Tag Archives: thinking

Thinking organisations

Can a whole organisation be a thinking environment (Klein,2009)? And how might we achieve this?

I’m not going to answer these two questions by the way; at least not today! Instead I’m going to think about the questions a bit more. That might be frustrating, but if the idea is to encourage thinking, then that’s where I’m going to start. (but if anyone out there has already done the thinking and has some answers, please share!)

In a recent conversation with a friend who had also attended the thinking environment workshop with me (see previous posts on thinking environments, 1 and 2), he talked about the need to create thinking time within the whole system or organisation. It seems that higher education, at least in the UK at the moment, is full of small actions and behaviours which are not coming from deep thinking, but which have significant impact. Our thinking is all over the place. How can a system based on the notion of deep thinking and deep learning, (maybe it is a separate discussion to unpack whether ‘higher’ learning is intrinsically deeper learning) be so focused on surface thinking and actions?

In another conversation, with a different friend, who also works in HE, we bewailed the frustrating and unconsidered institutional mind. It’s like a HE institution actually has a mind of its own, it’s not the people in it who are deciding on actions but the being that is the institution. And these institution beings are not using deep thinking – if you set them an exam they would be regurgitating random remembered facts as evidence (‘Karl Marx was born in 1818, he wrote the Communist Manifesto’ – in answer to ‘discuss Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism?’). So what impedes thinking? According to Klein: fear.

So what can we do? Klein suggests that several things reduce fear and enable thinking, including: attention (through attentive listening), appreciation, incisive questions, allowing feelings to be expressed, creating ease, and consequentially time to think. But how do we do this for an institution? Where do we start? Answers on a postcard, or better still in the comments box below …

(This blog is partially in response to Klein, N. 2009: More Time to Think and partially in response to interesting conversations with colleagues and friends)

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The quiet moon


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Thinking time


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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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