others.
    Immediately upon taking the request, Springsteen looks to his band mates to find a good key for the song. Right by his side is his lifelong friend and band mate Steve Van Zandt. Van Zandt frowns at the keys Springsteen is trying to play. They debate back and forth, in front of the audience, about how the song should be played. It is because of the relationship that Springsteen has with Van Zandt, and because of the relationship that Springsteen has with his audience, that he is able to be so transparent in how he works.
  2. Generosity. We are wired for reciprocal altruism. The currency of real networking is generosity.
    Springsteen could put on an excellent concert with a set list determined only by him, but he chooses to do otherwise. With a spirit of generosity and vulnerability, Springsteen asks the audience what they want the band to play, even if it’s not one of their songs. Through this generosity, Springsteen symbolically brings the audience on stage with him. They are now part of the band. Everyone is in this together.
  3. Visible work. Amplify who you are and what you do.
    Now, the audience and the band are working together, and we are truly seeing how “the sausage is made.” Springsteen hums a melody so the horns will know what to play. “Try it boys.” 35,000 people are watching. “Help us out crowd” as they hum the part along as the horns learn their part. Then, somehow the band all kicks in and they are rockin!
  4. Purposeful discovery. Having a learning goal in mind orients your activities.
    But it’s not enough to just play the song. Springsteen explores the corners of the song. He calls on members of the band to take impromptu solos. Piano, followed by trombone, followed by trumpet. Springsteen does not have a plan, but he invites the audience and the band to discover this song along with him.
  5. Growth mindset. Develop an open, curious approach to work and life.
    There are few artists as talented or successful as Bruce Springsteen. A millionaire many times over. He can play the same songs night after night, and he would continue to fill stadiums. But Springsteen wants more. Even at 64 years old at the time of this performance, Springsteen seeks to continue to grow as an artist. Pushing himself and his band to do more. To be more creative. To be more curious. Watch the band look at Bruce, and at each other, as they make their way through this Chuck Berry classic. They all seem a little scared and very amused, all at the same time. Where is this going? Who plays next? How will this end? Somehow, this all works. Together, the audience and the band grow a little closer together through this joyous, curious and generous approach to rock and roll.

Live on stage, with no plan in place, Bruce Springsteen works out loud. He makes his work visible. Relationships are developed through generosity. He and his band engage in purposeful discovery with a meaningful growth mindset. Bruce Springsteen. The E Street Band. 35,000 people. All working together.

As Springsteen says at the end  “…made it up out of nothing!”

Rock and Roll Easter Eggs

Wikipedia defines an Easter egg as a “hidden message, or a secret feature.” In software, it could be a simple game that appears when a certain keyboard combination is used, or on a DVD, hidden features are revealed when a menu image is selected.

Rock and roll is filled with wonderful Easter eggs. An Easter egg is not when a sample is used in a song, like how “For What it’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield is sampled in the brilliant “He Got Game” by Public Enemy. A Rock and Roll Easter Egg (as defined by me, Larry) is a reference. It’s a clue that another song served as an inspiration for the song we are listening to. It’s a wink and a nod to the knowing listener.

These are a few Rock and Roll Easter Eggs I have come across in listening to music I like. There are not necessarily my favorites, or even the best examples, just little treasures I have come across. And so, presented in no particular order:

  1. “Blue Period” by The Smithereens > “In My Life” by The Beatles
    Off their amazing third album 11 (there’s something magical about third albums sometimes, perhaps more on that in another blog post) is the beautiful ode to sadness “Blue Period.” The Smithereens are huge Beatles fans, and later in their career would  release great song for song covers of Beatle albums. “Blue Period” features a taste of what was to come with a lovely harpsichord instrumental break, immediately recognizable as directly lifted from “In My Life” by The Beatles.

2. “Hangin’ Around Here” by John Hiatt > “The Weight” by The Band
Regular readers of my blog should not be surprised to see Nashville troubadour singer/songwriter John Hiatt included on this list. Always one of my favorites. When first listening to “Hangin’ Around Here” on his 2001 album The Tiki Bar is Open, I immediately thought I was listening to a cover of “The Weight” by The Band, one of my very favorite songs. Though it was sadly not a cover, the intro of “Hangin’ Around Here” is an unmistakable homage to a wonderful song, in fact a song that Hiatt would go on to perform regularly with original Band vocalist Levon Helm.

3. “Sense of Purpose” by The Pretenders > “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen
Chrissie Hynde, lead vocalist and songwriter of The Pretenders, has never shied away from her love of classic rock and roll. The Pretenders did a great cover of “Stop Your Sobbing” by The Kinks and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” by The Persuaders. Though the 1990 “Sense of Purpose” is far from The Pretenders greatest song, it is another example of how they recognize the ongoing inspiration they get from those great early rock and  roll songs. At the very end of the song, Chrissie Hynde yells out the immortal words “Let’s get on out of here now. Let’s go!” which is almost, word for word, the same way the amazing 1963 recording of “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen ends. Inspiration endures.

