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Ep 71: The Conditions For Great Thinking On Teams with Ruth McCarthy

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Introduction: Ruth McCarthy is an extreme listener and thought provoker. She is faculty at Time to Think, is a Time to Think Coach & Facilitator. Ruth’s business is called Think it Through and she operates from London. Formerly a Student from Trinity College Dublin where she studied Modern Languages. She has a Master’s degree in Critical Thinking and Cultural Studies from Birkbeck, University London and of course several Licenses and Certificates from Time to Think LTD. 

 

Podcast Episode Summary

This episode explores the conditions necessary for generative thinking. 10 principles housed in the Thinking Environment are brought to life across this episode. Ruth shares the material developed by Nancy Kline, work introduced to the world by her books, Time to Think in 1999, More Time to think in 2009 and just lately the book, The Promise that changes everything as well as the many course offerings and bespoke trainings provided by the company Time To Think LTD where Ruth is a Global Faculty Member.  

Points made over the episode

  • Ruth shared how she believes she has lived her life backwards. Somehow in her late 50’s Ruth discovered the work of Nancy Kline and was struck by the provocative nature of what she was discovering about how we as humans think
  • She essentially created a career at a later stage in life on material new to her. 
  • Earlier Ruth had a career in book publishing. 
  • Ruth shares the conditions that create a thinking environment. 
    • Place– Producing a physical environment-the room, the listener, your body, that says you matter
    • Attention-Listening without interruption and with interest in where the person will go next in their thinking 
    • Equality-Regarding each other as thinking peers; giving each and equal time to think 
    • Ease-Noticing and discarding internal rush 
    • Appreciation-Noticing what is good and saying it
    • Encouragement-Giving courage to go to the unexplored edge of our thinking by ceasing competition as thinkers 
    • Feelings-Welcoming the release of emotions 
    • Incisive Questions-Freeing the human mind of an untrue assumption lived as true 
    • Information-Absorbing the facts, data, denial, social context
    • Difference-Championing our inherent diversity of identity and thought
  • The thinking environment is a beautiful paradox. Its seeming simplicity is the other side of complexity 
  • It is as simple as saying I will listen to you and I promise not to interrupt you. 
  • I promise to be fascinated by the fact you are thinking rather than focusing on your content and employing my meaning making. It is a promise that says I will not derail your thinking by providing you with exquisite attention 
  • In the presence of this benign generative force (you the listener) the brain of the other can wire and fire
  • The conditions that support a generative thinking environment are available and yet often unpractised. In fact the presence of a thinking environment is often exceptional 
  • To experience the ease that says I will not interrupt you calms your internal system and allows you to think freely. Encouraging the thinker, made implicit by attention, allows the thinker to go far and wide with their thinking. 
  • Encouragement means shutting down competition between members of the team
  • It says you are in a place that matters. 
  • Appreciation is a great unsung hero. We are often taught to be cynical of appreciation and yet it is a hard psychological reality that if we are told what is good about us it creates the neuro chemistry for good thinking 
  • Information and disinformation. We are in an age of mis-information. To think well we need to be presented with the facts, to be able to absorb the data, which is why rounds on teams gives the team an opportunity to hear all the available data
  • Hierarchy and inequality can be a tipping point for teams. Ruth often asks how it would be for a team if it shared the time equally. 
  • Resistance often comes in the form of assumptions. It is the work of a Time to Think facilitator to surface assumptions 
  • Urgency destroys good thinking. Ruth often acts as an agent for ease knowing that in the presence of ease thinking is allowed. We are habituated to compete, to collapse into urgency and reactive ways of being. Interruption and competition are time wasters 
  • Funny that we will pay a professional to show us how to play a sport better and we know we will have to go through the process of feeling uncomfortable holding a new grip for example. The same is true in learning new on Teams. 
  • Trust is an outcome. We need a consistent and recognised way of being with each other to engender Trust. Ruth shares an example of using the 10 components to begin to manifest trust 
  • Paucity of appreciation on teams. The world is rife with ridicule and stuff that we call banter that only supports to contract another. It is important to notice what is good in another and to say it. Appreciation works. There is enough research and evidence to support its efficacy. Consider the Gottman Institute and Heart-math from California. 
  • In order to hear what is difficult the brain needs to hear first what is good. There is a precise proportionality for that and it is 5:1.
  • What works best is to hear a quality, one or two words reflected back to another that ring true. It needs to be a quality rather than a product. This distinction is profound 
  • The Brain is programmed to avoid pain and it will avoid. Emotions like fear, anger, disgust, shame help us to move away. Emotions like joy, love and Trust, emotions that give meaning to life support us to move towards. 
  • You have got to give people the confidence to do their own thinking to get great results. 
  • Nancy Kline is a brilliant and humble leader who models the idea that we can never be sure of being right. Being anti-fragile has got to be a top skill for Leaders today
  • Consider 2 minutes of uninterrupted thinking and how far the brain can go in that time. The average standard is 9 seconds before we are interrupted. Interruption is akin to an attack, a violent act. Unless we have a contract for difference we will no doubt perpetuate a vicious cycle which only means a re-hashing of old thinking 
  • It is worth noting it is kind to practice a Time to Think environment but it is comforting to know that it is also a rigorous practice. 
  • Ruth explores a case where a client of hers employed a Thinking Environment and continues to employ the practices today. She shares how the brain behaves differently in the presence of a question as opposed to a topic. 
  • Nancy Kline’s new book, The Promise that Changes Everything discusses in even more detail the 10 conditions and includes topics like polarisation, denial, digitisation and “conformconomics”. 
  • Curiously now that we have moved to a blended form of work where much is conducted online, Ruth believes that two dimensional way of communicating is enhanced by employing the principles of a thinking environment. 

Resources shared 

  • Nancy Kline: The Promise That Changes Everything: I won’t interrupt you
  • Nancy Kline: More Time to Think: The power of independent thinking 
  • Nancy Kline: Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind 
  • www.timetothink.com 
  • www.gottman.com
  • www.heartmath.org 

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