Working Out... What?

My personal WOL story

Being asked very often about how my WOL journey started, I need to go back to 2012, when I was searching the internet for enabling programs, methods and content for Corporate Community Managers. I was responsible to set up this new role within Bosch in my position at the central project team “Enabling Enterprise2.0 at Bosch”, to better support teams to work in communities on Bosch Connect. I’m the kind of person who’s always been open to look for accessible resources and knowledge from others. Moreover, for me Community Management was quite normal and well known — but externally.

Therefore, I searched the internet, and thanks to serendipity, I stumbled upon Bryce Williams and his blog post: “When will we Work Out Loud? Soon!” I very much liked the description of WOL = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work, because this is exactly the basis how to create value added online, so an important skill for Community Managers. By going on researching, I then found John Stepper and the workingoutloud.com homepage. The first blog post I’ve read from John was about introverts (the rise of the introverts) and how to engage them into virtual collaboration — and I’ve hit the follow button. I’ve set up a Wiki page in our internal Community Management Community, explaining the idea of Working Out Loud. In addition, I’ve integrated WOL into our Certified Community Manager training to make them aware about the idea and the great resource of John’s blog. Then for a long time nothing has happened… 

But in June 2015 my external network has invited me to join a MeetUp at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, where a group of Enterprise 2.0 experts and community enthusiasts wanted to discuss, how to bring the Working Out Loud concept to Germany. John was during that days employed at Deutsche Bank NYC as an IT manager. Besides, he has published a book named Working Out Loud and has developed the WOL circle program to train people to work out loud. Of course, I was in and joined the MeetUp. This is where my WOL journey really started.

In 2015, I’ve worked at the Digital Transformation project a Bosch business unit. After the MeetUp I’ve joined an external WOL circle with four other people from the MeetUp. The first WOL circles in Germany started cross-company and privately based on the WOL Circle Guides version 1.0, which have only contained exercises for four weeks. In week three of my circle I’ve decided to bring this concept to Bosch.

Why? Because I’ve experienced the power of learning to build a structured personal network based on appreciation, recognition and attention. I always thought that this is a talent, which people have or don’t have. However, I’ve now experienced that it is possible to learn that, step by step, in ones own pace. And that this concept, which is built on autonomy, mastery and purpose, triggers these elements over the course of 12 weeks. I’ve understood that this really enables sustainable change, not only in the way we build relationships, but in the way we collaborate and communicate with each other. Additionally, this method focuses on individuals, their own needs and interests, their own targets. That was very different from what I’ve known as a training concept before.

Therefore, over the summer holidays I’ve set up the Working Out Loud community on our internal ESN called Bosch Connect. In August I’ve invited curious colleagues to join our first internal circles by simply setting up a blog post, asking for volunteers. I’ve teamed up with Cornelia Heinke, who also joined the MeetUp at Deutsche Bank and who was also excited about the method. In November, after gaining the first experiences (with circle guides version 1.5 based on our feedback and needs), all 10 pilot circles agreed that WOL is helpful for Bosch, and we’ve invited John to visit us for the very first WOL conference ever. In March 2016 I’ve founded a co-creation team (Cornelia, Kathrin, Thorsten, Monika, Jeroen, Daniel), because it wasn’t possible to organize anything together with Conny anymore. This is where the WOL @ Bosch movement has started. John has shared a personal summary in this blog post.  

A lot has changed since then! And I have changed a lot… 

I’ve been more the introverted, shy person in the past (yes, really, there are a lot of witnesses for that!). I’ve hated being the center of attention, was too insecure to go on stage and give a speech. I didn’t feel comfortable, when more than three people stared at me. 

I always wanted to support colleagues to collaborate openly, to really participate and engage in transparent networks and communities. Because I truly believe in the power of networks and I have recognized countless benefits from that. Of course, personal exchange is important, but it is not always possible, even more if you collaborate with colleagues world-wide. With some techniques, it is possible to build up a personal relationship also virtually. It is possible to build up trust and a purposeful relationship in that way. Today I’m connected to many people in my internal and external networks. I cannot differentiate, whom I’ve met personally or only virtually — and to be frankly, for me it doesn’t matter. What matters is what people share, what they know, what they contribute, who they are and what drives them.

Thanks to @Rainer Gimbel for this sketchnote 🙂

In addition, in a virtual network this has nothing to do with the people’s role, function or hierarchy level. It is all about the person itself. People don’t only share their knowledge and experience, they also share their own networks, so-called “weak-ties” relationships, which science proves as very powerful and which people like me experience and enjoy almost every day. In the digital age, this is a real superpower! 

However, to make that visible and to spread the word I needed to be more present, not only in the virtual world. So one of my first WOL circle goals was to become more confident and more courageous to give a speech. To speak up and represent the topic I really care about. And to not only work out loud virtually, but to also become a visible role model. You know I was quite successful in reaching my goal — but it took me in total three circles and lots of meetings and events to practice 😉

I’ve never planned to start a movement. I’ve never wanted to become popular or that visible. I’ve never really cared for that. I was on a mission: make the great virtual opportunities I’ve experienced on my own available for everybody interested. Spread the word for WOL and show people that it is not a talent, it can be learned from anyone. And that people, personal relations and networks are the core and solution for almost everything! 

On that mission I’ve had many WOL moments, and there isn’t a special one. The WOL@Bosch community grows every day, every week new WOL circles start, new blog posts get published from many different authors and more and more colleagues engage in our WOL networks. We as a co-creation-team had wonderful events, inspiring workshops, many successful moments. There are many articles, videos and podcasts over the last four years sharing more details (see my LinkedIn profile “publications”). I’m proud of my internal and external networks, the growing number of my followers, which prove, that WOL and our work is relevant. The prices we won as a team (internal Digital Collaboration Award 2016, HR Excellence Award 2017 & New Work Award 2019) are really amazing, and now I’m nominated as “Digital Female Leader” in the NewWork category. And in parallel I’m now as well working as external consultant, speaker, moderator and certified WOL-Coach, two days a month, to support also other companies, events and meetings with my knowledge and capabilities.

But what really touches me and motivates me every day is YOU: your very personal user stories about personal growth, reached targets, successful moments, learnings and development. Your posts, comments, e-mails, calls, where you share, what has changed for you personally and for your work and life based on my work. I’m deeply grateful to have a job, that makes that possible!

Let’s see how the story continues…

Love,

Katha