Rewrite Your Workplace

Earlier in the year I introduced the concept of “rewriting” to working out loud (WOL).

I described it simply as “the ability to fix what’s broken”:

REWRITE your products and services, so people want them. REWRITE workflows and business processes, so they work. REWRITE the organisational chart, so it’s fit for purpose.

The relationship between working out loud and the outcomes of rewriting may not be immediately obvious.

I think of WOL as a framework for participating in professional networks in a purposeful way. It is a set of self-directed behaviours for peer-to-peer working that is based on mutual benefit (give and take). This style of working is only possible and effective at scale with the use of technology, but the underlying culture is based on a very human trait of generosity and social support.

The goal of rewriting is to provide an outlet for the momentum of working out loud when it hits an organisational barrier. One of the key value propositions for organisations deliberately supporting working out loud is the opportunity to break down silos that inhibit efficiency and innovation. But working out loud itself does not provide a mechanism for action on this, except through self-development. This leaves us with a challenge to act on insights that require change beyond our own personal span of control.

One strategy is serendipity – by working out loud, we have already increased the chance that someone with authority or resources to act on our insight will discover it. But now imagine that the workplace network was empowered to take action itself, rather than relying on some distant manager or leader at the centre to effect a change.

Does this sound a little crazy? It does if the workplace is not setup to be rewritable.

Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) has previously talked about his vision for a “rewritable web”. He sees the World Wide Web as a creative medium, not just a way to make consumption of information easier. A rewritable organisation is also a creative organisation, with software tools that enable people to experiment and reconfigure without risk of damaging the fundamental integrity and mission of the business. As it has been said before, every company is now a software company.

From this perspective a rewritable organisation is an empowering architecture – including people, place and technology – for working out loud.

Of course as an individual practicing working out loud, your place of work may not be ready to become rewritable. If that is the case (which it likely is), focus on your own span of control by:

  • Listening with intent – work out loud and make decisions using advice and input from your network.
  • Using adaptable systems – where you have choice, pick web-orientated tools that have tolerance for change built-in.
  • Working based on trust, not control – act as a steward not a gatekeeper to the information, systems and processes you own.

The characteristics of a next generation organisation are that work is observable, narrated and ultimately rewritable.