‘TALK TO ME!’ ‘Thinking Out Loud’ to Make Sense of Things

Interesting how, in our high tech and highly digitized and automated world, some wonderful intellectual work gets done with simple human abilities – like talking and listening.

We often hear the suggestion, when someone has a difficult task or is troubled with something -

“Talk to me; what it is you are thinking; just talk it out so I can help you.”

Talking as a way of thinking is a common and proven way to work out a problem or a task in the mind.  Many great writers and scientists go on long walks each afternoon, so they can talk to themselves, hear themselves express and connect ideas, and form sentence and paragraph expression patterns.  We often seek a friend or a colleague, a family member or a mentor to talk to when we need to think out loud and, thereby, hear what it is that is trying to form in our minds.  One psychologist said that, if you just stand someone near a post and tell him/her to talk to it and explain to it the issues, that act of talking helps tremendously in working the things in the mind out and into understandable form.  Sometimes the people we talk to aren’t much more responsive or helpful than the post, but it doesn’t seem to matter – they are there and looking at us and listening.

Explicit knowledge.  Some of our knowledge and the experiences we have deal with “explicit” information, structured information, the kind that is easily spoken or written, that makes good sense, and comes out of our minds easily and fluently.  This is the kind of information that is very comfortable for us to talk about and explain.  It makes good sense to us.  This information is easy to write/keyboard and comes out easily and naturally.  Often this knowledge is highly quantifiable or numerical.
Implicit knowledge.  On the other hand, much more of our knowledge and experiences deal with “implicit” information, unstructured knowledge, the kind that is forming in our minds, the kind that is “out there” needing “thinking about” and discussion.  These are feelings, impressions, instinctual reactions, and perceptions that are not easily articulated and made good sense of.  These are the “felt” ideas that we struggle to express, the ones we intuit, the ones that we try to say one way, stop, try another way, stop, and then go at it another way.  Implicit knowledge is “messy” and “uncomfortable.”  Sometimes expressing “implicit” information is very frustrating for both the speaker and the listener – it takes time and patience.  Finally, and especially if a friend will help by restating or rephrasing the ideas in different ways, we begin to get the “implicit” information to convert, to transition into “explicit” information where it is understandable and easily expressible.  This is a wonderful process and is a significant “engine” in any organization’s intellectual stimulation and development.  Often this knowledge his highly qualitative or subjective.

Talk/Walk, Talk/Draw.  Some people like to walk when they talk, as they think things through.  They Talk-Walk.  We hear often of poets and writers, of philosophers and administrators who walk by alone and talk to themselves, around and around the block, up and down the stairs, up and down the long hall way.  Sometimes they do this with a friend or while walking or jogging.

Also, some people like to draw when they are trying to think.  They Talk-Draw.  They stand at a black/white board and as they talk they draw diagrams, pictures, charts, doodles, mockups, and other sorts of free flow art as they talk to themselves.  They can’t think without sketching and doodling on a napkin.  Often walking or drawing as a complement to talking is very powerful in getting “implicit” information to form such that it can be “explicitly” stated to others.

A simple voice-based communication and feedback system can be a significant assist tool for these kinds of intellectual activities.  This is true especially in a powerful sales planning and reporting system, where a person can talk out the planning information as best as he/she can at the moment, get the information transcribed quickly and back, and then when reading it, start talking again and recording it.  This activity is especially powerful for helping teams to think.  This process of talking/recording/sharing, reading, talking/recording/sharing again, reading, and then doing it again is one of the most powerful ways to cause minds to come to see what is trying to be expressed and to form the “implicit” into a “explicit” communication.  Often we cannot see the “point” we are seeking until after several rounds of talking/recording/sharing, reading, talking/recording/sharing reading.  The mental understandings and structures grow and develop as the information moves around and around in several double loops.  It is a great way to prepare an important presentation or proposal or submission or to think through a difficulty with an important customer or challenge from a competitor.

Quite outside of today’s high tech, digital, automated world is a set of powerful intellectual comprehension and understanding tools that are invaluable, that never go out of date, that always produce sophisticated intellectual understanding.  The human brain finds powerful expression through the simple speaking voice and the hearing ear.

When CRM systems match (1) top-level management information planning with (2) sales-team level information gathering and reporting through a voice-based system, marrying and integrating the management need with the sales team gathering capability, then the CRM databases become the instruments for understanding, analysis, decision making, and action CRM systems are designed to deliver.

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