Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"If what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?"

Schermafbeelding 2015-03-25 om 16.11.23(This post was first published on my dutch site

Jane Bozarth is the writer of the book Show your Work. She is really a multi-talented person, she can talk without stopping, play ukelele and she can work outloud...We experienced all these talents in the webinar with Jane. Though she started by saying  "I don't have anything to talk about" she continued talking  for 1,5 hours :)..

What is Show your Work? "Show Your Work" = working out loud, it is about narrating your work. She did her dissertation about communities of practice and discovered that there is a gap between what we do at work and what we report in staff meeting. We have a lot of information about what colleagues do, but not exactly HOW they do it.Sharing makes it possible for others to learn from you. Knowledge workers have a lot of tacit knowledge and can use the tools available, for instance a phone with camera to actually share how they are doing a certain job. Sharing doesn't necessarily have to be through digital tools, however, the digital tools available make it much easier to share something rapidly and widely. We're coming to an age where we can't know everything alone. We are now dealing with a more complex environment and it becomes harder to do things alone.

Why do people share how to fish and not how they fix things at work? Jane is also puzzled when people don't think about sharing at work. She observes that some people record a video on how to fish and share it on Youtube in their free time but don't do the same at work. One of the reasons may be that "How to" information is easy to find on internet and complex issues, the tacit knowledge are much less shared. Brown and Duguid have written extensively about this aspect of tacit knowledge. Jane illustrated this with the example of a person who got a lot of things done within her organization and documented his work before he retired. However, nobody every became as good as he was despite the documentation. The reason is that the little tricks of the trade are very important and those are not easily captured in documentation. Interviews and questions may help to get tacit knowledge out. However, we are not very good asking the right questions to colleagues either, we don't probe on how somebody managed to do something. We talk about our work all the time, but rarely about 'how did you do this?' Visuals can be helpful too, a cookbook with recipes is explicit knowledge, videos or pictures already provide a view into the tacit knowledge.

"if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" We all have the experience of doing something and afterwards finding out somebody has done that before. Often in organizations people don't take the time to share. The reason for this is that people don't have the mindset of sharing. In fact in every project you should take a pauze and reflect whether there are other people who might be struggling with the same issues? This doesn't mean that you share every pencil you sharpen.. but "if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" (a quote from Steve Nguyen working at Yammer).

Starting Working Outloud in organizations In an organization you may start by identifying the people who are already doing it. We may help management change the questions.. "what was your most difficult, successful phone call today?" "what did you learn this week?" in stead of "what did you learn from this project?" A big challenge of working outloud in organization is making sure everything is findable. It helps to have some known spaces like Yammer. It is good to get better in tagging. A search function is also important. Within an organization you may help people in their decisions what to share where; what to share via mail, something else via the internal Yammer and other things in public.

Sharing successes or failures? Sarah Brown Wessling was teacher of the year and got video taped during a lesson when everything went wrong in a drama/literature class. She didn't stop the video but continues and later explains what went wrong. She published it publicly on a teacherchannel. This may be very useful for new teachers. It was possible for her to share this in public because she is very confident, she has been rewarded. It needs quite some courage to do this in public. Doctors who organize a morbidity and mortality meeting to discuss a patient who died also talk about failures, this is part of their professional culture. It is part of working and learning outloud, however it is not share publicly.

Tooling It doesn't really matter what tools are used.Virgin media provided everybody with snagit to take screenshots. Yammer can be a great tool. There is the example of copying machine repair persons who send pictures to others. Even email is possible. Hurray!
A last tip from Jane before she ran out of words: "Remember- it's about showing the WORK, not necessarily photos of your face. That might overcome shyness."
Tip: read also the blogpost 'zoek the learnnuggets' by Marjan Engelen..

No comments: