What is equality in thinking?

We have so many assumptions that get in the way of us doing our best thinking.
  • That the people who are more senior to us have all the wisdom
  • That we can’t contribute anything meaningful on a topic we have no expertise in
  • That we’ll get interrupted
That last one in particular is a killer. When you expect that you’ll get interrupted you start thinking about what you want to say next while looking for an opening to say it. You’ll speak quickly and reiterate the same point without moving it on.
That’s why equality is so important in the Thinking Environment. Everyone’s thinking, regardless of where they come from is equally valued and we respect each other as thinkers and offer equal turns to speak and to give attention. It’s about being generous with the air space and recognising that what the other person has to say is just as important as what you have to say.
When there is equality in a Thinking Environment everyone has the knowledge that just as they give people space to speak they will be given equal space to speak. It means you can be more at ease, you can focus your attention on who is speaking and they are encouraged to think freely because they know they won’t be interrupted and that they matter and in turn they offer this to others. It helps us be more succinct and generous.
Of course it doesn’t really work unless you are all signed up to it.
And yet I learnt how simple it can be to introduce this to your teams.
Tell everyone that you want their freshest thinking on a question and you want to hear from each and every one of them – the brain thinks best in the presence of a question.
State the question – make it as simple and succinct as possible.
Invite whoever wants to, to start (you may need to hold the silence until someone volunteers, remember people need time to think ?. Remind everyone that the thinker speaks without interruption and when they are finished it’s the person on their (you choose left or right)’s turn. In a virtual environment you might want to create a virtual table or call on people.
You can choose to share your thoughts or pass
Keep going until everyone has had a turn.
Try it just once and see what happens.
At home ask “What are your thoughts?” or “What are you thinking?” and listen without interruption. We can often guess what people are going to say and remember that by letting them say it anyway changes something for them. It may also surprise you.
How might you bring more equality of thinking into your team, organisation or family?
Drop me a line to tell me your thoughts.
My thinking for this letter has been influenced by Nancy Kline’s books Time to Think and More Time to Think. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no additional cost to you and I only use affiliate links of products that I use myself.
Photo of the table by Keith Misner on Unsplash – names added by me for illustration purposes

The Ten Components of The Thinking Environment

Listening with palpable respect and genuine interest, and without interruption

Treating each other as thinking peers; giving equal turns and attention; keeping boundaries and agreements

Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

Giving courage to go to the cutting edge of ideas by moving beyond internal competition

Incisive Questions™
Removing untrue assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves well

Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking

Offering genuine acknowledgement of a person’s qualities; practicing a ratio of 5:1 appreciation to challenge

Supplying the facts; recognising social context; dismantling denial

Welcoming diverse group identities and diversity of thinking

Creating a physical environment that says back to people, ‘You matter’

The Ten Components of The Thinking Environment are the copyright of Nancy Kline of Time to Think
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