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The way we process thought is not something most people think about — it’s something we just do. Our thinking patterns happen subconsciously, ingrained through generations of evolutionary adaptation. And over time, we humans have become adept at collecting signals from our five senses, analyzing each signal, and then making sense of it all by classifying signals into logical categories or topics.  For example, hearing a meow, feeling a soft tail, and seeing the silhouette of a furry animal would trigger the topic, “cat.”  

This is the way we understand the world around us.

Topics and Associations

In addition to classifying signals into topics, we also subconsciously create associations between topics. For example, perceiving a cat might trigger an association to the topic, “allergy,” which might then trigger an action, “flee.”

Studies using MRI scans provide experimental evidence for this model of thought processing.  Participants in these experiments are typically asked to listen to stories or watch videos. As they absorb this content, brain scanners track how their brains react. Time and again, these experiments show that different areas of the brain ‘light up’ while the person listens, and the results show that various similar words and concepts trigger activity in the same parts of the brain. Words that are associated—big, giant, huge, large—cause neurons close-by to ‘fire’.

The brain therefore seems to be like a kind of thesaurus, whereby similar concepts and meanings that are associated, trigger similar thoughts or reactions on the neural level. People apparently do think most naturally in the form of topics which are associated with one another. Because of this associative way of thinking, it is much easier for our minds to glide from one closely related topic to another—rather than make major leaps.

Modern computing doesn’t reflect how the brain works

If this is the way we understand the world, why is technology designed to make us work in ways that are unintuitive and cognitively taxing?

A simple example of unintuitive technology is the app. Apps are designed with a business process in mind. For example, to understand what is happening with a customer, there is a Salesforce app for updating account information, a Word app for editing documents, and a help desk app, like Zendesk to log trouble tickets. Each one of these apps fulfills a limited set of capabilities well,  and are usually easy to use. But each one of these apps contains only a slice of what is happening with a customer.  To see the big picture, you need to open each app and navigate to the appropriate record.  Once completed, you need to mentally stitch together a coherent picture of what is happening with the customer.

Practically speaking, we spend a lot of our days toggling across myriad apps hunting for bits of disconnected information.  This doesn’t make sense, because as we have seen, this isn’t the way the brain works.

The problem is, each app is an independent island of technology—forcing you to switch contexts to get your work done.

Topic Computing – Information the way the brain works

Starting today, help is on the way.  Because today, is ushering in the age of Topic Computing.  For the first time, you can see the big picture. Right in your Outlook window you can see what is happening with a customer, regardless of where the information comes from.  Click here to learn more on how topic computing works. Collage

Today, is announcing Collage, the world’s first topic computing solution. Finally, a solution exists that overcomes the deficiencies of app design by delivering information the way the brain works. For instance, when you view an email in Outlook, Collage automatically displays all information related to that message from your existing business apps, directly in Outlook. No need to toggle between windows or go looking for pieces of information from your apps.

With Collage, simply click on a topic and automatically discover content about the same topic from all your app sources, right in the Outlook window. This mirrors exactly the way your brain works.

Click here to learn more about Collage.


David Lavenda
Chief Product Officer