Have you ever found yourself asking someone a question you’ve been puzzling over for a long time, only to come up with the answer half way through asking the question?
At Madgex, the developers refer back to an old beer advert for John Smiths when trying to solve problems. They find that when they need help, just calling someone over and explaining the problem to them often gives them the answer half way through. The cardboard cut-out of the man in the advert to stand behind them is thought to be all that is required when a coding or logic issue arises rather than a real person.
So, what’s happening and how can this observation shed light on why vision and goal setting works?
At its core, when you ask someone something you consciously articulate it. You explain it and frame the issue for the person. Most importantly however, you explain it and (re)frame it for yourself. You give direction to your other-than-conscious very clearly. Now you may question why actually articulating something gives any different result to just sitting there unspeakingly struggling with the question.
Two things. First, in giving words to (or writing onto paper) an issue and adding the clarity and clarifications required to make something understandable to someone else has the same impact on your other-than-conscious. You may think that you’re being clear about an issue in your head, but you rarely are. You’re more likely to be half articulating the issue and then immediately looping into the same consciously derived result you keep on getting which is failing to remove the problem or blocker.
And this is the second point. By talking to yourself (again, words or paper is good – words may be better because of how unusual you may experience the sensation), your conscious brain gives a clear set of instructions to your other-than-conscious brain. You ask yourself the question and often answer it very quickly yourself because the totality of your resources (conscious and unconscious) are now engaged to a common endeavour (and in most cases, you knew the answer to the problem: it just needed unlocking by you being clear with yourself)
Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor takes the essence of this a big step further in her book, My Stroke of Insight, when she says ‘From my perspective, the focused human mind is the most powerful instrument in the universe, and through the use of language, our left brain is capable of directing (or impeding) our physical healing and recovery
On a connected use of articulation (left brain/ right brain), related to my previous post on rules for personal productivity, some great advice from Harvard Business on How to Write To-Do Lists that Work – the second section is all about providing sufficient detail in a ‘to-do’ on a to do list as you would if you were instructing a personal assistant.
Other linked posts:
Questioning Yourself as a Higher Form of Talking to Yourself? – does the apparent weakness of self-questioning hide a better problem solving technique?
Talking to Myself Again – communicating to yourself as stress relief
Creativity and the Business Brain (and why most of us should be sacked) – talking to yourself is good for framing the blockers, with diffuse day-dreaming as the really creative stuff?