Unpacking WOL

In this weeks PKM chat we will be “unpacking” Working Out Loud (WOL).  It’s the second part of a three part series deep diving into how each of us looks at PKM (week 1) and WOL (week 2) and where these concepts may or may not intersect (week 3).  You can catch up on last week’s chat here .

The whole concept for a three part series got started when Gail Radeki of Raft Learning and I realized we wanted to host discussions on similar topics.  I originally wanted to dive right into where Harold Jarche’s PKM method and John Stepper’s version of WOL intersect as it’s something I have been trying to resolve in my mind so that I can explain why both these concepts/methodologies are needed where I work.

After talking to Gail, we thought it would be great to look at each concept individually before trying to make any connections, hence this weeks discussion on how we each think about WOL.

I have tended to define WOL using John Stepper’s adoption (below) of the concept original coined by Bryce Williams:

Working out loud is an approach to building relationships that can help you in some way... It’s a practice that combines conventional wisdom about relationships with modern ways to reach and engage people.

The rebel side of me also likes Jonathon Anthony’s definition:

Working out loud is the willingness to share and to try and to keep things in (perpetual?) beta. Challenge one’s own orthodoxy, inculcate and encourage a tension in the work with others. Make bold promises that things can improve, and also that they might fail: show vulnerability whilst also being full of hope


However, these aren’t the only methods or definitions of WOL.  There is also Show Your Work by Jane Bozarth and Austin Kleon’s version focusing on sharing your creativity as a way to get discovered along with countless others I am failing to mention.

So do definitions truly matter? Do we all need to see it the same way?

After last week’s chat and all of my research I am thinking maybe they don’t.  I really like how Simon Terry puts it:

There is also no one right universal way of working out loud that will suit every person, situation and purpose. We embrace all the practices and approaches that have been created to foster purposeful sharing of work because any practice may be of benefit to someone.

That being said, I like to look at WOL as mix of Johnathon and John’s definitions .  It’s not only how I build relationships but it’s also how I challenge the system – both my internal one and my organizations.  WOL gives me the courage to stand-up for what I believe in and gives me the courage to fail as it allows me to live life in “perpetual beta.”

Ultimately though, the point of this week’s chat is not about definitions. Similar to Gail’s last week, it’s to get a glimpse of how others view WOL in hopes that the discussion will help us to better connect with each other and evolve this concept so that we can figure out what works best for us.

Well that and I am selfishly hoping to get one step closer in figuring out how to “sell” both WOL and PKM to my current organization ; )

Side Note:  New to the concept of working out loud? Here are some of my favorite examples.

4 thoughts on “Unpacking WOL

Add yours

  1. Hi Kate,
    This definition of WOL from Jonathan Anthony really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing! To me WOL is more about the sharing than about the connection. Similar to the quote from Jeff Merrell in your blog about WOL examples. Sharing probably helps you just as much as it helps others. So just share and then find out who likes it. Instead of always ‘writing for an audience’. It means the freedom to share anything you like.


    1. Your welcome. Jeff Merrell really helped me to give myself permission to just put my thought out there. Before I always thought, like you mentioned, I had to write to an audience. Little did I know that the only audience I need is me ; )

      Liked by 1 person

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