Thoughts on working out loud

Any of you who follow Jeff Merrell (or me, on Twitter) by now know that last week, I participated in a WOL week as part of a graduate class I’m taking at Northwestern University. It was an interesting study in the benefits of working out loud, as well as how different platforms can serve different purposes and effect where the discussion goes. I missed part of the memo, and also started before the rest of the people in the program. So instead of doing my WOL in the program community, I took mine to Twitter. And once our class was onsite, many more from the class joined in the Twitter conversation. Jeff was posting stats, and the competitiveness of people came into play. We were trying to have more connections between us and others, and make sure our names showed up large enough that people could see. It would have been great fodder for a behavioral study! Jeff also created a Storify from most of the Tweets from days 1-2. Kind of fun to look back and remember how things unfolded.

In terms of what I’ve learned by practicing WOL, even for a short time:

  • I absolutely got some new ideas or perspectives on what I was thinking about.
  • It was also a great way to keep track of what we were discussing so that I can look back now and remember – online note taking.
  • And while I understand there is at least one study showing that old-fashioned note-taking (on paper, with a pen or pencil) is better for retention, I think there is something to be said for any activity where you actively paraphrase what you are hearing or capture an idea that is sparked by the discussions going on in a classroom.

Another takeaway – my team at work are going to try combining written and video WOL in coming weeks to see what impact that has. I’m hoping it will spark some more fraternity, as well as help me (us?) be less self-conscious about video posts. Perhaps we’ll even develop a model that we can share for use within other work teams. I’d love to make video a bigger part of what we do internally as a company, especially since I suspect it would help with building trust to facilitate more and better global collaboration.


  1. Trisha Liu · May 12, 2015

    Actively paraphrasing and resharing – yes!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sorokti · May 12, 2015

    Tracey. I agree that working out loud (especially on Twitter) helps to create a record of my thinking along with resources that I can go back to. I also find that inevitably someone sees something I share and then helps me in some unexpected way. Allows for an iterative learning cycle. Thanks for reflecting here on the #MSLOC430 WOL week!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you are right about actively paraphrasing. The act of internalizing knowledge and then explaining it in your own words definitely helps me learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tracymmaurer · May 14, 2015

      And the difference to me between taking notes on paper and on Twitter is that Twitter forces me to be concise, and so I have to paraphrase. On paper, I can take up as much space as I want. I don’t think that specific type of note-taking was accounted for in the study I cited. I’d be curious to see how it stacks up.


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