Julie Santos often sends her employees to the mall. Santos, a marketing manager for Coty, one one of the biggest fragrance companies in the U.S., pays for her perfumes to sit in particular spots at departments stores and wants to make sure she gets her money’s worth. Up until recently, it would take multiple distinct interactions to communicate with her team that everything was in order: Call, take a picture, send a text. Now that she and her team use Talko, it all happens in one go.
Talko, developed by software legend Ray Ozzie is a coworking and communication app attempting to reinvent the phone call. It falls in the same genre as popular online tools like Slack and HipChat, but unlike those chat-based platforms, it relies heavily on vocal interactions. It’s also mobile based–for now. (A web component is coming soon.) The app allows for calls, texts, and pictures between groups and individuals all happening in the same stream instantaneously and simultaneously. Most importantly, it records all messages. If someone isn’t available, he can chime in or catch up on a conversation when it’s convenient. Participants can flag important moments in meetings or messages, so a late-comer doesn’t have to listen to three hours of audio to get to the important part. “It allows voice to be decorated and annotated just like other data types can be decorated or annotated on the web,” Talko cofounder Matt Pope told Fast Company.
For people who don’t spend the workday at a desk, the ability to talk into a coworking tool, instead of writing out an email or shooting off a text, allows for more streamlined communications. “You can send and receive so much more information with the same amount of distraction level in your life,” said Jim Garner, an avid Talko user who runs a photography studio. Garner and his colleagues use Talko for what he has dubbed “social storyboarding.” With Talko, his team can put together a storyboard for a project without having to be in the same physical space or even communicating at the same time.
Say one of Garner’s clients, a country club, wants to a new look for its stodgy website, for example. One of Garner’s employees can do a site visit to check out lighting options, while communicating back to another (busy) person with both pictures and thoughts all in one message. That person might offer up ideas that require further action on site, like suggesting a bridal photo shoot. “That whole dialogue is saved under one subject line,” explains Garner. The Talko chat turns into the storyboard, which can then be shared with other people who will work on the project, including the client.
Of course, all of those tasks can happen in separate apps within a smartphone, and the iPhone’s Messages app includes a lot of those capabilities. Talko, however, streamlines everything. “If you’re on the phone and you’re looking at an email, you’re not looking at the exact same thing at the exact same thing moment,” Kara Wallace, Garner’s production manager, said. “It has helped us to live-time make decisions and get the job done more efficiently in a more creative way.”
“The flexibility is what makes it powerful for us,” added Garner. “Everyone going is invited on the Talko and we create a time and we start social storyboarding–all that can happen either real time or not real time. The person that didn’t get in on that conversation has it recorded to get back to and chime in later, over a period of time it forms this outline just like traditional storyboarding.”
In addition to the sheer efficiency of Talko, Garner argues “social storyboarding” accesses a different, more creative type of processing than standard modes of communication. First, that flexibility lets people participate when in the right mindset. But there’s also something about talking that stimulates creativity, argues Garner. “Emailing back and forth, that is such a literal brain thing to be doing. It’s a non-creative exercise,” he said. Talko stimulates right brain thinking in a text based world, he says. “You need to set your brain free from mechanical needs in order to have that creative brain to come forward,” he added.