Four elements that shape us, and others


Cognitive capacity is entangled with the qualities of the ENVIRONMENT (Embedded in it and Extended or constrained by it.) and also by RELATIONSHIP (in so far as we define ourselves in the context, and often by comparison to others)

The context is about PROCESS (how we relate, and what arises as a result) and the comparison is about EGO (our separated-ness and how we see ourselves or others as distinct or special.)

The four elements that shape us, and others are ENVIRONMENT; RELATIONSHIP; PROCESS; EGO

I think all these areas are worthy of exploration. Let’s start with…


Nancy created and pioneered the development of The Thinking Environment. She is Founder and President of Time To Think. A published author and public speaker, she also teaches Time To Think Courses, leads the Time To Think Faculty and delivers keynote presentations around the world.

The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking

The ten behaviours that generate the finest thinking, and have become known as The Ten Components of a Thinking Environment, are: Attention, Equality, Ease, Appreciation, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Difference, Incisive Questions, Place.

Each Component is powerful individually, but the presence of all ten working together gives this process its transformative impact.

Listening without interruption and with interest in where the person will go next in their thinking

Attention is an act of creation.
The quality of our attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking. Attention, driven by the promise of no interruption, and by respect and interest in where people will go with their thinking, is the key to a Thinking Environment. Attention is that powerful. It generates thinking. It is an act of creation.

Regarding each other as thinking peers, giving equal time to think

Even in a hierarchy people can be equal as thinkers.
In a Thinking Environment everyone is valued equally as a thinker. Everyone gets a turn to think out loud and a turn to give attention. To know you will get your turn to speak makes your attention more genuine and relaxed. It also makes your speaking more succinct. Equality keeps the talkative people from silencing the quiet ones. And it requires the quiet ones to contribute their own thinking. The result is high quality ideas and decisions.

Discarding internal urgency

Ease creates; urgency destroys.
Ease, an internal state free from rush or urgency, creates the best conditions for thinking. But Ease, particularly in organisations and through the ‘push’ aspect of social networking, is being systematically bred out of our lives. if we want people to think well under impossible deadlines and inside the injunctions of ‘faster, better, cheaper, more,’ we must cultivate internal ease.

Noticing what is good and saying it

The human mind works best in the presence of appreciation.
In life we learn that to be appreciative is to be naïve, whereas to be critical is to be realistic. In discussions, therefore, we focus first, and sometimes only, on things that are not working. Consequently, because the brain requires appreciation to work well, our thinking is often specious. The Thinking Environment recognises the right ratio of appreciation to challenge so that individuals and groups can think at their best.

Giving courage to go to the unexplored edge of thinking by ceasing competition as thinkers

To be ‘better than’ is not necessarily to be ‘good’. To compete does not ensure certain excellence. It merely ensures comparative success. Therefore, competition between thinkers can be dangerous. It can keep their attention on each other as rivals, not on the huge potential for each to think courageously for themselves. A Thinking Environment prevents internal competition among colleagues, replacing it with a wholehearted, unthreatened search for good ideas.

Welcoming the release of emotion

Unexpressed feelings can inhibit good thinking.
Thinking stops when we are upset. But if we express feelings just enough, thinking re-starts. Unfortunately, we have this backwards in our society. We think that when feelings start, thinking stops. When we assume this, we interfere with exactly the process that helps a person to think clearly again. If instead, when people show signs of feelings, we relax and welcome them, good thinking will resume.

Absorbing all the relevant facts

Full and accurate information results in intellectual integrity.
We base our decisions on information of many sorts. When the information is incorrect or limited, the quality of our thinking suffers and we can be trapped in denial. Accurate and full information can both dismantle denial and construct a rich template of truth for fine independent thinking.

Prioritising diversity of group identities and understanding their lived experience

Reality is diverse. To think for ourselves well we need to surround ourselves with people from different identity groups and to understand as fully as possible their lived experience. The greater the diversity of the group, the greater the difference in perspective, and the richer the divergent thinking of everyone.

Freeing the human mind of untrue assumptions lived as true

A wellspring of good ideas lies just beneath an untrue limiting assumption. An Incisive Question will remove it, freeing the mind to think afresh. The key block to high-quality independent thinking is an untrue limiting assumption, lived as true. To free the mind, therefore, we need to know how to construct an Incisive Question, a tool of unbelievable precision and power.

Producing a physical environment – the room, the listener, your body – that says, ‘You matter’

When the physical environment affirms our importance, we think more clearly and boldly. When our bodies are cared for and respected, our thinking improves. Thinking Environments are places that say back to people, ‘You matter.’ People think at their best when they notice that the place reflects their value to the people there and to the event. And because the first place of thinking is the body, it needs to be in a condition that says to us as thinkers, ‘You matter’.NIn these ways, Place is a silent form of appreciation.


www timetothink com/nancy-kline/


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