Ingeniously Simple
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Ingeniously Simple

Book Summary: Time to Think, by Nancy Kline

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

3 Big Ideas

  • A healthy “Thinking Environment”, which relies on genuine listening, can revolutionise someone’s thinking.
  • Thinking Environments can be created in one-on-one and in group situations.
  • Always ask incisive questions more times than you think you need to.

2 Best Quotes

“Thinking for yourself is still a radical act.”

“The most important factor in whether or not they could think for themselves, afresh, at a given moment seemed to be how they were being treated by the people with them.”

1 Top Takeaway

I’m going to cheat here and have two.

The first one is purely selfish. Kline’s description of a “Thinking Environment” and “Thinking Relationship” are incredibly close to what I aspire to build in much of my Coaching. When people ask what I do for a living, I can now direct them to this book!

Now for the real takeaway…

By creating the right environment, you can hugely enhance people’s ability to think for themselves. This sort of environment relies on ten components:

  • Paying Attention, listening with respect and genuine interest
  • Asking Incisive Questions, to challenge limiting assumptions
  • Equality, acknowledging people as peers
  • Showing Appreciation, much more so than criticism
  • A sense of Ease, not rushing nor urgency
  • Encouragement, not creating competition
  • Acknowledging Feelings, allowing emotional release when necessary
  • Sharing Information and appreciating reality
  • A sense of Place to set everyone at ease
  • Embracing Diversity and the strength that comes from differences

All of these are important, but any one can be altered to drastically improve a thinking environment.

Each of these also have anti-patterns. Trying to take care of a thinking partner can be infantilising and disempowering, while a need to people-please (co-dependency) can make someone look a good listener without the quality and incisive questioning of a thinking partner. Sharing information may sometimes be crucial but sharing it must be timed and delivered in a way that helps the thinker consume that information. Appreciation must be genuine, succinct, and concrete to be reliably received and accepted.

All these factors must also be viewed through social and cultural lenses. Embracing diversity includes openly accepting different values and norms, perhaps even ones you don’t agree with, to focus on building an effecting Thinking Environment rather than sticking to known or comfortable behaviours.

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