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Published on December 16, 2019

7 Ways Thinking Aloud Makes You a Better Thinker and Learner

7 Ways Thinking Aloud Makes You a Better Thinker and Learner

It is never a sign of insanity to think aloud, it also enhances your mental ability. It is also called private speech. It enables you to achieve focus. It is a behavioral pattern that you should practice daily to achieve self-regulation.

As a child, you learned by thinking aloud. It was a form of demonstrating your knowledge or opening yourself to learn

You sound out words, express ideas, form sentences. Anytime you were corrected, you rehearse until you have imitated correctly or conformed to the established model in the family, school, or neighborhood, etc.

As you grow older, you internalize this act of thinking aloud, and your speech shifts to interpersonal communication.

So what are the seven ways thinking aloud can help you think and learn better?

1. Spur Curiosity During Learning

The goal of curiosity is to enable you to gain a more in-depth knowledge of things that are crucial within the scope of our experience of the world. This covers the concepts you have learned in school and those that are relevant to your daily lives.

Individuals who think aloud are usually curious about the different range of topics and develop broad interests. Thinking aloud helps you retain inquisitiveness about people and the world around you. It enables you to gain an in-depth understanding of beliefs, culture, and viewpoints that are shared aspects of what makes us human. Those who think aloud are lifelong learners.

They are lifelong learners because they are naturally and practice critical thinking. Thinking aloud will help you apply your best thinking habit to solve complex problems. It also helps you to achieve constructive outcomes.

As you think aloud, you will find answers to crucial questions. You don’t make decisions based on assumptions, but you can explore the topics deeper. You also gain deeper facts locked up within the information.

2. Enhance Your Creativity

Creativity is one of the most significant skills you need to survive beyond school. Learners who think aloud nurtures their creativity and the ability to solve problems. It is a requisite skill to collaborate in the workplace.

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The tendency to think aloud means you can transfer the same knowledge and process to more complex problems to achieve effective results.

Thinking aloud is relevant in business, marketing, and professional networks. It helps you to develop creativity on how to advertise, increase revenue, and advance your career.

You will also learn to question assumptions about different topics. When you think aloud, you ask ‘how’ or ‘why not?

Private speech has limitless potentials. This applies to young and old learners. It will enable you to train your brain to be creative.

3. Reinforce Your Problem-Solving Skill

You become an instinctual problem solver when you think aloud. Problem-solving has been ranked to be the most crucial ability that you can build on as a learner. You will be positioned to address complex by thinking aloud about how to engineer innovative solutions.

Albert Einstein once said,

‘ It’s not that I am smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’

He once propounded that when you are allocated one hour to perform a task, spend 55 minutes to define and research the problem while you spend 5 minutes to solve it. Private speech affords you this kind of commitment and patience. It is also the very reason you will learn how to understand the problem and solve it effectively.

Thinking aloud also positions you to face complex problems to survive, succeed, and be significant in life.

When you think aloud, you can curate solutions to big problems such as overpopulation, global warming, water shortages, energy crises, pollution, need for health care, and electronic waste management etc.

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As these problems and others continue to evolve, those who think aloud would continue to be relevant in producing lasting solutions to them.

4. Cultivate Multi-Faceted Skill

As you think aloud, you are nurturing, not just a skill, but many skills.

Thinking aloud is a cross-curricular cognitive talent. It exercises your mind, and once your mind is empowered, you will not only stay healthy, but you will be more productive.

Thinking aloud enhances your:

  • Observational skills
  • Reasoning skills
  • Logical thinking
  • Evaluative skills
  • Language skills
  • Organizational and planning skills
  • Open-mindedness
  • Creative visualization methods
  • Decision making

The list is inexhaustive, but this is an overview of what you develop and promote when you think aloud in your daily lives.

5. Foster Independence

Thinking aloud helps you think independently, which is of the most essential learning goals. It helps you to become independent during the learning process.

You don’t depend on the instructor to achieve learning outcomes, but you learn to take responsibility for your learning. The keyword here is ‘responsibility.’ When you learn how to be more responsible while learning, you can learn how to take charge of your life.

Thinking aloud will not only position you as a great learner but a great thinker and leader. You will learn how to appreciate the world from your point of view and experience. You become more confident, and you learn from your mistakes as you build a successful and productive life.

Thinking aloud helps you to be self-directed as a learner. Your thinking becomes organized. It also means this kind of proactive thinking ability becomes part of you as you nurture it through the lifelong learner.

When you are successful in your thinking ability, you can make progress beyond learning in your future pursuits and relationship with pride and confidence.

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6. Improve Your Reading Comprehension

You become motivated to identify the distinctions between reading words and understanding the text when you apply the process of thinking aloud. You also gain insights into the reading complexities and expand your understanding of what it means to be a great reader.

How does this apply to life? You will learn how to read through assumptions and base your knowledge on realities.

7. Develop a Life Skill

You develop a lifelong skill, not just a learning skill, as you think aloud. According to John Dewey,

‘Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.’

Thinking aloud helps you to become successful within and beyond the classroom. You learn how to lead your life through life.

The bottom line is you don’t need your teachers once you have completed a learning phase; you become the leader and the teacher. Learning also becomes a continuum for you.

How to Adopt the Thinking Aloud Strategy

Thinking aloud or private speed is a crucial learning tool. The more you engage your brain in different dimensions, the more you can connect and retain what you learn.

You read, create diagrams or pictures, use motion or music, converse with others, and with yourself. Most time, you talk through with your friends or in a group to recall a topic you have learned. In other cases, you may not need a second party to think aloud.

Thinking aloud helps you to leverage multiple senses and personal experiences in processing and to reinforce your learning.

You can think aloud to:

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  • memorize vocabulary by vocalizing the words
  • talk through mathematical problems to arrive at possible solutions
  • edit papers by reading the words aloud
  • appreciate poetry through dramatization.

Here are three ways to think aloud:

1. Spot the Juicy Tipping Points

The first approach to adopt if you want to think aloud is to sift through the text.

Read the text while holding your sticky notes, search for spots to make inferences, ask questions or think through the intent of the author. These are the juicy tipping points that lead to the next challenge or comprehension opportunities.

2. Know When and Where to Think Aloud

Examine each tipping point and reflect on the purpose of the point. This will help you scale down the points to more manageable points, so you don’t become overburdened or detracted from the process.

You need to also factor in the purpose of picking the text you want to learn, your objective, and the strategies you are familiar with before reading the text.

3. Write on Sticky Notes

Writing on sticky notes provides a guide for your thought pattern during the learning process.

It helps you to stick to what’s significant and discard what’s less prominent. It also helps you to be purposeful throughout the learning process.

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If you want to be a great thinker and a lifelong learner, thinking aloud shouldn’t be a one-time exercise for you, but an all-the-time endeavor. You will become productive in your personal life and also become relevant to the world.

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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