The Promise of the Thinking Environment

(Photo – Mitzi Wyman with Nancy Kline).

“The only thing constant is change” said Heraclitus in 6th century Greece, and this is borne out as we live in a world of increasing uncertainty.  Uncertainty creates anxiety and a challenge to identity as individuals wonder where their place in the new world will be and so, it is at these times we need to hold fast to our values and the things that we hold dear.  Many of us do not have the influence to affect what happens at the macro level so changes there must be reflected at the micro level too, of individual habits and intentional behaviours that make up what happens in meeting and board rooms around the country. In our work places we need to create cultures that are human-centred,  respectful and that recognise the need to elicit the best from everyone if we are to deliver services  that are sustainable for the future.

For me this has been made possible through studying and practicing the work of Nancy Kline and her pioneering Thinking Environment methodology. This subtle but profound approach is based on the giving of exquisite, generative attention:  its emphasis on Ease, Equality, and Appreciation, so often lacking in our day to day working lives, produces thinking of the highest caliber and offers space for fresh thinking and new insights to emerge. The The ten components that Kline says are needed for thinking to flourish are: Attention, Equality, Ease, Diversity, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Incisive Questions, Place and Appreciation. Together they create environments where people can and will think for themselves. Research has shown that such environments generate greater participation and inclusion, the surfacing of better ideas, solutions and decisions, speedier resolution of issues and greater structure and rigour including better preparation. Importantly, they focus on the collective rather than individual agendas resulting in a move away from the pernicious silos that can stunt organisations. I look forward to  sharing Nancy’s approach with Fulcrum members at future events and to exploring the new insights that will emerge.

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