Interview mit Rainer Gimbel


Rainer Gimbel relies on cooperation in social networks at Evonik. In an interview he explains how this works with "Working Out Loud" and why it is not only important for work, but also fun.

Rainer, you have been pushing the company's internal social network at Evonik for many years. Above all, you use the "Working Out Loud" method - what is it?

Basically, it's about how I connect to share my knowledge and benefit from shared knowledge myself. In other words, I make my work accessible to others, publish results - sometimes even a draft. Then my colleagues can access it and give me feedback if necessary.

For me, it's first and foremost a mindset. One's own generosity is at the forefront. When I share my work, I do not expect any consideration. Nor does it necessarily have to be information that I provide to anyone. It can also be attention. This in turn generates attention from the other side, perhaps with someone who can help me solve a problem or achieve a goal.

After all, it sounds quite analogous at first - what does this have to do with digitization?

Digital technologies enable opportunities in building and maintaining a network that did not exist until a few years ago. I can maintain much larger networks and I have a higher reach with my contributions over my network. Maintaining these network contacts is the crux of the matter.

Do you have any tips to keep your own network alive?

Most important is the visibility of one's own work, which was mentioned earlier. Presenting results, including intermediates, keeps others up to date.

Then there is the phatic communication. Hardly anyone knows what that means, but everyone does. The postcard from the holiday, for example, is one of them. It is ultimately communication without an essential information content, but it serves to maintain networks and contacts. Transferred to the digital professional world, this would be, for example, a selfie from the seminar or the indication that you are visiting a different location today. This keeps you visible to your network.

In addition, it is important to cross network boundaries. Recommending or sharing posts allows my contacts to see posts from other users they don't have on their network. Interestingly, these are precisely the scenarios in which innovations can arise.

Do you have any examples of what you have experienced with "Working Out Loud" so far?

Of course! Take, for example, John Stepper, the inventor of the learning method "Working Out Loud". When I read his public blog post on Working out Loud in 2012, I thought, "Wow, that's a guru. What does he want to have to do with a normal guy like me?" Well, and last May he visited us at Evonik Digital and held a keynote and a workshop for interested colleagues. Today he always asks me "what the dancing does" because he remembers that I go dancing with my wife every Friday.

The way to get there was like the "Working Out Loud" textbook: first I followed him on Twitter, then on LinkedIn, shared and commented here and there. I showed the attention we have been talking about earlier. And that's how you build mutual trust and you have a relationship with someone - that's what it's all about in the end.

How can one learn the method?

According to the method of John Stepper, colleagues in so-called circles can exchange regularly in a small group for 12 weeks. In doing so, exercises will be conducted to help the participants put Working Out Loud into practice.

And within the company?

I have also been able to get to know many colleagues better. It's insanely interesting to see the person behind the tie, so to speak. I would never have noticed that a colleague is a successful YouTuber with 40,000 subscribers. By now I know that at Evonik we have colleagues who write science fiction novels in their spare time, others are gifted painters or work as models. And for you, it's great to show what you have in talent. "Working Out Loud" also serves this purpose: finding unused potentials beyond the job description with yourself or others - which can help me or the company in the future.

How does this help at work?

The phrase "If Evonik knew what Evonik knows" clearly shows what "Working Out Loud" can do: make knowledge available. To do so, as many people as possible must participate. We used to exchange business cards for appointments. Unfortunately, this contact often ended up in the drawer. Instead of the business card, there is an invitation to the network today. And the opportunity to benefit from the contact for both sides.

What do you say to colleagues who are critical of the concept according to the motto: "I haven't needed that for the last 20 years - I don't need that for the next 20"?

First of all, you can't force anyone to "Working Out Loud". The method requires active cooperation, if someone doesn't want it, it doesn't work. But what convinces many is this: If I make my work and knowledge available, i.e. make it publicly available, I do not have to answer the same questions dozens of times by mail or telephone - I have more time for important things. And when I make my work visible, it is no longer only my boss who decides on the quality of my work, but above all on my network.

Keyword publicly available and visible: do we not run the risk of disclosing internal sins that are not intended to be made public?

What is confidential should remain confidential - there is no question about that. It is mainly about the approximately 80% of information that is not confidential. If we share this knowledge generously, everyone benefits from it.