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Working out loud week seemed like a good time to interview John Stepper, author of Working Out Loud and get a few insights into making circles effective and his future plans.
There’s been an amazing global reaction to your book. Did you ever expect working out loud to get so big so fast?
Thank you. I’m pleased to see the ideas are spreading, and that’s only been possible because of a community of practitioners around the world. Still, we have a long, long way to go to make the kind of difference I know we can make.
You have launched Ikigai to help people have a reason to get out of bed. What do you see as the problems you will help people solve?

Too many people are unnecessarily constrained, often by the culture, processes, and systems in their organizations, and sometimes even by their own habits. The practice of Working Out Loud can help people discover possibilities beyond their current limits. It can help them take steps towards “a better career and life,” whatever “better” happens to mean for them.You have mentioned you are working on new products, books and approaches. What can we expect next?

I’m especially excited about using the WOL circles as a learning vehicle for other skills and behaviors. For example, I’m partnering with organizations to develop new guides for “WOL for Teams.” The new exercises help teams make progress towards a shared goal. We’re also working on guides for communities of practice and on a new management program. The more we can adapt the process to specific contexts and roles, the more people we can help.

You’ve had a heap of experience with working out loud circles as they have scaled around the world. What can you share of the lessons from that experience?

We learned a lot about what worked and hasn’t worked for circles. That led to a recent upgrade to the guides, for example. It also led to different kinds of training. Just today, we kicked off a WOL Circles course that includes a new 100+-page Coach’s Guide. By training Circle Coaches, we can ensure more circles are more effective. In the Fall, we hope to customize the material and train Circle Coaches inside organizations. That will allow circles to spread even more successfully.

Organisations like Bosch are working with you to accelerate the adoption of working out loud. What is important to that process?

Bosch is a fantastic partner. The public circle guides are a good start, but they’re just a beginning. Innovative organizations like Bosch are making it possible to pilot new adaptations in different contexts, and that’s critical to advancing the practice.

You’ve given a great deal of your time and effort to free guides and helping champions get started. What can the WOL community give you in return?

The community already gives me plenty. Every day, I wake up to messages from people around the world who are in a circle, or who are spreading the practice, or who have ideas for how to make it better. To be interacting with such positive, creative people in so many countries is like a miracle to me. It’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

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