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Virtual Team outtakes: using voice recognition for reflection

Since we started this monthly blog series openly sharing our approach to leading a virtual team,  Martin and I have often talked about how useful the process of writing the monthly posts in itself has become: it makes us make time to focus on things we may not otherwise dedicate as much time to, it prompts a joint process of reflection and improves communication.

I’ve often written about how important reflection is to my professional practice, and I use different tools for different types of reflection: this public blog, a private blog, some drawing/making activities, walks and conversations and I value each one for different reasons. But recently I have found that I have struggled to write down/type everything I have on my mind, and so I have started to use the dictation tool on my phone – with interesting results.

Mobile instead of laptop: First, using dictation allows me to use my phone rather than a laptop to write my reflective posts. I much prefer that, particularly at weekends or in the evenings as it makes it feel less like work. Although the interface for one of the blogging platforms I use isn’t optimised for mobile, I still find this way of producing a reflective post much more convenient and comfortable.

I talk faster than I can type: and thus, I now add a lot more than I did before. The posts are longer and more spontaneous because instead of carefully constructing sentences, I speak my mind more. It’s a different tone and takes less time than typing the same amount of narrative would have done.

Less self-editing: although most of what I use dictation for ends up in a blog which I don’t share with anyone else, I find the process of talking about my day or week is far more frank now than when I was typing. Not something I had expected, but it is an interesting by-product of this way of working.

More like a conversation: one of the real benefits of writing collaboratively is that it is more like a conversation. But not everything I reflect on lends itself to being shared and I find talking to my blog rather than writing in it is much closer to the kind of dynamic that I might get from having a conversation or telling someone about things on my mind. I say more things that I may not have expected, realise that things are important or have bothered me more than I would have done when I was typing the words. I have hundreds of posts to compare from the past few years and the tone of the voice posts is very different.

Saying it out loud: for me, reflective blogging has always felt quite similar to writing a journal and over the decades I have written many journals in different formats. But sometimes being good at writing things down can make it harder to talk about something, to say it out loud. Dictation like this can really help you practice articulating your thoughts to someone else as well as to yourself. It also improves self realisation in my case. The other day I felt angry about something and when I said it out loud I realised how angry I really was. It helped me better reflect because it helped me understand more fully how I felt – to pause and realise, that is how things are in my mind. The feelings dissipated quickly, but the realisation stayed with me.

Some pitfalls: dictation does require privacy. At least in my case there would be no point doing this if I felt someone else might be listening. Also, the voice recognition in iOS, which is what I am using, is pretty good – but it’s not perfect. It’s worth reading along or reading through the text afterwards as there can be some funny mistakes to correct. It takes only a few minutes, but still effort.

It’s actually recording a podcast episode earlier this year that made me try voice recognition for reflective blogging and I am curious to see how future editions of the joint series may develop as we revisit that format. For now, I am going to keep experimenting in my own practice.