4. “The Ballad of the Kingsmen” by Todd Snider > “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye
As long as there has been rock and roll, there has been censorship, a topic Todd Snider examines with intelligence, humor and exasperation in his amazing 5:03 epic ode to how songs have been misunderstood through the years. “The Ballad of the Kingsmen” begins with “Louie Louie,” then goes on to Marilyn Manson, Marvin Gaye and beyond. As the song fades out, Snider can be heard singing the chorus from “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye…a controversial song if there ever was one.

5. “Hard Core Troubadour” by Steve Earle > “Rosalita” by Bruce Springsteen
Steve Earle released the I Feel Alright album after dealing with drugs, weapons and prison in the early 1990’s. The center piece of this redemptive, therapeutic album is “Hard Core Troubadour.” Besides a biting reference to Romeo and Juliet with the line “Girl, better figure out which is which. Wherefore art thou Romeo you son of a bitch?” (LOVE that line!). Earle also references Bruce Springsteen, who perhaps wrote the classic “Rosalita” with Romeo and  Juliet in mind as well, as Steve Earle includes the line “He’s the last of the all night, do right. Hey Rosalita, won’t you come out tonight?” Shakespeare and Springsteen, all in one song. Not bad.

6. “Young Americans” by David Bowie > “A Day in The Life” by The Beatles
There are few songs in the David Bowie canon as joyous and celebratory as “Young Americans,” released in 1975 off the album of the same name. I don’t know what this song is about.

“Do you remember President Nixon?”
“Took him minutes, it took her nowhere.”

David Sanborn’s saxophone is wailing. Luther Vandross harmonizes behind Bowie. And then, towards the end, as if to unite us all, we remember the ending of Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band when Bowie sings the first lines from “A Day in The Life.”
“I read the news today, Oh boy”

7. “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie and the Blowfish > “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan
Rock and Roll Easter Eggs exist due to inspiration. The song, the melody, or the message inspired an artist, and referencing the source of that inspiration connects the artist, and us, to the source of that inspiration. Hootie and the Blowfish reference Bob Dylans’ 1975 “Tangled Up in Blue” in their 1995 monster smash “Only Wanna Be With You.” Featuring several complete lines from the song, there can be no mistake where the inspiration came from.

These seven songs only scratch the surface. Rock and Roll has been around for over 60 years. What are your favorite Rock and Roll Easter Eggs?

3 Effective Ways to Bring a Smile in Yammer

GIF’s are not a sophisticated means of communication, they are short animated images that many people find annoying, cringe worthy and sometimes seizure inducing. They can be bright, flashy and loud, even though there is no sound.

Enterprise Social Networking platform Yammer recently introduced the ability to include GIF images in posts. In an earlier blog post, I expressed concern that GIF’s would be seen as distracting and silly. They are not directly related to our work, so why would people choose to use them?

However, since introducing GIFs in our Yammer network, we have found them to be a major driver of involvement and engagement. Yes they are bright and flashy, but as a result, eyes are drawn to the post to which the GIF is attached. We have seen that GIF files have a positive effect on how  people interact with the platform.


This is good. My goal is to get people engaged in our platform. If a silly image of a man standing in a bowl of Ramen soup will drive engagement with the information I am sharing, then I will post that image.

Thankfully, GIFs are not the only way people engage with information, but it is flashy, and sometimes it can be fun, and there are important lessons to learn from how GIFs drive engagement.

  1. Have Fun with Hashtags
    Even with the most serious of business messages, a creative hashtag can offer just the levity needed. Fall short on budget expectations? #MaybeNextYear. The sales trip was not a success? #AtLeastWeHadGoodFood. Forget to submit a report on time? #IWontMakeThisMistakeAgain. Lots that you can do.
  2. Attach a Photo
    So, maybe a GIF, (or even worse) a Meme, is not the message you want to send. Photos now appear in Yammer in a large, beautiful format. William Shakepseare Because+eating+lots+of+food+is+fun+_4761d021bc4b348be0216bfb9b035aa9wrote that a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Amen brother. An image, well  used, can say an awful lot. Trying to get people to go out to lunch? Most likely, no one will be eating a burger this size, but this is certainly an image that will capture their attention.
  3. Use the Praise Tool
    Clicking “Praise” above the comment field will enable you to make a post as praise. Tag the person you want to praise, and pick a fun, maybe silly icon to use. Though there are not dozens to choose from, find something that might bring a smile based on the nature of your post. Personally? I like the monocle and mustache. Capture
    Yammer is all  about business, and rightfully so, but that does not mean we can’t have a little fun along the way, and that does not mean that this fun won’t even improve the work that we do. Have fun in Yammer at work. Give people a reason to smile.

One Perfect Song: When I Fall in Love


“When I Fall in Love”
Written by Victor Young and Edward Heyman
Recorded by Nat King Cole
Released April, 1957

A perfect song is timeless. A perfect song is a song that spans years and generations, and will be free of style and instrumentation that identify it with a certain stylistic period. A perfect song may avoid the heavy synthesizers of the 1980’s, the lush orchestration behind a disco beat of the 1970’s, or the organ driven pop of the 1960’s. The greatness of a perfect song will be in the lyrics, the composition and the performance.

