Working out Loud and Getting Over Social Media Fatigue: Helen Blunden Interview

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Helen Blunden has over 20 years of experience in helping people and teams work and learn better together. She’s an expert in working out loud, social and collaborative learning. We caught up with her to talk about working and learning out loud, and how she’s noticing a drift from Twitter towards private communities.

What is “working out loud?”

It’s sharing and narrating your work openly and publicly to help you make sense of your work, and what’s happening in your field and industry. And it’s also building meaningful networks and tapping into people who can help you solve a problem or achieve a goal.

What are your habits for working out loud and staying on top of content?

Blogging is a very important personal habit. I’ve been doing it since 2004 and been journaling for years before that. Reflection and blogging are really important for me, that’s how I work out loud.

I make time for learning. It’s integrated into my day. I do look at multiple channels, but I follow people rather than sites and brands. I follow people who are doing things and sharing valuable and informative content.

I’ve got Personal Learning Networks – people I can tap into for insight on various topics, I’ve used Twitter lists for that. I don’t really care where they are hanging out though – I’ve they are on Snapchat, or Medium, that’s fine. Everyone’s got their own preferred place. It’s less about the channel or tool they’re using, It’s more about what they say.

How do you get people started with working out loud?

I get them to do it themselves. It’s not something that you can control and force others to do unless you’ve been through the experience yourself. My clients are mainly L&D teams, so I help them go through the process themselves first. They need to be role models and see the value in it before they can help internal clients to do it.

Do L&D embrace the idea?

It’s not easy for L&D, but I can totally understand why. For years there was a different mindset, it was all about pushing out training and courses. But it’s completely changed – now you’re expected to use social media, go on your own journey, support people to help them learn for themselves, and work out loud. It can ring alarm bells for people if they’re not used to it, but you need to change, because those old ways aren’t working.

If L&D can see the value in social learning and working out loud, they’re in the perfect position to make the change. They have the access to all of the ways people learn, they have the connections, it’s about changing the mindset.

You’ve said you’re seeing some social media fatigue on Twitter, LinkedIn and some other networks, there’s less participation in discussions. Why is that?

It’s a personal perception. I came reasonably late to Twitter and LinkedIn and when I started there was a lot more discussions and chat there. Twitter feels more pushed marketing now, it’s not one on one, it’s conversations with brands, full of ads, and I want to talk to people not brands.

I’ve noticed recently that those conversations have moved away from these public spaces and more into communities, places like Slack or Social Cast. My Personal Network is having conversations in those kinds of places now. So that’s why I’m spending more time in communities and sharing in those.

What advice would you give to people who want to stay on top of new content but don’t have the time?

I think you have to make time. If you’re too busy it’s obviously not important to you. You’re making a personal choice about where you spend the time. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes every day to stay on top of something new – it’s worth it.

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