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The world is changing and so is the way we work and the way we learn. Class-room trainings are declining as people seek more and more alternative ways of learning, that are available when needed, are engaging and allow to personally experience instead of reading or being told about it. In this article you will learn how to approach personal growth using "Working Out Loud", how it works and how you can benefit from it.

Here is to the curious ones, the ones that like to continuously explore new terrains, those whose horizon is not limited to the desk they are sitting at:  Ever heard of "Working out Loud" (WOL) by John Stepper? No? This is why you should:

What is it?

Some would say Working out Loud is a learning method or a peer-coaching method, whereas others would even say it is a mindset. Working out Loud is about building relationships that matter and therewith achieve your personal goals, develop skills or explore new terrains.

So how does it work? It is as easy as this, you form a peer group of 4-5 people and meet once a week (60-90 minutes) over 12 weeks and work on your individual goals. You are supported by a free circle guide, that is available in various languages. You train in a save and trustful environment  and step by step, build relationships that matter and that are far beyond what is know as "networking".

There are no other prerequisites, being open-minded and open-hearted is enough.

What is a "good" goal/challenge?

As you do this voluntarily in a trusted environment and with an ease of mind, you should pick a challenge/goal that is currently important enough for you. It does not have to be work related as long as you have enough passion for it. It might be writing your first blog, practicing public speaking, learn more about black holes, or holding your breath for 5 minutes. Anything that you care enough about and what you could make progress towards in 12 weeks is a good goal.

How to find your peer group?

There are a lot of companies that have WOL groups, so I propose you first check out if you find a grass-root WOL circle in your company. If you are the first ones in your company, you either kick-start your own grass-root movement, or you can also start exploring it by forming circles via the web site of WOL (see link below) or private ones.

What is in for you?

What you actually do with WOL is learn and practice generosity. You make your work become visible and impactful. And you explore new grounds, purposefully discover opportunities and you foster your growth mindset.

On top of that, WOL is a great way to onboard new colleagues, integrate and connect them within and beyond the organisation. It can be beneficial as leadership peer training, allowing leaders to exchange ideas and influence others through sharing what matters to them. It fosters diversity and inclusion, as it brings together people with all sorts of backgrounds.

What companies can do

Every company is interested in employees that are willing to continuously learn and grow - people that are not afraid of change, but have a resilient way to step into future challenges. So investing in the ability of their employees to prepare and react on upcoming challenges is a sustainable investment into their talent, health and the company's future.

As trust and voluntariness is a basis for WOL, an organisation cannot impose or enforce it, but it sure can give it room to flourish. So providing the space to let employees jointly explore and learn that is something companies can and should do.

At SAP Working out Loud started from a grass-roots initiative as well. We now have dozens of running circles in EMEA, there are more in other locations and virtual ones connecting people around the globe. And the movement is still growing.

At SAP WOL circles form via SAP Jam and we just had a full day WOL camp in autumn with John Stepper (founder of WOL) and Katharina Krentz (a WOL ambassador from Bosch) where interested colleagues could actively explore and find out themselves if WOL is something for them.

The magic

For me it turned out WOL is not just a peer learning method, but a possibility to deeper connect with yourself and the world around you.This might work so well, because people who join usually have not only an attractive goal, but a great interest to jointly explore the future in a different way than they did before. That might also be why in WOL groups you meet so many open minded, interesting and inspiring people. Generosity is actually practiced over the time, but you feel the spark of it from day one. This benevolent, supporting, energising and trusting space and atmosphere is created by every single one of them.

So for me practicing WOL had not just an influence on how I approach goals, but how I approach people and challenges in life - via deep connection, curiosity and open hearted.

As a great  "side effect" practicing WOL fosters cultural change and makes SAP's values truly experienceable:  tell it like it is, stay curious, embrace differences, keep the promise, and build bridges – not silos.


You find more info and the free circle guide (in various languages) here:

Follow these WOL people on twitter: @johnstepper, @WOL_de, @MarkusMeisl (SAP), @katha_krentz (Bosch)
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