A perfect song is preserved in a moment in time. Hearing the song brings us to a time in our lives, an experience that will be filled with joy, or sorrow over a memory, no matter how fleeting. We will recall significant moments when a great song comes on the radio. There may even be a taste in our mouths, or a smell in the air.

I was not yet alive when Nat King Cole released “When I Fall in Love” in 1957. I don’t even know the first time I heard the song, but every time I hear it, it brings me to a very specific place, and it elicits very specific emotions.

“When I Fall in Love” is, on it’s face, a simple love song. Or rather, it is a song with a simple message of the importance of a love that lasts for years. The song is not necessarily being sung to, or about, anyone. “When I Fall in Love” is sung more as a mission statement. A statement of belief.

“When I fall in love,
It will be forever.”

There is no chorus in the song, and there is no bridge. There are only three stanzas and 97 words in the entire song. Only a few of the words even rhyme.

“When I give my heart,
It will be completely
Or I’ll never give my heart.”

The greatness of the song is not so much in its lyrics, but rather in its production and delivery. Nat King Cole was not the first artist to record this song, and he is far from the last. But, his version is arguably the best. His phrasing is at once gentle and confident. His vibrato seems to last forever, until the strings take over the song. Every version of this song that has been released since it was recorded by Cole has been unfairly compared to this sublime recording. It is lush and rich. There is no percussion, only a string section with a bass and a simple acoustic guitar playing gentle staccato chords to keep time with a beautiful harp playing arpeggios, softly accenting every key phrase.

In fact, the instrumentation is so perfect that almost all versions of this song that have been released since 1957 sound similar. Synthesizers are not added, big drum kits are not used. Why mess with perfection?

Nothing in this song connects it to 1957. What made song great then makes it still great in 2017. “When I Fall in Love” is a one perfect song.

6 Degrees of Working Out Loud


Many of us work on a precarious razor’s edge balancing a need for privacy and confidentiality on one hand, and the benefits and advantages of working openly and transparently on the other hand. Where can we find the most advantage? What will serve our needs, and the needs of our colleagues and organization the best?

But perhaps the razor’s edge is actually a mid point, and on either side is a continuum representing the way we work. On one end of the continuum is the beginning, a place where we all start, and on the other end is the place we want to work towards, the place where we want to be, so we will be most effective in our work and most beneficial for our career. Perhaps we can look at this as degrees of Working out Loud.

1st DEGREE: Never sharing
You are not working out loud. You keep everything to yourself. Your documents are kept in private folders, and your work product is only shared when necessary.

2nd DEGREE: Strategically sharing information with people in your team
You realize that some sharing needs to be done, but you do this sharing in a very carefully, strategic manner. Information is shared as necessary, and only when directed by your supervisor, or in a way that the work demands.

3rd DEGREE:  Regularly sharing information with people on your team
You work on a team, and you recognize that the only way a team works, and that work gets done in a way that is truly reflective of the skills and experience of everyone involved, is when work is shared as a matter of practice. Everyone is aware of what every other person is working on.

4th DEGREE: Sharing information with your team with a goal of more collaboration
It’s not enough that work is reported on. Your recognize that in order for sharing to be truly effective, that sharing must happen before the work is done in a way that encourages collaboration. You look for opportunities to bring other colleagues into your work while it is in progress. You are creating more trust at work every day.

5th DEGREE: Working transparently so teams throughout your organization are aware of your work.
Even more valuable than sharing work before its done is being transparent during the process of doing the work. You share your challenges, your questions, your revelations and your successes. Your colleagues become aware of your work, and the steps you have taken to learn what you have learned, and to accomplish what you have accomplished. You are knocking down walls and welcoming people in.

6th DEGREE: Regularly collaborating, sharing work before it is complete, encouraging transparency and openness throughout your organization.
You are now the bravest, and most productive person in the office. Pro-active transparency and de-facto collaboration behaviors are now a regular part of your work day. You consistently challenge yourself to make sure you are sharing whatever work can be shared, before that work is complete. You actively reach out to your colleagues who should be aware of your projects, and specific documents. They become an integral part of your work in progress. Real time is being saved. Economies of scale are being realized. Work is getting done faster.

Though the 6th degree is always a good goal, it is not necessarily where all work should be. When there is truly confidential information being developed, that should certainly not be open to others throughout the organization. It may very well be that, in the case of such sensitive matters, 1st or 2nd degree is the appropriate place to be.

That is not to suggest though that you shouldn’t challenge yourself. What should be shared? What can be shared? How can your transparency lead to more transparency, and more collaboration? These can sometimes be challenging changes to make, but the benefits can be rewarding for your professionally, and for your whole organization.

So maybe step away from the razor’s edge. Step carefully towards that 6th degree. Realize the personal and professional benefits of being more transparent, and of collaborating with more intent, strategy and regularity. Be the bravest person in the room.