There’s a scene in an early episode of the HBO mini-series “John Adams” where Benjamin Franklin cautions Adams to temper his statements. Adams asks him if he doesn’t believe in speaking what’s on one’s mind. Franklin’s responds, “Thinking aloud is a habit responsible for much of mankind’s misery.”
I’m not sure if Franklin actually made this remark, but there are certainly advantages to thinking out loud. It allows you to:
- Elicit more immediate reactions – Thinking aloud lets others hear perspectives right away and react. When time constrained, it allows for more quickly constructing, developing, and vetting potential scenarios and arriving at a selection.
- Gauge whether emerging ideas sound logical / persuasive – How an idea sounds in your head can be very different when you express it aloud. Thinking aloud can force more structure into an idea early as it comes to life through the spoken word.
- Have others start building on your thinking – Speaking a newly formed idea allows others to hear and build off it right away. Within a group that’s comfortable, open, and non-censoring, that process has tremendous value in generating more and stronger possibilities.
- Introduces an idea in a more raw form – Voicing an idea as it first occurs results in less self-censorship and adjustment of the idea to make it more familiar and comfortable.
- Create more energy – In a brainstorming setting, the verbal exchange of new possibilities can create a tremendous energy buzz as people go back and forth in adding and shaping the idea.
- See if a point of view is aligning or dividing - If your group is strong and fairly homogenous relative to people’s titles, thinking aloud provides a quick opportunity to see whether your point of view aligns or divides the group. These reactions allow you to decide on modifying or advancing your point of view to help the group move ahead.
Although quiet thinking is most comfortable for me, with close strategic and creative team partners, thinking aloud is great because it allows for rapidly building on one another’s perspectives.