Thinking Environments

Some while ago I read Nancy Klein’s Time to Think, and found the ideas resonated. Key to her ideas is that we need to work to ‘create the conditions for people to do their own thinking’, which sounds pretty straight forward until you really try to do it. The whole notion probably begins with the idea of transformative listening (there are 10 components, but listening is where you start).

Not long after reading the book, I tweeted about it in the hope of finding people who were working with Klein’s ideas in their own HE context, but didn’t get any responses. I and some colleagues did try out some of the ideas but somewhat halfheartedly.

Earlier this week I attended an all day workshop on the thinking environments approach. A key aspect of the approach is the idea that each person is their own expert and it is in our capacity to create a situation where they can find that expertise – we listen, create space and provide the context for thinking, thus enabling them to access their own expertise. We might need to provide some information, but answers come from them. I really love the idea of this, but find it really quite challenging in practice: I am addicted to providing solutions! To make this approach work for me, I need to let go of my lovely list of possible solutions, which I offer up to folk when they come with an issue, and open up the possibilities for them to find their own, better, solution.

Well, I’ve been having a go, and it seems to work! I actually found it really satisfying rather than a bit frustrating, which, to be honest, is what I sort of secretly expected. I have found it gave me greater respect for the people I worked with in this way. I also felt the time we spent was much more productive. So far, I have only used this approach in 1 to 1 meetings, but my next task is to try it with groups. We’ll see how it goes, and whether I can manage to keep from falling back into my shopping list of solutions approach!

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